south africa

ICYMI – February Flashback

 

The lack of information on number of attempts to frame this tweet is disappointing

The lack of information on number of attempts to frame this tweet is disappointing

RETIRING IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

The day was coming, you would think. Given the increasing relevance of social media in cricket today, it was about time some player used Twitter or Facebook for something other than copy-pasting philosophical quotes and informing us what food they “smashed” recently. Kiwi batsman and pioneer freelance cricketer Lou Vincent drew curtains on a very unfulfilled career by  tweeting the ‘only’ useful stats us cricket fans are interested in and informed his followers about his decision. While scoring a century on debut in Perth against the likes of McGrath, Lee and Warner will remain as the highlight of his career, using all of his allotted 140 characters to tweet his retirement is no less feat.

“This is the face of ruthlessness. Fear me.”

FROM KING OF SPAIN TO RUTHLESS COACH OF ENGLAND  

England’s newest cricket coach, albeit only in the limited-overs version, Ashley Giles has made a promise to maintain a stiff upper lip while it comes to choosing the right combination of players for the Champions Trophy in June. With the success of their new star Joe Root, England are in a dilemma as to which player to leave out of their top order – KP, Trott, Bell, Morgan, Root. This is complicated by the fact that Trott and Bell are former team-mates of Giles at Warwickshire. My advice to Giles would be to ask himself the question – ‘What Would Dhoni Do’. Then go ahead and pick a combination that no expert will be able to understand. Also pick more Warwickshire players in the squad.

“Ineffective? Gulity as charged. You got me!”

THE CONTRASTING FORTUNES OF SINGH AND SUPER KINGS

MS Dhoni had a dream test at his second home, as India packed off the Aussies in the first test. He scored a double century and his spinners sealed the fate of Clarke and company. Dhoni, Ashwin and Jadeja rose to the occasion at a ground they should be knowing very well by now. On the other hand, Harbhajan Singh returned to the venue where he sealed a famous win against the same opponents 12 years ago, only to highlight his declining effectiveness, even on a helpful track against inexperienced batsmen. Harbhajan is now the Ashwin of two months ago, and Ashwin is now the Harbhajan of twelve years ago.

“I got the wicket of Harbhajan…that counts, right??”

CAN MOISES LEAD THE AUSSIES ACROSS THE INDIAN WILDERNESS?

Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and now Moises Henriques. If it is an Australian tour of India, you can rest assured that it will kick-start an Aussie cricketer’s career, or at least rejuvenate it as in the case of Hayden. While Clarke was always the known threat for the Indian bowlers, they wouldn’t have expected resistance from a 26 year old Portuguese born  cricketer playing his first test ever, let alone his first on the subcontinent. 280 balls faced, 149 runs scored, 11 fours and 2 sixes later, the Australian top order excepting Clarke might have just found a template on how to tackle spin for the remainder of the series. And no, you cannot request to “re-debut” against the Indians now.

“This international cricket is easy-peasy…yawn…”

A DIFFERENT KIND OF ABBOTT-ABAD

It is not even funny anymore. As if facing Steyn, Morkel and Philander is not bad enough as a batsman, there is a new South African pacer on the block. Kyle Abbott, all of 25 years and 38 first class games old, made a stunning debut against Pakistan, picking up 9/68 at the Centurion test.  Granted, it was against a brittle Pakistani line-up and his pace hovers in the mid-130s kph; but his modus operandi is very much similar to Philander, and look where the Vern is now. If there is any cheer for the opposition, they can breathe easy as Abbot is only the sixth choice bowler for the Saffers. Yup, with the likes of Steyn and Philander to terrorize you, why worry about him? Yet?

“You mistake me…I eat only the red ones!”

THE RETURN OF AFRIDI: THE SEQUEL TO THE TRILOGY

I don’t know which is funnier – that Shahid Afridi is making his umpteenth comeback or the words of chief selector Iqbal Qasim, “this is Afridi’s last chance and he has to perform”.

“Vaas” my name? It’s Chaminda

SRI LANKA IS “GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER” 

Sanath Jayasuriya is chief selector, Chaminda Vaas is bowling coach and Muttiah Muralitharan is a special adviser. Hey Sri Lanka, the late 90s called and they wished you best of luck. After all, these are exciting times for the island nation, as they start afresh under new captains, and who better to show pointers than a bunch of cricketers who were responsible for their golden era?

“This knock should help….urm….uh….my team to win!”

CHRIS GAYLE TWITTER STAR

Gone are the good old days when Gayle garnered sympathy for his stand-off with the WICB. Now that he is back, he is expected to exhibit that annoying trait expected of any cricketer worth their salt – “consistency”. After a disastrous run over the last two series against Bangladesh and Australia, the Jamaican Hulk decided that he had enough, skipping the one day series against Zimbabwe to take a break. If you thought that Gayle takes this break to spend some quiet time with family or work on his game, you obviously don’t follow his Twitter account. It’s only a matter of time before he jumps ship and becomes a Reality TV star.

[This article was originally published in Sportskeeda on February 28, 2013]

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If I were N Srinivasan

“Hmm….go on…”

These days, the most hated person in the cricket world is not a non-performing cricketer or a bumbling umpire; that privilege goes to a soft spoken, bespectacled business man from Chennai. Narayanaswami Srinivasan, or N Srinivasan (or, Srini mama as “affectionately” known throughout the social networks) is the current BCCI chief, which in turn makes him the overlord of all international cricket bodies (allegedly). It takes a special kind of talent (sorry, Rohit) to be universally disdained by anyone related to cricket. Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach to governing the Board. Non-Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach which influences the governing of other national cricket boards. It is nice to know that in a cricket world divided by misplaced nationalistic fervor, we can all agree that the BCCI chief is a tool. And that Jade Dernbach’s tattoos make Mitchell Johnson’s look like a work of Picasso. Don’t even get me started on that.

“Cool story, bro….now get to your point!”

Anyway, I was thinking about it and it led me to wonder what I would do if I was the BCCI chief. If Twitter and Facebook is to be believed (and when are they ever wrong?), Srinivasan has unlimited powers through which he can fix IPL games in a way that the Chennai Super Kings make it to the final every year, bully other boards into selecting/dropping certain players, ensure that Dhoni remains the unquestioned ‘Super King’ of Indian cricket and fit in enough time to destroy the game of cricket as we know and love. If all that is there to it, I think Srini mama is selling himself short. Here is what I would do if I was the former Honorary Sheriff of Madras (see, you learnt something new today!):

  • First step – through brow beating, arm twisting and using Navjot Sidhu to make prank calls every day to each board chief, grab control of the ICC presidency (officially). Welcome to the era of Srini.

“Change you BETTER believe in”

  • Make MS Dhoni the Vice President. Well of course.

“Together we shall rule the world!”

  • Make some changes to the ICC constitution (if they have one!) and give myself unlimited powers to affect the internal functioning of all member boards. All with their “permission” of course.
  • Let’s turn to the Black Caps. Who is this Hesson fellow? Remove him and appoint Stephen Fleming as coach. Also, ask “Where the heck is Daniel Vettori?” More importantly, arrange for two series every year between India and New Zealand. There is bound to be some morale boosting wins. For one of them.
  • Australia. This John Inverarity makes Srikkanth look like a genius. Sack him and appoint Warne as chief selector. Give Elizabeth Hurley a role – perhaps fashion consultant? Most importantly, make sure to “rest” Michael Clarke from series against India.

“For Mitchell Johnson, I’m thinking….plastic surgery would be a good choice”

  • Next, Sri Lanka. They have already done their part by selecting a politician as their chief selector. What could go wrong? Go one step further, and ask the Lankan president to be the honorary coach of the team. Also, offer the post of fielding coach to the Sports minister. That is one way of bringing the Lankan fielding to Indian standards.
  • Moving on to South Africa. I love Dale Steyn. He is the future of fast bowling. Heck, he is the future of bowling. A legend of his quality needs to be preserved well. It is important to balance his workload and he should get rest from time to time. Ensure that his rest coincides with India’s tour to South Africa. Also, appoint Faf du Plessis as captain in all formats.

“psst…want to join the Super Kings?”

  • England has troubled us for too long. Time to bring them down a notch. Make Kevin Pietersen the captain again. Remove Andy Flower and bring back Peter Moores as coach and appoint Nick Knight as assistant coach. Make sure that Bopara and Dernbach get to play in every game. Also, give Alastair Cook mandatory rest during series against India and grant Indian citizenship to Monty Panesar.
  • Allow Pakistani players to feature in the IPL. Sign up Junaid Khan, Hafeez and Ajmal for the Super Kings. Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal will go to the team that annoys me the most. Shah Rukh, I’m looking at you.

“Ok…these impromptu dance performances SRK keeps asking us to do, is too much now!”

  • There are no entertainers like the West Indies cricket team. Allow them to feature as the 10th team in the IPL.
  • MS Dhoni will not only be captain, but will also be the chief selector of the Indian team. Say hello to RP Singh again! Make India Cements the official team sponsor. Grant Suresh Raina the “honorary” number 6 spot in Tests and assign R Ashwin as the “honorary” first choice spinner in all formats; no to forget, the official spokesperson of the team after every defeat. Also, replace Fletcher with John Wright.

An overjoyed Fletcher, on hearing the news

  • For my dear CSK, appoint Mike Hussey as the coach and ensure that they get to play all their games on slow tracks, be it home or away. Make a special allowance for the team, so that they get to play 6 foreign players in the XI. Rule of thumb: Chennai Super Kings shall always win the IPL.
  • Remove the DRS and institute “SRS” – any time a player wants a decision reviewed, the umpire shall call a special number through which the calls are routed to my private phone and I get to take the final decision depending on my careful analysis as to how the dismissal would affect Indian cricket. Even if the game does not feature India.

“but, Sir…we can only give one batsman out at a time!”

  • Appoint personnel to follow Twitter and Facebook for any unfavorable mentions of me; any culprits found besmirching my name will be spammed to eternal banishment from the World Wide Web.
  • After I’m done enjoying the fruits of my “labor” for a few years, I will go on Oprah’s talk show to confess that I had taken all the previously mentioned actions under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs (I foresee a drop in sales of my “What Would Srini Do” wrist bracelets). I will leave the public eye gracefully; but in one final act of defiance, I will ensure that Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar become the new ICC and BCCI chiefs respectively!

“You get a Shastri…you get a Sunny G….everybody gets a one-eyed BCCI puppet free!”

PS: Mr Srinivasan, if you’re reading this by any chance……I kid, I kid! I’m a big fan, sir. Please don’t banish me from the World Wide Web!  

“I’m watching you…”

Four Quotes That Explain Dale Steyn

Dale Steyn’s bowling figures in the first innings of the on-going Test match against Pakistan in Johannesburg:

8.1 overs, 6 maidens, 8 runs, 6 wickets

What else is left to say about the best bowler on the planet right now?

Here are four quotes that explain Dale Steyn best:

He likes fishing, horror movies, all the gory stuff, you know. I think it comes out in his bowling sometimes.

Graeme Smith

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Where else in the world do you get the opportunity to basically kill someone with two bouncers an over? Or try, legally.

Dale Steyn

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”

I just said to him, I am 20ks quicker than he is so he shouldn’t bounce me

Dale Steyn on what he said to Neil Wagner on the second day of the Port Elizabeth Test

“I feel the need—the need for speed!”

I’ve said many times before, a 150 or 145 km yorker is absolutely no different whether you bowl it here in Nagpur, Chennai, Johannesburg, Perth… It’s the skill behind the delivery, what the planning is behind the delivery, that is what counts at the end of the day

Dale Steyn on their tour to India in 2010

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

Keep living on the wild side, Mr Steyn. May the force be with you.

11 Thoughts on Cricket from January

The first month of 2013 is almost over, and already it has shown signs of what to expect in the coming months. Here are 11 stray thoughts on the month that is (not quite) gone by:

1. NEW ZEALAND IS THE NEW WEST INDIES 

"If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup...huzzah!"

“If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup…huzzah!”

Get bowled out for scores of 45 and 121 en route to a crushing Test series loss to the Saffers before turning the tables on the hosts during the ODI series, which included a 1 wicket heist in the opener (from 105/7 while chasing 209) and a match winning ton from future great Kane Williamson in the second game. Only a last ball six from McLaren in the third game prevented a series whitewash. The average Kiwi supporter must have gone through the full range of emotions possible, in the past month.

2. MIKE HESSON IS THE NEW JOHN BUCHANAN

"That is a low blow, Mr Bullet"

“That is a low blow, Mr Bullet”

Problems with team’s star player and favorite punching bag for all? Check. It makes perfect sense that the former Australia coach is responsible for Hesson’s appointment as New Zealand coach.

3. ENTER THE FAF

"Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town"

“Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town”

In the span of three months, Faf du Plessis has gone from being a replacement in the Test squad and a fringe player in LOIs, to a certainty in all formats of the game. It culminated in him becoming captain of the ODI side in their series against New Zealand after de Villiers copped a ban for slow over rate in the first game. Despite the loss, he is already being talked of as future captain in all three formats. This proves that good things happen to those who play for Chennai Super Kings.

4. DE KOCK WILL GIVE ‘RISE’ TO NEVER ENDING PUNS

"The name is de Kock. The 'de' is silent"

“The name is de Kock. The ‘de’ is silent”

South Africa’s newest member and interestingly named Quinton de Kock is a talented and hard-hitting batsman, who is capable of keeping the momentum flowing at the top of the order. As a keeper, his soft hands and ability to let the balls come to him instead of grabbing at it make him a valuable addition to the team. Any puns detected in the previous sentences were intended.

5. MAHELA IS THE PAST, ANGELO IS THE PRESENT AND PERERA IS THE FUTURE

"Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you......"

“Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you……”

Dilshan, Sangakarra and Jayawardene are on their way out; but Lankan fans need not despair as the next generation take over. In Angelo Mathews and Thissera Perera, they have their next stars who seem destined for great things. Nerveless batting, attacking bowling and electric fielding – they are the new age cricketers, as it was always meant to be.

6. TO ROTATE OR NOT TO ROTATE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

"Psst...Mickey...don't look now...but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn't look happy"

“Psst…Mickey…don’t look now…but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn’t look happy”

If it’s Australia and January, it is ‘talk about rotation policy’ time. Last year, India took the heat for theirs, and now it is the turn of Clarke’s men…or Bailey’s. Their one day series against Sri Lanka ignited a fresh debate over the polarizing topic, throwing up references to A-teams and B-teams and free publicity for McDonalds after a bizarre put-down of George Bailey by the Channel 9 chief. Lost in all this hullabaloo was Phil Hughes’ impressive start to his ODI career, Kulasekara’s deadly bowling and a farcical abandonment of the 4th ODI. At the end of it all, the debate over rotation continues to rage.

7. THE WORST BEST DEATH BOWLER IN ONE DAY INTERNATIONALS

"The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos"

“The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos”

He is supposedly the death overs specialist for the number one ODI team in the world (before the conclusion of the series against India). Like Shakira’s hips, statistics don’t lie though: In 22 ODIs, Jade Dernbach has 30 wickets at an economy rate of 6.28, which is the highest for any international bowler who has bowled over a thousand deliveries; and this is the same man, Nasser Hussain said that India would desire to have in their side. No thanks, Nass. We already have Sreesanth.

8. JOE ROOT IS THE REAL DEAL

"Size doesn't matter"

“Size doesn’t matter”

After playing a supporting role in England’s historic Test series win in India last year, Root took the center stage for the English in the ODI leg of the tour. He emerged as the find of the series for them as his reliable batting and disciplined bowling was all they could take away at the end of it all. Unlike a few others in the side, he seems grounded and is set for greater things ahead.

9. ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

"Next stop...Test cricket!"

“Next stop…Test cricket!”

Positives: India won an ODI series against previously top-ranked side after a disappointing loss to Pakistan earlier, and in the process found quality seamers in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed, while reiterating Suresh Raina’s value to the team.

Not-so positives: Gambhir continues to throw away starts, Kohli’s purple patch is over, Rahane and Yuvraj appear clueless against pace and spin respectively, Rohit booked his place for the next year after a solitary fifty while Pujara warms the bench till Tiwary returns.

10. WHAT IS ASHWIN?

"Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk. Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face"

“Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk.
Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face”

When Ashwin came on to the scene, most Indian fans breathed a sigh of relief that an alternative to Harbhajan Singh was found. After disciplined performances in LOIs, he made a stunning entry into Test cricket by decimating the West Indians and Kiwis at home. That was as good as it got. Against England on the subcontinent, he has failed in Tests, T20s and now ODIs to pose a threat to an opposition ripe for the picking, as he has been comfortably out-bowled by ordinary bowlers like Tredwell and Root. It’s a matter of time before the Indian selectors and management decide if they want to persist with Ashwin in their plans – as a batsman who can bowl part time spin. In that case, the Turbanator can confidently say, “I’ll be back”.

11. MOVE OVER SHIV, TAG IS IT

"The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over"

“The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over”

From the maker of countless bore-athon knocks apart from the odd whirlwind ton in Tests, comes “Chanderpaul 2: Tagenerine”. Junior is said to be a carbon copy of his illustrious father, and as he makes his first class debut for Guyana at the tender age of 16, the WICB will hope that he turns into a future star capable of saving many Test matches for the team.

 

 

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Following  international cricket through Twitter and Facebook is sometimes more entertaining than the action on the field. The battle on social media can match or even better the intensity displayed on-field by the 22 players. While the contest may be between two teams, the online interaction features participation from fans of non-playing teams as well. This makes for an all-inclusive forum where you get perspectives and opinions of all kinds and where debates can stretch for hours and days after the match has concluded. In this context, the reactions following England’s huge loss to South Africa at the Oval, made for interesting observation.

The South African fans were understandably overjoyed, but they were not alone. Indian and Australian supporters, who have bore the brunt of England’s dominance in recent times, were blessed with a host of topics to mock the English team – the ease with which the number 1 team lost to South Africa, the impotency of their bowlers, the ineptness of their batsmen on a flat track and a favorite target – the English media. Understandably, the English fans were more subdued, with reactions ranging from muted acknowledgments of South Africa’s dominance to frustrations over performances of certain players, and even anger over the celebratory reactions by the ‘neutral’ fans.

Here’s why the English fans shouldn’t be too surprised over it all: It happens all the time. Not just with England, it happens with all top ranked teams. When you’re at the top, everyone will be gunning for you. That’s the most important factor. It happened with Australia in the 90s and early 2000s. It happened with India between the period of 2008 and 2011. If you’re top of the table, you are fair game.

There are additional factors too. The Australian teams were not liked because their in-your-face attitude combined with crushing performances, made it easy to hate them. As for the Indians, the perception was that they were a bunch of superstars who had risen to the top with the help of their arrogant board and their indifference to DRS was harming the game. With England, most of the disdain is reserved for the media, who can sometimes be very condescending of the opposition while England is on top.

There are 3 simple facts, which stand true for any sport:

1) Except for fans of the dominating team, everybody roots for the underdog. South Africa were not technically underdogs in this contest, but after day 1, when a familiar feeling of English dominance started to seep in, it looked like South Africa were under the cosh. That’s what made their win that much sweeter for non-English cricket fans.

2) Nobody likes an arrogant winner. For a neutral, most of the English players are hard to like. While the likes of Broad, Swann and Bresnan are good players, they can come off as snobby thanks to some of their antics on the field. Not to forget the English media, whose gloating after day 1 is pretty much the best example I can think of their condescending and holier-than-thou attitude. So, it is not exactly surprising that the English are not getting much love, now that they are down.

3) It’s always lonely at the top. When a team tops the rankings, they cannot expect too much support outside their fan base. The Australian and Indian supporters know that feeling. Now, it is the turn of the Englishmen. Who knows….after this series, it could be the turn of the South Africans!

As for Strauss and his men, it is a long road ahead. When they were made to chase leather on Days 3 and 4, the complaints were ‘It is a flat track and it had nothing for the bowlers’. Thus, when they capitulated in less than 100 overs on the 5th day, they left themselves open to ridicule, considering the upcoming tour to India where they will face similar tracks against an opponent who will be hell bent on revenge. So, Andrew Strauss will have to keep the big picture in mind, even as he leads his men in a battle against a red hot opponent to preserve their hold on the top ranking. Two former England captains quit in tears after disastrous series against South Africa. Will Andrew Strauss be the third?

Mark Boucher – He is Legend

Anything to do with Mark Boucher will never be straightforward.

He made his international debut thanks to a finger injury to incumbent keeper Dave Richardson.

He contributed to South Africa’s tragi-comic record in World Cups, when in the 2003 edition, he defended the last delivery of the final over in a rain-affected game, thinking that SA had done enough to qualify for the next round. They had actually needed one more run.

In 2006, he hit the winning runs in a record chase of 434 against Australia.

And most recently, he was forced into early retirement when a bail struck his eye and ruled him out of his final series.

In between, he has saved and won games for South Africa, played 75 consecutive Tests at one point and has taken a record 999 international dismissals as keeper.  More than all these, he has been a cherished team-mate, respected opponent and a loyal friend to many for the past 15 years. He was one of the last good guys in international cricket and with his retirement, the game has lost one of its most loved players. Here’s wishing him all the best for all his future endeavors.

Fighter. Champion. Legend. Mark Boucher.

When Cummins kept going

Thanks for Cummins!

When Pat Cummins scored the winning runs off Imran Tahir in the 2nd and final test of the series, it signaled the birth of a star cricketer. At the tender age of 18, he made his Test debut against the World no. 2 and helped his team to a series-leveling victory, with both bat and ball. There had been a lot of hype surrounding him prior to this tour, but it is altogether a different task to actually meet those expectations. The ease with which he handled pressure situations while bowling in the 2nd innings, and when he came out to bat with a few runs to win, has confirmed hopes that he can stand the test of time and become a future great of the game. These are early days yet, but there is nothing wrong in dreaming.

Australia can thank Cummins and few others for the win; namely, the much maligned Ponting, Haddin and Johnson. The victory might have just bought them an extra series, but there is no doubt that Oz need to look beyond them. There is no  shortage of options with Khawaja, Wade and Pattinson available as ready-made replacements. Ponting is an exceptionally difficult case, as the likes of Dravid and Tendulkar have shown that temporary loss in form almost always makes way for permanent class; but how long can the selectors wait? It will be an interesting next few weeks for Australian cricket.

Oh, South Africa. Four home series have gone by and still they have not won one of them. For a team fighting for the top rank in international cricket, this is a staggering statistic. They have the batsmen, fast bowlers, spinner, keeper, captain and coach to make them a formidable side; and still, that final hurdle just cannot seem to be overcome. Fortunately for them, Sri Lanka is next. They have some serious issues if they cannot put it past the troubled Lankans. Also, Philander seems to have sealed the 3rd seamer’s spot ahead of Tsotsobe. Another debutant to have a dream start to his Test career.

Lastly, a mention about the 2-test ‘series’…..while there is no doubt that the contest between two equally matched sides deserves a minimum of 3 tests to sort out the better team, it was hard to fault the logic of the two boards. After all, while the internet buzzed with rage over the short series, there were hardly any spectators in the ground to justify an extra test; in any case, the revenue is mainly made from gate collections. Of course, the cricket boards have only themselves to blame for the obvious reasons. If all cricket boards can sort out these simple issues, the crowd will come. After all, I believe that Test cricket is not dying; its just the crowds for Test cricket, that is dying.

 

Where Them Future Stars At

Peter Roebuck recently wrote an article on CricInfo, asking a simple question – ‘Who are cricket’s future greats?’. Unfortunately, apart from a statistical look at the modern greats and an expressed fear for the future, he didn’t really talk about any future stars in particular. So, I decided to make up a list of players from each Test playing nation, except Bangladesh, whose progress I am following and who I feel are more likely to be international cricketers of great caliber in the next ten years or so.

PS: I apologize in advance for the mangled statistics table!

KANE WILLIAMSON

Country: New Zealand

Age: 20 years

                Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 5 9 0 299 131 33.22 698 42.83 1 2 28 0 1 0
ODIs 15 14 2 352 108 29.33 514 68.48 1 0 22 3 3 0
First-class 29 49 2 1998 192 42.51 3732 53.53 6 9 242 12 27 0
List A 46 43 10 1537 108* 46.57 2054 74.82 4 7 105 15 18 0

I noticed Williamson for the first time during a nondescript tri-series in Sri Lanka last year. It was his debut series and he looked so out of depth at the international level that I wondered what the fuss was all about, as he was touted as the next big thing in New Zealand cricket by the experts; but it was during the Test series against India later, when I was won over. The way he tackled the spinners and batted with a calm assurance indicated a mature head, and while tours of South Africa and England will be challenging in their own right, I foresee a great future for him; I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is the Kiwi captain when the 2019 World Cup rolls around.

DINESH CHANDIMAL

Country: Sri Lanka

Age: 21 years

          Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
ODIs 4 4 2 143 111 71.50 168 85.11 1 0 9 5 4 1
T20Is 5 4 0 59 29 14.75 58 101.72 0 0 2 2 0 0
First-class 33 52 7 2733 244 60.73 3653 74.81 9 13 306 56 62 11
List A 42 41 5 1010 111 28.05 1266 79.77 1 8 73 25 35 2

Early last year, when India sent a weakened team to Zimbabwe under Suresh Raina for a pointless ODI tournament involving the host nation and Sri Lanka, they had their bottoms forcefully kicked by both teams. Apart from that, I remember the tri-series for a brilliant century by Chandimal against the Indians in just his second ODI innings. Later, I found that he has a stellar record in First class cricket, while there is scope for improvements in the short formats. Still, he has impressed many with his attitude and leadership skills right from the U-19 stage; and with the likelihood of Sri Lanka losing the services of stalwarts Sanga, Jayawardene and Dilshan in the next few years, the spotlight is going to be focused on him for the foreseeable future.

RILEE ROUSSOUW

Country: South Africa

Age: 21 years

               Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 39 69 1 2967 319 43.63 4675 63.46 9 13 431 22 45 0
List A 48 47 2 1656 131 36.80 1786 92.72 4 9 186 24 26 0

I have to admit that I have not seen much of his actual game, but in the few matches I have seen him play for his domestic team, he has looked the part of a quality player. I noticed him first during the 2008 U-19 World Cup where he turned in some decent performances, and then saw him again during the initial Champions League T20; and I came away with the feeling that he is steadily improving as a player. He could very well turn out to be a major batsman in Gary Kirsten’s new Proteas. Like the previous players in this list, he has every chance of becoming the future captain of his country.

BEN STOKES

Country: England

Age: 20 years

                Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 26 38 5 1541 185 46.69 5 5 16 0
List A 19 19 3 509 150* 31.81 540 94.25 1 2 40 14  5 0
                   Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
First-class 26 32 1398 1046 28 6/68 7/145 37.35 4.48 49.9 2 1 0
List A 19 9 236 207 14 4/29 4/29 14.78 5.26 16.8 1 0 0

Stokes fulfills the first criteria to become an English player – He was born outside the country 🙂 …. specifically in New Zealand, where his father played rugby for the Kiwis. Once he moved to England and started playing cricket though, people started to take notice. Like most others in this list, I noticed him first during the last U-19 World Cup, where he scored a century against India. Apart from being an aggressive batsman, he is also more than a handy performer with the ball; he has already put in some eye-catching performances this season before a dislocated finger brought an early end to his season. Still, he looks to be the most promising young cricketer in England and it seems to be a matter of time before he makes his debut for the senior English team.

ABHINAV MUKUND

Country: India

Age: 21

          Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 40 61 3 3446 300* 59.41 6207 55.51 13 9 435 17 29 0
List A 28 28 1 1550 130 57.40 1869 82.93 5 10 151 10 16 0

Such is the strength of the Chennai Super Kings, that they could afford to leave out one of the best batsmen in the country from the playing XI throughout their victorious campaign. Mukund is well known throughout the domestic circuit for his gluttonous appetite for runs. Along with his opening partner Murali Vijay, he has decimated many a new ball attack in the country. For his consistent performances throughout the last two seasons, he has won himself a place in the Indian Test squad to the West Indies in the absence of Sehwag and Gambhir. Don’t be too surprised if he edges out Vijay for the third opener’s slot when the two return to take their places.

JAMES PATTINSON

Country: Australia

Age: 21 years

                Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
First-class 6 11 1156 560 19 4/52 5/76 29.47 2.90 60.8 2 0 0
List A 15 15 760 659 26 6/48 6/48 25.34 5.20 29.2 0 1 0

It would be an understatement to say that there are not enough quality bowlers out there today. It doesn’t look too bright for the future as well. One bowler who might prove to be the odd exception is James Pattinson. While his elder brother shot to prominence first with an infamous debut for England in 2008, it was always the younger Pattinson who was being talked up as a future star. With the gift of swing, he is slowly working his way up the ranks, from the U-19 side for his state, to the Australia U-19 to Australia A, and now to the senior squad. Even as Australia struggle to retain top position in the international rankings, they would do very well to look at a fresh crop of players, with none more promising than the young Pattinson.

JUNAID KHAN

Country: Pakistan

Age: 21 years

                Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
ODIs 7 7 288 223 9 4/12 4/12 24.77 4.64 32.0 1 0 0
T20Is 1 1 12 15 0 7.50 0 0 0
First-class 35 63 7110 3562 167 7/46 13/77 21.32 3.00 42.5 6 13 3
List A 34 34 1590 1279 46 4/12 4/12 27.80 4.82 34.5 3 0 0

Who else but a fast bowler would be the most promising young cricketer for Pakistan? While I would have normally gone for Mohammed Amir, I will settle for a less controversial choice in Junaid Khan. Like Amir, he is a left arm pace bowler who has been turning heads with his impressive ability for pace, swing and success in the domestic scene. Playing for the now famous province of Abbottabad, who are supposedly one of the weaker teams in Pakistan, he has built up an impressive reputation for himself. It was going to be only a matter of time before he made his debut for the senior side, and sure enough, he made his debut in ODI colors against West Indies a couple of months ago. His performance in that series indicate that with the right guidance and care, he can turn out to be one of the best fast bowlers in international cricket within the next few years. As long as Ijaz Butt and cronies don’t come up with an ingenious way to screw his career too.

DARREN BRAVO

Country: West Indies

Age: 22 years

              Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 5 8 1 313 80 44.71 767 40.80 0 4 30 6 1 0
ODIs 26 23 3 635 79 31.75 872 72.82 0 4 46 15 3 0
T20Is 3 3 0 83 42 27.66 75 110.66 0 0 9 2 0 0
First-class 23 35 2 1231 111 37.30 3 6 22 0
List A 48 44 6 1491 107* 39.23 2 10 10 0

Even if you have not been following West Indies cricket for the last year or so, you might be knowing that Darren Bravo bats like his famous relative Brian Lara. Fortunately for him, he has a decent record at both First class and Test level to back that fame…somewhat. While his half brother Dwayne has been an integral part of the senior side for a while now, Darren has earned a name for himself on the international scene only in the last two years. While his domestic records don’t scream run machine, his short stint in Tests and ODIs so far, indicate there is substance beneath the style. At the moment, he is not in the best of form, but for a team which comprises of batsmen who struggle to cope with quality international bowlers, his progress to a fully fledged champion batsman can’t come soon enough.

Letter to South Africa

So near and yet so far...

Oh South Africa. Your best chance in 19 years to win the World Cup and you ‘Faf-fed’ it. I am not going to say that you choked; because everyone else will, anyway.

This was your year. You had it all. Two of the world’s in form One day batsmen. A world class all rounder and a tough captain. You had two of the world’s most feared fast bowlers. To top it off, you even had three different kinds of spinners! Most importantly, they even managed to turn the ball…

You rolled over all opposition in the league stages, except for England. In fact, the only two games you struggled were the one against England and in the close win against India. Still, everyone believed that they were aberrations. That this was the World Cup where you could go all the way. After all, you have managed to get knocked out of major ICC tournaments in every possible way. Get knocked out due to bizarre rain rule. Check. Get knocked out due to bizarre understanding of bizarre rain rule. Check. Get stuffed by a team who rarely win any games. Check. Come within one run of a final, and then lose your head in a ridiculous run out. Check. Only the 2007 World Cup semi final loss was the result of a superior team having its own way with you. Still, you managed to make it easy for them with some daft shot selections.

So what could you possibly do this time? You had an easy quarterfinal match lined up with the Kiwis, who had 5 overs of mayhem against Pakistan to thank for their one meaningful victory in the league stages. Their big players were coming off injuries, and they could have been forgiven for just wanting to compete with you on an even scale before getting knocked out. It was no horror pitch, even as it was slow; and the bowlers were disciplined while not threatening. Their fielding was brilliant, but it was always going to be the case.  There was no sane person outside New Zealand, who would have predicted that you could screw this up.

Well, as it turned out, you did. From 108/2 to 172 all out, it was the same old story. In 1999, I watched with disbelief and shock as you squandered a golden opportunity for your first World Cup triumph. This time, I watched with resignation and a little amusement as you contrived to do it again. While I was not as gutted for you as I was then, it was still sad to see the best team in the competition go out.

What now? Who is going to take over the ship? Smith did a fine job for the last 8 years, and he can hold his head high; but someone else will have to stand up, and start from square one. As much as you hate the term ‘chokers’, there is only one way that it ever gonna go away. Win a World Cup.

Well played guys, and thanks for the entertainment against England, India and New Zealand. Cheers!

Yours truly,

tracer007

Why out-choking South Africa was the result India needed

9 wickets for 29 runs. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Even if the pitch was a mine field and the bowlers delivering unplayable deliveries ball after ball, there is simply no excuse for the best batting line up in the world to implode in such a spectacular manner. It was a choke of the highest order, and the South African team would have appreciated that. Then in the second innings, India did pretty well to keep them to 284 with 13 runs to get at the start of the final over. Then Dhoni threw the ball to Nehra; and I immediately expected South Africa to win with a ball to spare. As it turned out, Peterson didn’t even wait till then. I was so stressed out with the result, that I literally had a migraine attack for the next few hours!

Still, now that I have had time to calm down and think about it, this might be the best result for India at this stage. As Dileep Premachandran pointed out in a tweet during the game, a loss will be the only outcome which will force Dhoni’s hand, to make changes to the bowling line up. Why Dhoni went with three pacers against a team like South Africa who struggle against spinners, is beyond me. Having Munaf and Nehra play in the same game is a recipe for disaster and Dhoni paid for stubbornly sticking to whatever game plan he had in his head. How India would have loved to have Ashwin bowling in the batting power play, when De Villiers and co took off! The time for experimentation and improving ‘mental strength’ of players is over – Ashwin has to come in, and Nehra has to sit out. I am not a big fan of Munaf, but compared to Nehra, he has shown more discipline and skill while bowling during crucial phases of the game. Still, it was sad that while Zak was bowling his heart out with skill and precision, the other pacers couldn’t support him. Harbhajan bowled better than his figures suggest, and hopefully this result will stoke his ego and bring out the best in him for the next game.

It was a strange kind of day, where India regressed on one area of their game which is their strength and improved in an area which is their traditional weakness. Batting has always been India’s forte, and after reaching 267/1 in 39 overs, one would have expected a minimum score of 350 with the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to come in. The events following the exits of Tendulkar and Gambhir still rankle, and I won’t dwell much on it; but Dhoni hit the nail on the head, when he suggested that the batsmen shouldn’t have played to the gallery. With the quick fall of the settled batsmen, it was a time to play safe for a few overs and then cut loose. Instead, Pathan, Yuvraj, Harbhajan all fell to glory shots, when the need of the hour was to hit and run in the presence of a brilliant bowling and fielding effort by the South Africans. Even if we had stumbled on to 320, we could have made a better fist of it. As in the case of Zaheer on the bowling front, all the good work done by Sachin and Sehwag went to nought after the poor follow up by the middle and lower order. Still, I feel that the batting is in good hands, and it is a matter of realizing now that it is never a good time to become complacent. From now on, the batsmen will do well to remember the great implosion at Nagpur when they face off against other teams in the future, and bat according to the situation.

As for the traditional weakness, if at all there is something Dhoni can be happy about, it is the fielding. It still wasn’t perfect, with a couple of dropped catches and singles allowed to be converted into twos, but overall, there was a marked improvement in the fielding. Fielders who usually love to escort the ball to the boundary, now put in dives to ensure that there wouldn’t be any freebies for the batsmen. Kohli, Sehwag, Harbhajan and even Tendulkar at some point, would have gladdened Dhoni’s heart, who might actually start to believe now that there IS a way for the fielding standards to improve. Hopefully, they can sustain the same kind of intensity in the next game as well.

A brief mention about the behavior of Bhajji. While I do not condone abuse of any kind, I think it is important to remember that not every bowler can be a Murali, who responds with a grin when he picks up a wicket. There was a lot of consternation in the twitter-sphere and Cricinfo live comm feedback section over Harbhajan’s reaction to De Villiers’ wicket; and while I belive that it is not necessary for a feisty send off to the dismissed batsman, I believe that players like Bhajji need that kind of spark to play better. It is not pretty to watch, but neither is it pretty to see that when Steyn reacts in almost a similar manner.

So there it is. I needed to get that of my chest. While India are still searching for a convincing victory in this campaign, I feel that things are slowly falling into place. I believe that we have finally stumbled on to our best combination. The only change I would bring about is the inclusion of Ashwin in place of Nehra. The bowling and fielding showed signs of improvement, while one bad day at the office will not erase the fact that the Indian batting is still the best in the business. If all these areas of India’s game comes together, India might just be glad for that loss to South Africa, which would have prompted a re-think of their strategy and emboldened their players to play better.