It was yesterday I realized that it has just been over a year since I started this blog. Lately, the frequency of new posts have reduced, but I have always enjoyed writing about cricket whenever I get the time; and so, I intend to keep putting up new posts. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year of blogging, and I hope that most of you have too. Here are six of my favorite posts over the last year:
No, Adam Sandler is not the new ‘Man of Steel’; though I wouldn’t rule out the chances of seeing him wear his underwear over his pants anytime soon. Anyway, I digress.
A couple of days back, I was watching highlights of the India-Australia Quarterfinal game (coz thats what I do when I’m bored), and was marveling at how Yuvraj transformed himself into India’s MVP in this tournament; Since I had not written a serious article in a while, I thought I will write something about him.
Many years ago, a friend asked me why I spent so much time obsessing over a game which did not directly benefit me. To use his phrase, it did not ‘put food on the table’. In fact, it affected my studies, tested relationships with close ones and on a broader spectrum, decreased an entire nation’s productivity. This game had the ability to influence the mood of a country and yet, at the end of the day, apart from benefiting those involved in the game directly, it would not change the common man’s status for better or worse. So, why then care so much about this sport, or any sport for that matter?
April 2, 2011.
These are the moments why they matter….why we care….why entire nations can be lifted by sporting deeds performed by a few capable individuals. These are the moments why you can set your problems aside for a while and immerse yourself in a pastime which can give you as much joy, as it can give you heartbreak. These are the moments why sports exist.
The winning moment..
The men who won us the World Cup...
19 years...worth the wait...
The man behind the scenes..
The man who made it all possible...
Appreciation for an outgoing legend....
History making 15
A man who deserved to be in a World Cup winning team..
This is how much it matters to people on the street..
...in the streets of Delhi..
..and in Kolkata
Check out the final unforgettable moments…
So, there it is….moments to cherish for the Indians who were born after 1983 and never experienced the joy of winning the World Cup. For once, TV channels will stop showing clips of Amarnath’s last wicket in the 1983 final and replace it with Dhoni’s winning shot!
Once again, congratulations to Team India for a performance worthy of champions through the last few weeks; and to Sri Lanka and their magnificent cricketers for providing a tough fight. Not to forget – Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid, John Wright – who kickstarted the revival, and to Kirsten, Simons, Upton and the rest of the support staff for ensuring everything worked smoothly in the background.
Let the party continue!
Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. —Muhammad Ali
People don’t play sports because its fun. Ask any athlete, most of them hate it, but they couldn’t imagine their life with out it. Its part of them, the love/hate relationship. Its what they live for. They live for the practices, parties, cheers, long bus rides, invitationals, countless pairs of different types of shoes, water, Gatorade, & coaches you hate but appreciate. They live for the way it feels when they beat the other team, and knowing those two extra sprints they ran in practice were worth it. They live for the way they become a family with their team, they live for the countless songs they sing in their head while training all those hours. They live for the competition, they live for the friends, the practices, the memories, the pain, its who they are. It’s who we are. —Unknown
As Yuvraj crashed the fourth ball of the 48th over to the boundary and sank to his knees in wild jubilation, 8 years of heartbreak and disappointment over the missed opportunity in the 2003 World Cup final came crashing down. For the millions of people whose dreams were crushed that day, the exit of Australia from the World Cup despite Ponting’s century would have been sweet revenge. It was not exactly a thriller to match the England-India game at Bangalore, but it had its shares of nail biting moments, thanks to some trademark Aussie grit and suicidal running by Gambhir; in the end, though, lack of quality spinners and disciplined fast bowlers cost the Aussies and India have set up a dream clash with Pakistan at Mohali next Wednesday.
There were a lot of key performers from both sides; Brad Haddin was the first to up the ante, while David Hussey gave the finishing touches in the Aussie innings. As for India, Zaheer Khan was at his usual best, giving his side timely breakthroughs. Ashwin took perhaps the most important wicket of all, when he castled Watson early, and was also surprisingly sharp on the field. Tendulkar was all class and Gambhir was steady throughout his innings except for the final moments extending to his dismissal. Raina’s selection ahead of Pathan proved to be a master stroke, as he repayed the faith in him, by hastening the Indian victory. Ultimately though, this game was about two men, who entered the tournament in desperate search of redemption and found it in the quarterfinal; albeit, with differing emotions at the end of the day.
Ricky Ponting is a tough nut. He has always been, and he will continue to be till the day he retires. He has had a rough couple of years, with poor form coinciding with a downward curve in the team’s fortunes. He entered the World Cup on the back of conceding the Ashes at home, and questions swirling around a possible retirement. No sooner had the Cup began, he got into the controversy over a damaged TV set after a dismissal against Zimbabwe, fell to old failings against Canada, displayed a shabby reaction after a misunderstanding with Steven Smith over a catch, and even managed to find himself in the middle of the eternal ‘walking’ debate. All this while rubbishing retirement talk every other day. A lesser man would have thrown his hands up in exasperation and grumbled over the injustice of it all. Instead, he kept stressing that a good innings was around the corner, and eventually knuckled down in the first knockout game of the World Cup for Australia and produced an innings of restraint and skill, which would have been enough on most days, if it was not for the lack of contributions from his team mates. Ponting might yet play for a while longer, and his innings showed that while he may not be the master of old, he still has the fire and hunger to go out on his own terms. A true champion deserves nothing less.
Which brings us to the biggest individual success story of the 2011 World Cup. A man who has been pilloried for the last few years over his weight, lack of fitness, attitude issues, and most importantly, poor form. Dropped from the Test team and temporarily removed from the ODI team, Yuvraj faced a crisis of confidence from where only he could redeem himself. After making an equally baffling return to the ODI side, he didn’t show any signs of what was to come till the tournament began. At the outset of the Cup, he was identified as the primary 5th bowler, even as there were grumblings over whether he even merited a place in the playing XI. After a silent game against the Bangladesh, he warmed up with a now forgotten 50 in the game against England. Then, he got into his stride, with both bat and ball against the lesser teams in the group. This was sandwiched by a failure in the game against South Africa, which raised murmurs that he could only raise his game against weaker opponents. That is what makes his performance against Australia that much more creditable. With the ball, he never really let the batsmen get away picking up the wickets of Haddin and Clarke in the process; but his defining moment came with the bat. He walked into a relative position of strength at 143/3 in the 29th over and saw it stumble to 187/5 after nine overs. With a batsman who was short on practice and confidence for company, he was tasked with shepherding his side to victory and a semifinal clash with their neighbors. The pressure was immense and the possibility of another choke very realistic; but this version of Yuvraj has a certain kind of steel, which has imbued all that the world can throw at him, and transforms him into some sort of venged warrior. He responded in thrilling fashion taking boundaries of Tait and Lee and inspiring Raina to play a blinder of his own. When he hit the winning runs, he let out a roar which was as much a release of all the years of pent up frustration as it was for the cherished victory over a mortal opposition. Redemption is rarely sweeter.
So, hats off to the two champions who performed in the backdrop of another thrilling encounter between these two sides. Their paths may diverge from this point on, but for a few hours on an Ahmedabad evening, it was their day (and night)!
100 overs. 676 runs. 18 wickets. 2 brilliant centuries. 1 five-wicket haul. 4th tie in World Cup history and the 3rd involving India. These are all statistics which will go down in the record books, but they will never be able to convey the intense drama which began with the first ball edge from Sehwag’s blade and ended with a frantical single by Swann and Shahzad off the last ball of the match. In between these two balls, an epic tussle between two top teams took place – both teams trading punches throughout the game, Tendulkar’s masterclass overshadowed by Strauss’ captain’s knock, Bresnan’s brilliant death over bowling matched by Zaheer’s devastating powerplay spell, England’s lower order hitting sixes on demand while the Indian fielding was uncharacteristically sharp in the dying stages of the game. Already, many are calling it as one of the finest ODIs in history, let alone World Cup history. Enough match reports and analysis will be written about in the next couple of days. So I will just stick to images from the classic, which was the perfect advertisement for One Day International cricket. Enjoy!
'The last World Cup match held in Bangalore was a classic between India and Pakistan. Wonder how today is gonna be'
'Hey Stumpy, should I choose to bat or to bowl?'
'Alright..Lets get the party started!'
'47th century. 2nd against England in 9 years...wait..what??'
'This is Jimmy's first wicket in India since 2006; Looks like he is done for the rest of the World Cup, then'
'Sorry Raina..you have to wait a bit longer to break into the team, now'
'I hope you picked me in your fantasy XI, Swanny!'
'You gotta be kidding me, KP...you couldn't even wait for Yuvi to come on, could you?''
'Haha...they said that I shouldn't figure in the World Cup..2 matches in, I'm the leading run scorer..who's the muppet now?'
'This is T for terrible...and you wonder why we aren't big fans of the UDRS'
'Alright, lets take the powerplay..whats the worst that could happen, right?'
'Ah..drat..I should have trusted my patented nudges instead'
'This ain't over till I say it is'
'Watch his hands, Aj...He might just slap you!'
'Don't look now...Sehwag doesn't look pleased!'
Ireland will be the next opponent for both teams; England play them on the 2nd, while India take them on in a week’s time. Still, questions remain over both team’s bowling departments. How soon they can remedy that, will determine how far they will progress in the tournament.
Funny, how the fate of two players rests on a third one. Dhoni gave the first clear hints that Kohli will play instead of Raina in the first few matches, and that he would occupy the number 4 slot. Dhoni gave some sound reasons for this – Kohli is not your typical ODI slogger like Raina (despite showcasing the destructive side of his batting in the IPL and CLT20). He has been more successful at the top of the order, where he takes time to build his innings and almost always ensures a certain respectability to the team total. Now, with the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir, Kohli forms the most impressive top order in the World Cup. This will allow the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to explode towards the latter half of the innings. Raina is unlucky to miss out after hitting some sort of form in the NZ game, but as of now, it is risky to expect an out-of-sorts Yuvraj to shore up the middle order in case of a top order collapse.
Logically, Yuvraj should be the one missing out; but his experience in ICC tournaments and improved bowling pushes him just slightly ahead of Raina. So he will occupy the number 5 slot, where India hope that he will eventually find his groove and put up consistent performances.
Interestingly, that is not the end of the story. Apparently, if Yuvraj regains his form, then he will reclaim the number 4 slot, and Kohli will lose his spot to Raina who will come at number 6 to provide late fireworks. I’m not too sure about this plan, as it would mean that the fate of Raina and Kohli depends on the form of Yuvraj. What if Kohli has had a good World Cup till then, or if by bringing Raina in midway, the dynamics of the team composition is disrupted at a critical time. If Dhoni and Kirsten decide on a certain team composition, they should stick with it unless injury or poor form strikes. It doesn’t make sense, for one man’s good form to cause another in-form player to lose his spot in the playing XI.