Saturday, September 22, 2007

Googlies: Aussie bashing & Prelude to India-Pak finale

The semi-final is won, and this sets up a grand finale: the dream final of India and Pakistan! Given how India has never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup encounter, and how close Pakistan came to winning last week, leases the final a suspense and excitement which will make the wait for Monday intense.

A long, long time ago, Australia stopped losing key matches. They just lost the ability to lose. It was a surprise every time they were taken down. In 2001, when Laxman rekha halted their gallop to victory, he immediately became a household name. When Tendulkar hit Australia out of contention in Sharjah, he gained their respect, Bradman's honors and Warne's nightmares. The Ashes victory of England, with Flintoff's all round performance, and the greatest batting displays by a batsmen in history of cricket - Brian Lara's glory days - are exceptions or aberrations to long and thumping winning streaks of the Australian team.

The current generation of Indian players was born and brought up in a world where the script was always the same. The Aussies looked bigger, batted more ferociously, bowled with more intensity, and not only made their triumphs look easy, but they annihilated the oppositions in semi-finals and finals of tournaments. Australia did likewise when they played Sri Lanka in their previous match. If William sisters seem like horses playing tennis against dolls, Australians are typically like rhinoceros put to compete with zebras or deer. Their leading scriptwriters McGrath and Warne are retired now. Ponting was missing, the Waughs have receded to distant memory, and Gilchrist and Hayden are aging. Yet the guys who have replaced players who came before them have been as devastative. Hussey has been breathtaking, Lee has bowled faster and better in every passing game, Clarke has stamped his class, and Clark was immaculate this series. To beat Australia is as sweet as it goes. We did them fair and square.

I have a love and hate relationship with Australia. I admire their strength and I hate their arrogance. I admire their arrogance when I think of it as a strategy of psychological warfare. I hated the tactics of Waugh and admired his ability to stay at them to get his team victory. I loved it when Ganguly made Waugh wait at the toss. I read the saga of West Indies stealing a victory by scoring over 400 fourth innings runs every time I need inspiration. I love it the most because, in spite of their assault, confidence and position of strength, Australians lost the game. This was the game where Lara kept the strike to himself, taking a single at the end of almost every over, and batted with the tail, right to the last man, to reach a most unlikely victory.

The high points of this match: Sreesanth kept his cool. His tongue lashed, but his bowling did better. The dude is a good actor, and whoever lost money on Jadeja and Kambli should try him for the role of "looks can kill" type extra. Pathan seems to have benefited from haircut. Sehwag should sit out of the final: his back needs rest, and Kartik is required in the team to keep the intensity going. Dhoni is calm and composed as a captain. He lets people play their own games, and maybe the sense of responsibility that comes with it, make players give their best. Unlike Dravid, his batting hasn't suffered under the wight of captaincy. Harbhajan dancing on the boundary rope is a sight we can see more frequently. Next time, we will send Mandira Bedi or Roshni Chopra to give him company.

Uthappa and Rohit Sharma, I urge you to stay in the team for another decade. RP Singh and Joginder Sharma have their youth to their favor, and its remarkable that both come from UP and Haryana, two states that produce world class bowlers only rarely. Kapil paaji was great exception, and Haryana's greatest hit. They say Joginder Sharma is quite like him as an all rounder, and I hope he proves "them" right. Gambhir played alright, but like Sehwag, I doubt if he will remain valuable for long in light of the talent waiting in ranks. He flashes too much, and wants to ride on luck everytime he goes out to bat. Lastly lets celebrate the crown Prince, just like we have done again and again in last few weeks.

Yuvraj returned after a one match absence to hit ten big boundaries. His fours were near sixes. When I was growing up, my father always laughed aloud at the hardest hit sixes and would call them "अठठे " (athathe) or "eights". I don't know if he watched Yuvraj bat. If he did, I am sure he was cheering अठठे (athathe) at those big hits. The master demolition act, 140 runs in last 11 overs, after just 48 in first 9 was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. I hope Yuvraj, Uthappa and Rohit Sharma will give us a finale where they reach out for the moon. In my books, I have already noted them as magnificent, and that omens well for the next World Cup.

Somehow Australia always appears so invincible, that even to the last over, the hope of Indian victory seemed to be an optimist's hyperbole. The way Indian inning galloped in last ten overs while batting was similarly emulated when bowlers came to party in last ten overs of Australian innings. I mentioned scriptwriters earlier, and greatest script writing duo of Bollywood, Salim-Javed, penned this as a comment on Amitabh's character in Deewar, Yash Chopra:
"लंबी रेस का घोड़ा शुरू में धीरे धीरे भागता है, पर जब भागना शुरू करता है, सबको पीछे छोड़ देता है" ("Lambi race ka ghoda shuru mein dheere dheere bhaagta hai, par jab bhaagna shuru karta hai, sabko peeche chod deta hai") The horse cut out for marathons, trots slowly at first, but when it starts to gallop, it leaves everyone behind. Such was the performance of Indian team today, that Saleem-Javed could have lined up a series of inspirational dialogues from it.

Pakistan won against New Zealand quite easily. In my last blog, I hinted that winning requires something more than skill. Pakistan always has volumes of jazba (ज़स्बा Passion), and chutzpah to spring surprise and reprise performances that either rise to grandeur or flail in ordinariness (either rock or suck). New Zealand, like South Africa, lacks the exceptional desire that pushes you into a big victory. After the murder of their coach in One Day World Cup and the way Inzy and Yusuf have been handled by their countrymen, Pakistan knew that their blood is at stake.

Ghalib once said, "रगों में दौड़ने फिरने के हम नहीं कायल, जो आँख ही से न टपका वो लहू क्या है?" (ragon mein daudte phirne ke hum nahin kayal, jo aankh hi se na tapka wo lahu kya hai?) "We don't value what just runs in veins/ That is no blood, which doesn't stream from the eyes."

For the players of both India and Pakistan, the final will be a call for giving their most nerve wrecking, perhaps the most important performance of their lifetime. Even though I would love to see India win it, I really just want them to throw everything into the game as they have done so far. Hoping for a grand finale,
and raising a toast to India,
your brother in arms,


Vivek Sharma said...


Vivek Sharma said...


Vivek Sharma comments: on 23 Sep 07 09:25:00 AM
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Sehwag is excellent player on his day. But can we afford to have him at the top of order when we have more consistent performers that can replace him?

I love Ivanisevic and Safin, and they keep loosing to their own personal demon, while we all call Sampras and Federer the greatest, because they can win consistently.

Aussies drop people in spite of their name. If Ganguly can be punished, if Laxman can sit out, I am sure Sehwag should too. He hasn't fought his way back unlike Pathan, who did quite well in domestic cricket and A-tour.

I will be happiest to see Sehwag hit his elements on Monday.

Naked Cricket comments: on 23 Sep 07 06:52:00 AM
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Bahut Khub, Vivek.
I find the Gambhir point interesting – right now, he’s going with the flow, and the No-Fear gig that consumes some players in T20.

For too long, he’s been the 50s batsman – scores that don’t look grt in tests or even in ODIs, but in T20 50 is gold. Trouble is, impetus can take you only that far – by the time, Gambhir should be going berserk he skies one or holds out. But he’s got himself some priceless ODIs back home – and that will buy him more time and some easy runs. Also, he’s in for Sehwag – Dilli quota.

I’m not with you on Sehwag though – his very sight psyches the Pakis; trouble is, his PR sucks, nowhere as good as SRT’s, RD’s or even Dada’s – nearly as bad as VVS’ in fact. He’s been blacklisted, along with Yuvraj, and will have to play like Y to beat his demons. Monday could be his redemption
(Do drop by, there's a post on the Australia game)

Vivek Sharma said...

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asuph comments: on 24 Sep 07 08:33:00 AM
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nah. it's not good guy image. i really like this paki team, too. for me, aussies needed to go out. they've gone out. i don't care much about the result of this match. winning would be great, of course. but not too bothered.

Dada Kondke comments: on 24 Sep 07 06:14:00 AM
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>> inshallah we'll win! but most of all, let cricket win.
Asuph miyaan, did you lift that line straight out of Ravi Shastri or Sunny Gavaskars quote diary.. "Let Cricket Win" ? Who bothers if cricket win's or not.. as long as India wins I would be happy.. (and I guess secretly you too would be happy) Besides,remember this is just a 20-20 game You can hardly call it "cricket" !! Cricket my dear friend has already lost to commerce.. so question of cricket winning doesn't arises at all :)

C'mon now, shed your good guy image.. Its time to whip-up some good old fashioned desi "Fan"aticism ;-)

Dada Kondke comments: on 24 Sep 07 05:53:00 AM
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I would play a half-fit Sehwag over a fully fit Dinesh Karthik (no dis-respect for the kid.. his time will come) especially so coz this is a Twenty-20 game. Therez hardly any time to get into the 5-th gear.. and that's where Sehwag edges Karthik. As for me, Karthik is not yet ready for the shorter version of game.. He is like Dravid of yesteryears when he was still learning the craft of one-day batting. No doubt Karthik will learn to play the slam-bang variety aswell, but that will take some time. He is not ready, not at this moment.

If Sehwag stays for even 5 overs (thats a big IF alright), he can inflict telling damage on the opposition. We want impact players.. guys who can swing the match decisively with a flash of magic in double quick time (Yeah Yeah.. I know the catch that Karthik took to dismiss Smith was nothing short of magic.., but then we are talking here about magic in the department of batting)

Bottomline.. Sehwag is the da man. A dodgy groin might still keep him out of the final.. But that would be quite sad. I am rooting for Sehwag to play & play well.

Usha M comments: on 23 Sep 07 11:44:00 AM
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i like your cricket posts.. because they have lots more about what you feel and less about technicalities.. which do just well for a passionate Indian fan like myself..

asuph comments: on 23 Sep 07 11:15:00 AM
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inshallah we'll win! but most of all, let cricket win.