Stunner of a Sunday

If it was raining glorious passing shots and some brilliant baseline tennis in one corner, the other corner at home celebrated Cricket’s brand new World Champion. And, a cracker of a contest it was!

The Wimbledon final was expectedly a long one as I could not expect anything less from the 2 top players battling it out for the ultimate prize. With 38 Grand Slams between both of them, this could only be as epic as it gets. And, I don’t think I was disappointed. Another iconic Wimbledon final with a 5 set thriller, it all boiled down to energy and perseverance. Federer was sheer class, Djokovic was rock solid. It’s a shame we had to choose one winner, but Djokovic finally prevailed over the 8 time champion. Aptly, only he could have stopped the legend from claiming his ninth, and his fifth could not have come in a better time and place.Apparently, I was focusing on the Wimbledon final today. My attention was diverted when England were 86/4 and I could sense that another thriller was in the offing. And, no surprises met me this time. A World Cup final going in to a Super over has not happened ever before, and this one took the nerves to the wire. I almost felt it was going to be New Zealand, but England’s persistence won hearts and the cup. The over throw that yielded 4 runs in the final over was a painful turning point for the Kiwis and some dazzling scenes in Lords and Trafalgar Square meant that England just seized their first ever World Cup Glory.Over to 2023.

When emotions win.

How much ever we try to elude the inevitable question, an India – Pakistan Cricket Match isn’t a Cricket match any more, it never was. More significantly, it’s even more illogically placed if it is a Cricket World Cup. And, that’s exactly what unfolded today. Our emotions were more pertinent than the significance of a World Cup match, though you will see diplomacy and kind words doing the rounds when men are talking in front of the cameras. But we know, what’s going on inside.

Both nations have seen turbulence together, our hatred for each other is born out of sheer legacy of discard, gore and admonished fervour. Both nations also have a strong history in Sporting events like Hockey and Cricket. But with time and tide, Cricket has gone to another level, not particularly in the ascending curve. Most of our dispensed feelings is attributed to devious political minds and a self destructive plague of concurrent events. But, the those feeling are mutual. For sure, it looms large over the prospects of such glorious events like Cricket World Cup.

We don’t want to play them but we can’t escape playing them in big ICC events due to the massive logistics involved. Big Money, Marketing, Sponsorships and Betting flies high in such encounters, it makes things more obvious that India holds centre stage today in World Cricket and has to abide but cannot be dismissive of their opinion which oscillates between Patriotism and Realism.

Today’s victory was clinical, no doubt, but it was another prominent reminder to Pakistan that India have kept their winning streak in World Cup intact. And, the battle will always continue offline, off the ground and off the limits.

Sachin..

The name says it all.

I grew up epitomizing you, you were my Guru and inspiration outside family. You are not just a Cricket player, much more to the country as a sportsmen and so much more to millions like me as a Superstar, Master and God.

My childhood was a bouquet of your batting. Your fifties, hundreds and double hundreds used to be my bread and butter. As swashbuckling innings from you would keep the smile intact on my face for days to come and even your 20s and 30s would make me cheer like a kid with inexplicable toys in hand. My scrap books were all you, you were more important than my academics, you were my only reason to get up and watch a cricket match with Chicken pox. Eden, Lords or MCG – doesn’t matter, I will watch the game as long as I see you coming in to bat.

Your batting was my soul, you being in the 11 was good enough reason for me to watch the entire match including the commentary that talks about your replays. Your presence in the field meant adrenaline unlimited for me and the team. You are my ‘Bahubali’ plus ‘The Dark Knight’.
You were Sachin and for me, your name gave me goosebumps.

Your cover drives made me topple with joy, your flick was my life’s sweetest menace, your on drive was a delight to savor and your straight drive made me go crazy. It was not the strokes that made me fall in love with you, it was ‘You’ and the batting in ‘You’ that made all the difference in a world of meandering cricketers. ‘Sachin’ isn’t a name for me, you were my lifeline.

I remember most of your epics, your test centuries, your ODI gems, your World Cup exploits in 1996 and 2003. Your debut, your birthday, your first ODI century – some of the very few dates I remember in my life outside family. For me, they are not dates. They remind me of your legend, your batting, your iconic aura and the magic of God.
As Harsha aptly said – ‘Absolutely Divine’.

I yelled at my mother as I was extremely upset over your dismissal in the 2003 WC final and my mother has still not forgiven me for my innocent burst of anger. At that point, I and India were shut down. And that’s an usual behavior towards any of your dismissals because I never believed that you can fail. And, you taught me to succeed.

Your discipline is a subject of awe for me. Your humility stuns me, your simplicity is contagious and your aura inspires me.

Cricket is still being played, we still have superstars and the game is still very popular.

But, for me, there will never be another Sachin.
And, since, Cricket has never been the same for me.

As the planet says, Happy Birthday!

Demise of a Legacy

Yes, It died long back. But, every time I see a West Indies collapse and the repercussions of ‘The Fall of Giants’ does the round in a vehement bout of passion and cricketing folklore.

As India trounced the Windies in their backyard in the ongoing series, I withstood a gamut of emotions and cricketing history that’s embedded in a sorry state of affairs. Yes, I am particularly impressed with the way India has scored a thumping victory under the KK leadership – Kohli and Kumble. But at the same time, I see how devastated Cricket stands in the islands of the Caribbean.

Yes, I keep reinstating that I believe in legacy. Legacy is an opportunity to keep your glory days alive and withstand the sheer passion – as an individual and as a country to relive the memories of astounding feats and exploits of a superpower. Sadly, West Indies have lost both. I am not ready to believe that the current crop of players and administration don’t know their history – 2 big men were part of the mighty West Indies, way back then and I can see their heads sever in shame. Joel Garner and Courtney Walsh. Apparently, the last test match was played on Viv Richards turf – his expression of agony and reparation was inconveniently visible in his statement to Telegraph after the Indian victory.

Let’s have a massive throwback. In the 60s and 70s, England and Australia were pepping up with some serious fast bowling. Fast bowling with real pace. I vividly remember couple of videos from the fast bowling machines of the era and it will gives you a riveting display of what the batsman had to encounter those days. West Indies stuck venom with their ‘Fearsome Foursome’ and fast bowling was never the same gain. Spells from Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding will make the fast bowlers of our generation look like kindergarten – with all due respect, we must admit that quality fast bowling has seen dispersing decline over the years.

A mere look at the West Indies line up in the 70s and 80s will tell us why they were masters of the game. The bandwagon opens up with Haynes and Greenidge, you luckily dismiss them and you will see Llyod and Viv Richards follow through. Jeff Dujon could keep and bat as well, that makes him an allrounder. The bowling department is handled by Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. A god send team with phenomenal abilities. A team that could post imposing totals, chase herculean scores and take 20 wickets in a test match consistently. Individual brilliance, yes. But, it was a menacing team that ran havoc for more than 15 years in world cricket. Remember, I am not even talking about the Sobers era, phew! 

Even in the days of Lara led Windies, they still possessed a valuable team but never had the steel to win matches or even come close to what their predecessors achieved in 2 decades.

The decline of West Indies is largely attributed to multiple factors. Legacy needs to be nourished and bought up by able hands. West Indies came a cropper as they decided to bask in their undisputed glory but failed to build an empire on their imperious past. Plus, their problems with the administration and governance have only multiplied. Despite former greats like Clive Llyod, Richie Richardson and Joel Garner at the helm, motivation levels have been a pale shadow of what the West Indies were known for. 

‘Fire in Babylon’, the docu-drama on the mighty West Indies story is a revelation. When the world was battling issues on racism and dominance in a paranoia of diverse communities, West Indies and Cricket were a lethal combination. Their dominance over the game came from 2 factors – discrimination and passion. It tells a poignant story of perhaps the greatest fall from glory in any team sport in the world. It’s a pity that West Indies now only have their T20 victories and IPL exploits to rave about.
I am not sure if West Indies will ever redeem even a semblance of their glory days. But their story and subsequent fall from grace is a lesson for other teams. Times change, teams change, game changes but passion can never die. Passion is human and sports is all about human resilience. Yes, we like our teams to win but we equally admire a team that goes down fighting like a wounded lion hungry for glory.

the sachin day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUtBqic1-Rk

That says it all. There is Sachin Tendulkar, and then we have other cricketers. ‘God’ is an honorific showered upon him, not to make a statement but it itself is an attribute attached to the champion. For Cricket, he is much more than a cricketer and a sportsman.

Happy Birthday Sachin!

Impeccable Kohli

Not a T20 guy but 2 on the trot brilliance and Kohli has bought me back in Cricket. Honestly, I have not watched such blemishless batting in a long long, very long time to come. First with Pakistan and then today, Kohli had an array of strokes in the diaspora that used to be visible in the Sachin-Dravid era. 

Pic Credits: India Today

 No offense but I take a lot of pride in the school of generation I come from. And, with the growing fondness for the T20 format, Cricket is a dying art. But, for players like Kohli, I see a semblance of the magic still alive. 

Cover drive, flattish square drive, the classic on drive, the flat pull and the hook, the flick on the leg. Kohli was brilliant today and showed why T20 must stay with all the good things the game has given us – authentic cricketing shots. No slam bang, no slogging, no bull shit. Just, pure, unadulterated game of Cricket.

Kohli’s innings today revived fond memories from my younger days and few epics from the stalwarts I grew up watching, adoring, falling in love with.

Viral Kohli – I don’t care if India doesn’t take home the trophy but I want your batting to enrich the basics of the game for which it is known and predates in.

that’s trending..

Doesn’t matter which format, Ind Pak encounters are always a scorcher. With a packed Eden and a quality innings from Kohli ensured we seal this with comfortable elan. Thank you Kohli, for getting me watch T20!

 

Tribute: Legends of Cricket: Martin Crowe

  
Some players must be measured by the times they played in, not in terms of averages. Martin Crowe was one such artist. I have seen very little of him in early 90’s and my impressions of him were established in the 1992 World Cup. A maverick batsman, he undoubtedly was one of the most swashbuckling stroke players Cricket has ever seen. Natural flair and a gift for gaming nuances, he was not surprisingly, 92′ edition’s player of the tournament. By far, New Zealand’s finest, his penchant for runs and glory catapulted the Kiwis’ to stardom. His impact paved the way for their Cricket to produce some illustrious talents like Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns, Daniel Vettori and Brendon Mcullum. New Zealand owe a large part of their sporting legacy to Martin Crowe.

You went early Sir, but you will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Picture Courtesy: Google Images

The Viru Days

Cricket before 15 years wasn’t the same. ODI was still the most popular version, opening slots weren’t as dynamic and specialist openers often decided the fate of an elusive encounter. Slam bang approach was not a part of the 21 yard strategy and full throttle test matches were still the bane of the great game. Incidentally, that was the time Virendra Sehwag was lurking around, and quite explosively, I must say. As he hung his boots, very silently, an era has ended. Truly, this time around.

Public memory has always been short, and the administrators of the game have conveniently discarded him as just-another-player treatment to once in a lifetime achiever. We don’t have to unveil a statue but a decent farewell would have accounted for a fitting tribute.

Cricketers like Viru deserve to be celebrated amongst giants of our elite fab. Not for his sluggish average of 35 in ODIs or his near inspiring almost 50-ish in tests. Well, Sehwag is not the batsman with numbers on his side. Neither is he gifted like God nor courageously hard working like Wall, not even precariously talented like Punter or someone as sustainable as Kallis. Yet, Viru has been a hardcore entertainer and a genuine match-winner. If noticed, this continues to remain a niche combination, and not many possess the ability or the flamboyance to destroy the best of bowling attacks with disdain. 15 of his 23 tons in whites are 150+ scores, which is symbolic of his daunting contribution to India’s cricketing success in the last 20 years. Not to mention, a 2 time triple centurion in tests and the lone Indian to achieve the feat amidst stalwarts like Sachin and Dravid, handful of batsman in the contemporary world have this distinction and the numbers might not go past the single figures if I take out Don from the equation. Phew!

Few cricket players belong to a generation, some last longer and very few last forever. Sehwag, quite enormously, belongs to either of them. He always had a mind of his own, and admittedly, his adamant approach led to so many of his downfalls which otherwise could have been converted in to much bigger knocks. But, Viru was never your containment player. He relied on his instincts rather than footwork and the former was backed by impeccable hand-eye coordination. As long as I remember, another player in this extinct clan was Sanath Jayasuriya. Adam Gilchrist was another such destroyer but he was far more tactical than Viru. But for me, no one epitomised the opener’s slot in world cricket better than Viru. And, evidently, he glamourised the position. For India, if Sourav Ganguly bought the charm of a southpaw to the opener’s pantheon, Viru gambled it with his swashbuckling stroke play. And his stamp was so damn fulfilling, enjoyable.

I am not sure how many from Najafgarh will make it big. But, certainly, there will never be another Virender Sehwag. He is too large for someone else to make it big. Faithfully.

Till next time.

“Slogans die, hopes don’t”. @msksmiles 

After a dismal Aussie tour and an equally ignominious triangular series, India was left wanting in areas of cricketing aspect. Except for couple of individual brilliance, rest of the team just fell flat on their knees. Team was in tatters, media slaughtered them for lack of sustenance and India’s overseas woes in the original format of the game were in a brink of disaster. 

That was before the World Cup began. 

Then the Indian Renaissance began. We stormed through the initial stages, beat top teams like Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies to reach the semis. It was a turnaround that surprised us but India is known for such comebacks in the shorter format of the game. Our bats made runs, bowlers took wickets in plenty and suddenly, the ambushed team had risen like a Pheonix. I think we must take a lot of heart from these performances so far. Honestly, I didn’t think they were going past the quarters and they did outperform my chances of them in this World Cup. Yes, we do expect us to win once we reach the semis but then, I don’t think we really had the bite today to counter the Aussies. Nevertheless, I would still say that my expectations were met in this edition of the CWC for India. 

As for the match, what we didn’t want was what exactly unfolded. I don’t think we can do much when Australians are batting first in a WC semi-final, wickets are the key as containing wont really yield dividends. Once you have a score of 300 plus to chase, its always going to be tough. Worst, our batsman chose the wrong day to fail in tandem. I expected Kohli to fire but he went cheaply. So did Raina and Rahane, Dhawan’s resilience wasn’t enough. As always, MSD held the fort to deny the inevitable but we probably realise that he was waging a lost battle. He was left alone to scamper through with zero support, and that were gruesome signs of India going down without a fight. The earlier semi-final was a great advertisement for the game, this wasn’t to be. 

If you go by the degree of disappointment, I have largely maintained that our 2003 WC loss to Aussies will always hurt, forever. In terms of performance, leadership and class, that was one of best Indian outfit to play the shorter format of the game. Sourav’s immaculate captaincy, our bowler’s evolution as match winners and Sachin’s single handed brilliance to take us to the final was an achievement of epic proportions. As much as I hail Dhoni & Co. for bringing the cup home in 2011, the 2003 outing would have been right there with Kapil Paaji’s Lords triumph. It was not be. Today’s loss shouldn’t be such a dampener though. 

Our rivalry will continue with the Aussies for the next few years, to avenge our 2003 loss in a CWC will have to wait for sometime now. I am not talking about test matches here, don’t want to. 

I still think India is a great one day side, and few changes need to happen. Flak will come in its way, and they have to take it in as a backlash is normal back at home. We really need to introspect if players like Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja are to be retained. Bowlers did well in this tournament (we never expected them to perform), I would laud their efforts for coming out of a CWC with 70+ wickets in as many matches. MSD is the best we have got to lead our one day format and this defeat shouldn’t let him to take some harsh decisions – his post match conference statements gave me something to relish about. I think he was fantastic throughout the tournament, we must not forget that he led a relatively young Indian side with maturity and perseverance. 

Till next time, that is.