Three Cricketing Moments Immortalized in my Cricket Archives

Ever since I found my cricket archives collection at my Delhi home which was gathering dust for over 10 years, I have been going through them and recalling some of the old memories I had of important moments in cricket history. These moments mark important milestones in cricketing history and I am going to share three of them here.

The Shiv Sainiks damaging the Kotla pitch

The Shiv Sainiks damaging the Kotla pitch

Kotla Pitch Fiasco before Indo-Pak Test Match

In what was a major fiasco for security agencies, Shiv Sainiks damaged the pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in early January 1999 just before the start of the first Test Match. It is to be recalled that this was the first Pakistan tour after a long time and there were a lot of politics and emotions involved. The match was later moved to Madras with the second match scheduled for Delhi (the one where Kumble took all 10 wickets in an innings). Here this picture captures the Shiv Sainiks damaging the pitch in the middle of the night.

Australian team celebrating after the chokers choked

Australian team celebrating after the chokers choked

1999 World Cup Semi Final

Nobody can forget the 1999 World Cup semi final between Australia and South Africa which was dramatically tied leading to Australia entering the finals. It is to be recalled that South Africa needed 9 runs to win in the final over with Lance Klusener, the best player and the man of the series in that world cup. Klusener hammered first two balls of the over for boundaries, with a South African win looking almost certain. As Steve Waugh brought all his fielders in, there was almost a run out on the third ball, which eventually materialized on the 4th ball. With this being the last wicket, the match ended in a tie. See the video here, and as you can see, the South Africans choked, like they have done many times.

Sir Donald Bradman with Sachin and Warne

Sir Donald Bradman with Sachin and Warne

Sachin and Warne meeting Bradman in 1998

It became a talk of the whole country when Bradman’s wife saw Sachin play on television and reminded Bradman of how much Sachin resembled him. After that, Bradman invited Sachin and Shane Warne to come visit him, and their pictures were splashed all over the newspapers. (I cut one of those :P) Coming to what happened during their discussions, read the snippet below. To put this visit in perspective, Sachin was 25 years at that time.

Bradman asked Tendulkar whether he moved before the ball left the bowler’s hand. To which the younger batsman rather modestly replied, “I don’t know.” With a glint in his eyes, Sir Donald tapped Tendulkar’s shoulder: “I think you do. You begin your movement before the bowler balls, otherwise you wouldn’t have the time to play the kind of shots you do.”

Three reasons India should not play the trio of Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir together

India has played two matches so far in this World Cup and in both these matches, Sachin and Sehwag has opened the innings with Gambhir at number three. Kohli and Yuvraj make the middle order at four and five followed by Dhoni and Pathan at six and seven. This batting lineup leaves no room for Raina. I feel that only two of our three openers- Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir should play in any match. Here are 3 reasons India should do so –

Sehwag and Gambhir opened for Delhi too

Sehwag and Gambhir opened for Delhi too

1. Adequate rest – All three players, Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir have been plagued by injuries and fitness issues coming up into the World Cup and playing only two of them in any single match will give adequate rest to all of them. It will be very critical going into the knockout stage of the tournament that all three of them are fully fit and rested.

2. Team Balance – Just as you can’t play 11 Sachins in one team even if he is the best, a team needs to have only two openers to maintain team balance. No doubt all these players are good enough to play in any position, but that leaves Kohli at number 4 and leaves no place for Raina. Kohli has shown tremendous maturity batting in the last year and he needs to bat in the middle of the innings for that, not at the end of it which normally happens if all three openers play. At the end of the innings, Raina could be very destructive but playing all three openers means he can’t find a place in the team. So playing only two of them will give Kohli and Raina their comfortable spots in the team rather than Kohli coming to bat in at number 7 as he did yesterday.

3. Enough exposure to all – Indian top order has failed only 5 times in the last 32 matches which means Yuvraj, Pathan, Dhoni and Raina have very little time in the middle. Playing only two of the openers will give more chance and opportunity for the Indian lower middle order to get some match practice. When we face a tough opposition or when the top order fails, we want the middle order to be prepared to take on the challenge rather than being sitting ducks due to lack of time in the middle.

Sachin and Sehwag have demolished many attacks

Sachin and Sehwag have demolished many attacks

Due to the above reasons, it will be best for India going ahead into the knock-out stage of the World Cup that all players are rested enough, fit enough, and have got enough time in the middle to be ready for their chance when it comes. The same also holds true for our bowlers, rotation will be the key to ensure Zaheer, Nehra, Sreesanth and Chawla are fit and confident whenever they are required.

World Cup predictions – Ind and Aus my favorites

The coveted trophy

The coveted trophy

As the ICC World Cup starts in under two weeks on what are going to be batsman friendly pitches of the subcontinent, a lot of records are going to be broken and new ones made. Considering the small grounds of the subcontinent and the hot weather, it is expected that bowlers will take the heat and a lot of batting records are to be made. Below I am trying to predict some important statistics and records that this world cup might see. I will evaluate these figures again at the end of the world cup.

There are 14 teams participating this time in the World Cup hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There will be 49 matches in total, two less than the 2007 world cup. The format will be similar to the 1996 World Cup, with a knockout round of quarter finals, semi finals and a final after the round robin league of two groups of 7 teams each. The tournament starts on 19th Feb 2011 and ends with the final on 2nd Apr 2011. Lets now get to the predictions…

  • Most sixes in a single over – I reckon there will be at least two overs during the tournament where all balls of the over will be hit for sixes. There was one such instance during the 2007 WC.
  • Most sixes in an innings by team – My bet is that there will be more than 25 sixes hit in one or more of the innings. India and SA hit 18 sixes in an innings in 2007 WC
  • Most sixes in an innings by 1 player – Ten, yes at least one player will 10 sixes in an innings in this WC. Watch out for Pathan, Afridi, Pollard and others
  • Most sixes in tournament – I think the tally will be around 25 sixes by any one player.
  • Fastest Fifty – 20 or less balls
  • Fastest 100 – 65 or less balls
  • Highest Total – My bet is there will be a minimum of five 400 plus innings in this WC
  • Highest Individual Score – I am sure Sachin’s 200 not out will be equaled or bettered in this WC, either by the GOD himself or somebody else.
  • Hat-Tricks – I am counting for only 1 or 2 hat tricks in this event due to the batsman friendly pitches
  • Most Wickets in WC – I think the top contenders are Steyn, Malinga, Muralitharan, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Anderson, Brett Lee and Sohail Tanvir with the highest number of wickets going to be between 22-25
  • Most Runs – My top bets are Sachin Tendulkar, Gambhir, Hashim Amla, Sangakara, Jayawardene, Misbah Ul Haq, J Trott, Shane Watson and Michael Hussey with the tally being somewhere between 650-700 runs
  • Best strike rate with runs over 300 – My bet is the highest strike rate for players scoring 300 or more runs to be about 125-135

My line up for the semi finals would be Australia v South Africa and India v England with Sri Lanka and Pakistan being wildcards, and Australia / India being my favorites to lift the trophy.

Now, after the cup is over I will again go over these predictions and compare them with the actual statistics. Obviously there will be some surprises, some new records created, some disappointing performances and some consistent ones. Let me know your comments on these predictions and we will see how they pan out over the whole tournament.

The Most UnderApplauded Batsman

The Wall / Mr Dependable - Rahul Dravid

The Wall / Mr Dependable

UnderApplauded… Is that even a word? Even if it is not, I have coined it now, and its suits perfectly for someone who is also known as “The Wall”, Rahul Dravid!! Now let me explain why I say so… BECAUSE

  • He is the player who has faced ball after ball over the last 14 years with levels of concentration not many can match. You need to see him sweat during a match to understand his concentration levels. Right in the beginning of his career, he batted 541 minutes in the first innings of this match and followed it with another knock in second innings while the rest struggled to put bat to ball.
  • He is the player who have been criticized by viewers and critics everytime he has got out cheaply but he has never used his mouth to answer them. Neither does he need to, as his bat is enough. Not many people have hit centuries in both innings of a test match, and he has done it twice. (vs Pakistan and New Zealand) Only Gavaskar has done it thrice.
  • He is the player who has stood alone on bouncing tracks alone while all his distinguished mates have struggled and got out. Still he is never acknowledged for the numerous matches he has won and SAVED India. I can never forget the second innings of this match where his 27 not out is not less than a century (on that wicket). Or see this match at the Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica where he stood as a rock in both innings and made sure India won a series (first overseas series victory in 20 years) in West Indies. A match-winning captain’s hand in the second-innings of a historic away-series deciding Test on a minefield. Now beat that!!
  • In many pitches that appeared to have landmines buried on a good length, Rahul Dravid has waged a war. Ducking, weaving, blocking, watching partners come and go, jabbing, leaving, ducking, weaving… Not many have batted for more than 600 minutes (like here when he scored a double when all others struggled to get even a fifty.
  • He is the player who has formed the platform around which many big names have hit knocks of a lifetime. May it be Sehwag’s triple century , or Laxman’s 280, or during many of Sachin’s tons, he was the player at the other end. Cricket is a game of partnerships, and he has shared 19 century partnerships with Sachin (a world record), 11 with Laxman, 10 with Ganguly and 10 with Sehwag. If you compare the accolades all of these players have got and compare it to Dravid’s, you will know why I call him the most UnderApplauded batsman..
World Record century partnerships between Sachin & Dravid

World Record century partnerships between Sachin & Dravid

  • He is perhaps the only player who averages more abroad than at home (55 to 50), yet he is never credited for the numerous matches India have started winning abroad over the last 15 years. Ask any bowler and he will name Dravid in the top 3 of “most difficult to dismiss” players, and yet he is the first to be dismissed by the viewers and critics!!
  • He is the only player left who is a classical batsman. Perhaps the most complete batsman playing the game today, and perhaps the last. He is the person who you would want to watch if you need a definition of batting. Yet he is measured by his strike rate more than the runs his partners have scored in his company.
  • He is the player who has totally transformed his game for one-day cricket and T20 cricket, yet he is pulled by critics for playing slow. Ask his teammates what freedom and confidence they have in playing their shots just knowing that Rahul Dravid is standing at the other end! He has kept wickets in ODIs to maintain the team balance, been the vice-captain of the team at the same time, scored runs consistently and yet never have expressed himself or demanded any attention. Without anybody noticing, he has amassed more than 10,000 runs in ODIs too.
His shots define how it should be played

His shots define how they should be played

  • While many people still believe he was never suited for ODI’s,  he has 11 century partnerships with each of Sachin and Ganguly. Then why do we regard Sachin and Ganguly as the best one day players ever to play for India, and totally forget Dravid’s contribution in that.
  • If Ganguly, Sachin, Sehwag and Laxman have a natural talent and genius, Dravid has compensated for it with sheer hard work and levels of concentration that are almost yogic. Not many can bat for 835 minutes (its not a typo) like he did in this epic match in Adelaide, or when he batted for 12 hours for his 270 in this match. Not to mention the Adelaide victory was the first for India in a generation and the Pakistan series ended up being India’s first ever series win there.