Two more historic moments from my cricket archives

After the last article where I chronicled three important cricketing moments from my archives which I could recall very vividly, I went over the archives once again. And alas, I found two more historic moments from 1999. See the first three here. I am sure I can find many more if I try to go over the images again and try to recall the matches. While going over these archives, I also got present to the fact that I remember the 1996, 1999 and 2003 World Cups much more clearly than the 2011 World Cup which we won. Well, those were the days!!

1999 India – Paksitan Test Series

The 1999 India Pakistan test series was as dramatic as it can get. It was the first tour by the Pakistan team to India (apart from 1996 WC) in more than a decade and Indo-Pak relations were on a boil at that time. Even before the first ball was bowled, some Shiv Sainiks damanged the Kotla pitch which made the first match to be scheduled in Madras instead. India lost that match by some 12 runs after Sachin’s dismissal following a brilliant century. His dismissal by an unnecessary shot caused an unlikely collapse resulting in India losing the match.

The second test match was eventually held in Delhi and it was forever written in history books for what happened in the 4th innings. Pakistani batsmen fell prey to the guile and spin of Anil Kumble on a chilly February day. He became only the second player after Jim Laker to take all 10 wickets in an innings. The fact that I watched every ball of this last innings on TV made the memories even more sweeter.

An eventful series - as dramatic as it gets

An eventful series - as dramatic as it gets

Though the series was shared 1-1 and as you can see in the pic, both Wasim Akram and Mohammad Azharuddin lifted the trophy, there was another controversial Test Match after the series in Calcutta as part of the Asian Championship. It was marred by a controversial run out of Sachin Tendulkar which led to crowd trouble and I still remember Sachin and Azhar going around the stadium asking the people to calm down. Eventually the match was finished in front of empty stands as the crowds were evicted by the police. India lost the match. Shoaib Akhtar, who was at perhaps the peak of his form at this time, was at the centre of the controversy in this match. He bowled some unplayable deliveries to the Indian batsmen but his involvement in the Sachin run out turned into a big controversy. As I said, as dramatic as it gets.

Read this Cricinfo report to get a feel of what happened that day.

Pitch Invasions during the 1999 World Cup

Pitch Invasions during the 1999 World Cup

1999 World Cup  and security fiasco

The 1999 World Cup in England saw fantastic performances by Lance Klusener, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid and many more players, but it was also one tournament where crowd trouble threatened to go out of hands, for the first time outside the subcontinent. The tournament saw a lot of Asian fans watching the games and they would celebrate by running onto the field after the end of play. This turned into a nightmare for the security staff as they were unable to handle the crowd. Luckily no untoward incident happened, but it would not have been a surprise if something tragic would have happened. The below pic taken after a Pakistan match shows it all.

Life Lessons from Sachin Tendulkar

Most players come as rookies, show their talents and skills, have their ups and downs and after performing consistently well over many years they are termed as legends by the critics and the media. But the case of Sachin Tendulkar is unique. Right from the first time he burst on the cricketing scene as a 16 year old, everybody knew this boy was special and there was something legendary about him. And the way he has been performing over the last 22 years, he has left all those expectations behind and rose tall among legends themselves. As a cricketer, and as a person, there are many life lessons to be learned from Sachin Tendulkar, and I am listing five of them below –

1. Humility

He has the most runs in both forms of the game, the most centuries in both tests and ODIs, the maximum man of the match awards, the highest ODI score and numerous other records to his name. He is called GOD in India. He has been called the world’s best batsman continuously over the last 15 years, and Sir Donald Bradman saw himself in his batting. Perhaps there is no one else in world cricket today who can take all this praise with the grace and humility that he embodies. Carrying the expectations of a billion people, and constantly improving the benchmarks he sets for himself has been his hallmark. When asked about being termed a GOD, he humbly says, “I don’t think it is possible for anyone to become GOD

Still the same smile and enthusiasm

Still the same smile and enthusiasm

2. Always a Student

Despite having all the records to his name, and after consistently performing well for the last 20+ years, he is still a student of the game. He believes that there is always room for improvement. He says he is always keen to improve his game and wants to focus on the next game rather than celebrating his records and achievements. The same holds true for life too, as we must strive to be its students always and take whatever lessons and learnings life has to offer daily.

3. Continuous Hard Work

He is one man in the team who many would argue doesn’t need to practice. But still he is the one who always works very hard before every series and match. He is always punctual in team practice sessions and makes sure to practice more before an important series. His asking leg spinners to bowl in the rough outside leg stump to prepare for Shane Warne before the 2001 series is well known. He has never sat on his laurels but always look to work hard on his technique and fitness, and that is the reason he is still one of the fittest players at 38 years of age.

Enjoy life like he enjoys cricket

Enjoy life like he enjoys cricket

4. Never ending hunger of the game

“I am happy with my performance, but not satisfied”, he has said many times. This after having almost all batting records to his name. His hunger for the game is something which makes his game worth watching. He still has the same smile as he had as a 16 year kid when he plays the game. He still considers every game important and the joy on his face after winning a match or scoring a century tells of his never ending hunger. The hunger to keep scoring runs, to keep his fans happy, and to prolong the misery of the opposition bowlers. If we all live our lives with the same hunger, would there be anything not possible.

5. Discipline

His greatest talent is not to pick up a ball early or hit it through the gaps, but to do it consistently for over 20 years, and constantly improving the standards which he himself has set for the world. His discipline in the nets is well known, where he sometimes bats even after the younger players wind up. Tendulkar shows that talent without discipline is useless. His preparation before every game, and his decision making at crucial times as a batsman is for all to see and marvel at. And when everybody else calls him a perfectionist at many shots, he is continuously improving at them for the last two decades with enormous hard work and discipline.

Will this India v England series live up to the hype?

This series is certainly the most awaited series for quite some time for me. If the India v Australia series last year was legendary (where I watched two days of test cricket in a stadium), and the India v South Africa series was termed as the clash of the titans, this series has the anticipation like none. Maybe it is because of the landmarks which the first test of the series marks, as this would be the 2000th Test Match ever played and the 100th between India and England. Sachin Tendulkar will be looking to complete a century of centuries and it will be Duncan Fletcher’s 100th test as coach.

Apart from that, there is also the fact that the No 1 spot is on stake in this series. The first match at Lords also marks the return of Dravid to his debut ground 15 years after, when he sparkled with a 95 alongside another debutant Saurav Ganguly who scored a century that day. The number 1 team playing the number 3 team, who defeated Australia easily in the Ashes, in their home ground should make it a cracker of a series. Add to it the fact that there are 4 test matches in a series after a long time will make for a evenly and toughly fought battle between these two teams.

Watching a test match sitting in a jam-packed stadium was super fun

Watching a test match sitting in a jam-packed stadium was super fun

History of India in England

If you see the last three series India have played in England, it has marked the emergence of Dravid and Ganguly in 1996 where India lost 1-0, it marked the promotion of Dravid into the league of greatness in the 2002 series where he scored 602 runs in 6 innings at an average of 100+ and the series proved to the world that the Indian middle order is the best in the world. Add to this emergence of Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh ably supporting Anil Kumble in this series. It also marked the emergence of Saurav Ganguly as an enigmatic leader who showed the world that he is here to stay. The 4 test series in 2002 was tied 1-1, an achievement at that time.

When India came back to England in 2007, they were led by Rahul Dravid. And if Ajit Agarkar managed to hit a century at Lords in 2002,  it was Anil Kumble’s turn in 2007. We won the series 1-0 that year, mostly due to team unity and partnerships and not any big individual performances. With Anil Kumble being India’s only centurion in the series, the more important stats are that India scored 14 half centuries and had 16 half century partnerships in the series, making sure England never got two quick wickets.

Waiting to watch them in action

Waiting to watch them in action

Will this series live up to the hype?

This series will be the first time many Indian players play on England soil, as indeed it will be the last time Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar will be seen playing in England. Add to that the non-availability of Sehwag, the most destructive opening batsman in world cricket today, and you have a series on your hands. England are perhaps in their best form of the moment, and most of their players are fit and in good form. India have been slow starters abroad, and playing England at home will not be easy. But I hope for a tightly fought series, and it will a tough test for players from both the sides as they will be facing quality opposition and that might just bring out the best in them resulting in a truly scintillating display of Test Cricket.

Key Players

For India, a lot of depends on how well Gautam Gambhir adapts to England where he has never played before. With Sehwag not playing, the responsibility on Dravid and Laxman will be more to cushion in case of collapses and pressure situations. How Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bowl to Strauss, Trott and Peterson will decide who will hold the honors at the end of the day.

For England, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann will lead their attack and test the Indian batsman to the max. India should not take Swann lightly as he is the best spinner in the world as per ICC rankings and will be no pushover. The form of Strauss and Trott has been amazing over the last two years and dismissing them will take a real test of skill and patience for the Indian bowlers.

If the umpiring is upto the mark and the weather does not play spoilsport, we might witness on of the most competitive series in recent times. Let the best team win.

Shane Warne – A Maverick and a Magician

There are not many leg spinners in world cricket today. Neither were there 20 years ago, until Shane Warne (along with Anil Kumble) brought it into fashion again. Leg-spin is not only about skill, it is like an art, and like all work of artists, watching him bowl is always a treat to watch. When he begins to ‘walk‘ his short run up, it is marked by the ball being tossed from the right hand to the left by those artful wrists. With eyes and mind focussed on the plan, the ball is released from his hands towards a batsman who is confused about the flight, the dip, the speed, and the amount of turn the ball will take after pitching.

In the face agression, but very well controlled

In the face agression, but very well controlled

Two decades before he came onto the international scene, fast bowlers have ruled world cricket like never before. Despite the fact that executing and mastering leg-spin is extremely difficult, he came up trumps and made his own bewildering English and South African batsmen with a puzzle which they will never solve. His humiliation of Mike Gatting and many other batsmen by his enormous turn, masterful googlies and surprising flippers made for a wonderful sight for cricket lovers who were tired of seeing West Indian bowlers destroying batting lineups. South African Daryl Cullinan was believed to have sought the help of a therapist to overcome Warne’s psychological hold over his batting.

Gideon Haigh, the Australian journalist, said of Warne upon his retirement: “It was said of Augustus that he found Rome brick and left it marble: the same is true of Warne and spin bowling.” Though known mostly for his 708 wickets in Test cricket, he was highly effective in ODIs too, with his twin man of the match awards in the semi-final and final matches being instrumental in handing Australia the World Cup in 1999. He was something with the bat too, having the highest number of runs without a century with two 90+ scores under his belt. He was also a successful slip fielder, and stands seventh in the list of most catches.

Like all this was not enough, he signed up for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL in 2008 after retiring from one dayers in 2003 and test matches in 2007. As captain of perhaps the most weak side in the tournament, he turned a group of nobodies into a formidable team and led them to an unprecedented victory in the first version of IPL. Many remarked him as the wiliest captain Australia never had. His overs were always a fun to watch rather than just individual balls because of the way he planned and plotted the dismissal of his preys. It was the same spirit and guile he showed as a captain when he led Rajasthan Royals to IPL victory.

On and off the pitch, his life can be compared to a typical bollywood masala movie. His story is a tale of women, bookmakers, diet pills, then more women, but certainly headlines all along the way. Coming to cricket, he was one of the five players ranked by Wisden as the greatest cricketers of the 20th century. In 1993, he took 72 victims, and in 2005 took a massive 96 wickets coming after a one year ban. His control over the degree of spin, and his flippers, sliders and zooters made the life of many a batsman miserable. He was also invited to see Sir Donald Bradman along with Sachin Tendulkar.

A colorful life, but full of controversies

A colorful life, but full of controversies

If ever there was a Bradman of bowling, it has to be him. He has always been my favorite cricketer, right on the top with Sachin Tendulkar. His presence on the cricket field is itself magical and the whole stadium and the commentators are totally entertained by his tactics. With the bowl in his hand, anything can happen. He can turn a match around with a few overs, with the 1999 World Cup semi-final being the best example. He is as arrogant as any Australian, yet humble enough to acknowledge that he had nightmares of Sachin Tendulkar hitting him for sixes.

No one has had a more colorful career than him, full of achievements as a magician and mischiefs as a maverick. He retired from one dayers in 2003, tests in 2007 and now he has announced T20 retirement in 2011. Looks like all well-timed decisions. I have watched IPL for the last few years and supported Rajasthan Royals only because he was playing. IPL will miss him. I will miss him. Cricket has certainly been left poorer by his departure.

World Cup 2011 Review

This was the World Cup everybody hoped for after the debacle in 2007. With India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka reaching the last four, and an Indian victory, the ICC could not have asked for a better script. This World Cup will also be remembered for a dream of a billion people getting fulfilled, and Sachin Tendulkar getting this one final jewel in his bag of crowns, which was no secret. India won the World Cup after 28 years, putting Dhoni right among the top when it comes to captaincy greats.

This World Cup will also be known for some extraordinary and unexpected performances from few players, like how Pakistan rallied behind Shahid Afridi the bowler to surprise many and reaching the semis, or how Yuvraj marked his comeback with superb all round performance which won him four man of match and the man of the series award. It was also marked by the clear end of Australian dominance in ODI cricket. England proved the most entertaining team of the tournament, losing to Ireland and then winning against South Africa, who in-fact, did a deja-vu by confirming their ‘chokers’ tag by losing to New Zealand in the quarters.

Indian team after the victory

Indian team after the victory

How my predictions fared?
I predicted India and Australia as favorites before the World Cup and India took home the trophy. However, my other predictions were not upto the mark and you can see below how they fared –

  • Most sixes in single over – I predicted two overs where all balls will be hit for sixes but this World Cup did not produce even a single such over.
  • Most sixes in an innings by a team – New Zealand hit 13 sixes in the game against Pakistan while I predicted 25.. Did the bowlers bowl too well?
  • Most sixes in an innings by a player – Ross Taylor hit 7 sixes in the above said game, while I predicted 10.
  • Most sixes by a player in tournament – Ross Taylor hit 14 sixes, the highest in the tournament while my prediction stood at 25
  • Fastest Fifty – 23 balls by Kieron Pollard v Netherlands, very close to my prediction of 20 balls
  • Fastest Century – 50 balls by Kevin O Brien of Ireland v England. This was one hell of a knock which shook England and bettered my prediction of 65 balls.
  • Highest total – 370/4 by India in the first match against Bangladesh was the highest total, and no team managing to get more than 400 as I predicted. The associate teams seems to have improved.
  • Highest Individual Score – 175 by Sehwag, again in the first game itself and the 200* by God still remain the highest score in an ODI.
  • Hat Tricks – Here I was right on the target with Lasith Malinga and Kemar Roach providing the two instances of hat-tricks in this world cup.
  • Most Wickets – Afridi and Zaheer Khan took 21 wickets each while I predicted 22-25 wickets. Afridi came from no-where and proved to be the best and most intelligent bowler on the subcontinent pitches.
  • Most Runs – Dilshan emerged the top scored with 500 runs with Sachin following behind with 482 runs. My prediction of 650 runs was way off the mark here.
  • Strike Rates with runs over 300 – Again as I predicted, Sehwag made 380 runs at a strike rate of 122 to emerge the player with the highest strike rate with more than 300 runs.

Other notable stats
Apart from the above predictions, there were some other important statistics which need a mention. They are :-

  • Highest run rate in any World Cup – This World Cup saw the average run rate of 5.03, which was the first time it has crossed 5 in all World Cup history.
  • Highest number of centuries – This World Cup saw 24 centuries which was the highest ever in any World Cup, surpassing the 21 in the 2003 World Cup.
  • Yuvraj Singh scored 362 runs and took 15 wickets, grabbing four man of the match awards, only the third player after Arvinda De Silva and Lance Klusener to do so. He was only the fourth player and second Indian after Kapil Dev to achieve the doulbe of 300 runs and ten wickets in a single WC.
  • People came out on the roads to celebrate

    People came out on the roads to celebrate

Overall, it was a world cup where spinners came into their own. They opened the bowling attacks quite regularly with every team, and also featured among the major wicket takers. All that can attributed to the slow pitches of the subcontinent aided by the fact that this was the end of a season. Pakistan and South Africa were the best bowling units in the World Cup, and India and Sri Lanka the best batting units. In the end, it was cricket that won and that is what matters.