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Sight Screen

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Urn

Given that this blog is returning to regular duty after a haitus, it will be a while before I get caught up with all the good stuff we have missed; what follows is not a total recap of apres-Test reportage, but the few stories that caught my eye for various reasons:
1. In the Guardian, Richard Williams focuses on the contest within a contest; to wit, the battle between Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting. It's a touch ironic, really -- it is Australia that honed the concept of putting the opposition skipper under the hammer, as a way of cracking open the team; who would have thought Australia would get undone by that same tactic, turned against it? The bit I found interesting was this:
At every turn, however, Ricky Ponting has been finding himself out-manoeuvred by Vaughan, even in the psychological contest whose rules his own predecessors invented.
Never was this more clear than on Saturday afternoon, when Ponting himself was run out at a crucial moment by a throw from England's substitute fielder, a 22-year-old with a golden arm. As he left the field Ponting showered his opponents, the umpires and the England balcony with complaints. Responding in a way that would have been appreciated by earlier Australian captains, Vaughan brought on another in place of Steve Harmison.
Yes, this appeared to be gamesmanship. But it is up to the umpires to control the use of substitutes. Vaughan was simply demonstrating a refusal to be intimidated.

And still with the Guardian, this verdict on the Australian side, now faced with a must-win game if it wants to retain the Ashes, by Gideon Haigh is worth a read.
2. In The Times, a David Gower column reflects on a phenomenon Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have commented on in the past: When first exposed to reverse swing, England had reacted by labelling the Pakistani bowlers 'Cheats', in a banner headline. Now, it is reverse swing that is doing the trick for England. Elsewhere on that site is a Justin Langer column on Shaun Tait, and a Simon Barnes piece suggesting England needs to raise its already surprising streak of ruthlessness to a new, higher level to seal the Ashes triumph. Like most others who have been following this Ashes series, Barnes seems to find the unrelenting tension almost too much to take:
Twist after twist after twist: just when you think that the plot of this summer can find no further complexity, another rich and savage day emerges, bringing with it new heroics, new heroes, more men savouring the taste of failure for the first time. It is all getting to be more than the nation can bear. Thank God there is only one more match to come, and we can get back to something safe such as football.

Tell you what, though -- I'm lining up for my copy of the video of this Test series; it belongs in that small, but electric, collection of Test matches and series that are for the gods.
3. For humor, turn as always to Martin Johnson -- whose target this time is Geraint Jones. A sampler -- though to really savor Johnson, you need to read him in his entirety:
It's generally accepted that Australia have not had their fair share of good fortune in this series, and you can't get much more unlucky than Shane Warne was yesterday. "Stumped Jones?" No wonder he left the field shaking his head. If you were to compile a list of unlikely entries in a scorer's book, it would be right up there alongside "bowled Strauss" or "caught Pietersen."
Those who say you make your own luck in sport could point to the fact that, in the midst of what ought to have been a dogged rearguard action, Warne was halfway down the pitch waving his bat at thin air. However, on all the available evidence, Warne was entitled to believe that, with Geraint Jones behind him, halfway down the pitch was just about the safest place to bat.

But jokes aside, what is interesting is that Johnson, and a few others through this Ashes campaign, have not let the euphoria of victory stop them from asking tough questions -- in direct contrast to India, where we tend to deify the team when it wins even a no-account series, and ignore the fault lines till the next earthquake comes around and leaves it in ruins.
Also in the Telegraph, Geoffrey Boycott -- who (and again, he was not the only one) has had some harsh words to say of Ashley Giles -- praises the tail-ender's spirit and grit in hauling his team over the finish line. And still with the same paper, Simon Briggs suggests that with everything to gain and nothing to lose, the Aussies just might forget their doubts and inhibitions, and come out swinging for glory.
The position of the series, with England needing only a draw at the Oval to recapture the Ashes, could either crush Australia or liberate them to return to the free-wheeling assault that used to be their stock in trade.
Desperation drove their attack to new levels of ferocity yesterday. If Glenn McGrath reports fit, and they can get shot of the toothless Michael Kasprowicz, the Aussies will be more dangerous still next week.
"I've never been in this situation before, when we're going into the last Test having to win to draw the series," Ponting said last night. "But it might not be a bad thing for us, to tell the truth. Just to go out and play instinctively, play the brand of cricket we've played for a long time. There's almost a bit of pressure off now. If all the individuals just lift a little bit and play the way I know they can, I know the result will be different."

4. Not so long ago, Team India seemed inspired, and destined for glory. It has slipped a long way down from the standards it set itself -- but that is not the really sad part of the last year or more. What really churns you up inside is not the scope of the decline, but of the mindset that accompanies it -- the team has been surrendering, in game after game, without a fight. Without pride. In this context, Peter Roebuck salutes the Aussies who, faced with a match situation that could only end one way, came out fighting and damn near scripted a magical turnaround. Donno about you guys, but I could take India losing -- what I find increasingly difficult to swallow in recent times is the nature of those defeats; the overall air of a team that seems to stumble onto the field already knowing its fate, and not caring to kill itself trying to reverse it.
And that, for now, is that, folks. Be back, with a more extensive update, tomorrow by 2 pm, take care till then.


  • Just not cricket..


    Well. Looks like the Aussies are getting a taste of their own medicine.
    And they are breaking up.

    By Blogger Pings, at 18:09  

  • Prem,

    You can get all the highlights of the test series via Desi Torrents. If you want I can email all of them to you via yousendit.com . Let me know, my email is rishigajria@yahoo.com

    By Blogger Rishi Gajria, at 19:17  

  • Different subject than cricket...thousands of people displaced, loss of life and property in southern states of US, pray for those suffered nature's fury.

    By Blogger Rajg, at 22:17  

  • I am a very ardent fan of the aussies, and as I closely follow the series....and this series throws up a lot of questions to me..

    R the English playing extraordinarily well ?


    R the Aussies playing below par ?

    R Flintoff and KP blooming because Lee & Co r ineffective or are they really good and rendering the Aussies bowlers ineffective?

    By Blogger Point 5, at 22:23  

  • point 5,
    I think its a combination of the Aussies going down and the Poms improving. Having said that, I dont think the Poms are as good or will be as good as the Aussies were, at their best.
    The Aus batsmen have always had genuine weaknesses against good spin bowlers as well as those who can swing or seam the bowl at pace. Remember how ZKhan ran through them at Brisbane before getting injured? HS in India in 2001 is legendary. And they had the same problems in 04, though India was in such poor form that we ewre not able to take advt of them.

    Couldnt agree more with you when you say that the English "experts" dont seem t lose perspective even during these joyous times for them. The problem is, we consider cricketers Gods and since Gods can do no wrong, the faults and ineffectivenesses of these gods are overlooked. Infact, even criticising certain pplayers is considered blasphemous. A win against Zim is hailed as a comeback. AA is considered a complete bowler because of his performance today.

    I dont think the players are takin any less effort. Some are plain incompetent, some are past their sell-by date, there is no planning for the matches, fielding still remains 18th century like....It is high time this is addressed, else we are going to make a laughing stock of ourselves...

    By Blogger Toney, at 23:00  

  • The Indian openers and top order scored 14 singles in 15 overs, not exactly the stuff that a team in form does. But then, who will be the one to suggest to certain players of their deficiencies?

    By Blogger Toney, at 23:04  

  • Prem you say "what is interesting is that Johnson, and a few others through this Ashes campaign, have not let the euphoria of victory stop them from asking tough questions -- in direct contrast to India,..." - but in India also there are always a 'few' who maintain the voice of sanity amidst the euphoria I think ? Including you ofcourse ;-)

    And mind you, there are only very 'few' of these in Eng also. The general mood in the population (understandable) and the media, commentators etc is that Eng are now the world champions. Or almost there, and especially if they win the series, then surely they are the world champions. I heard this more than once, and from Boycott, Tony Greg and other such (during tv comm) that now if Eng wins the series....the World Series down under would be a misnomer! I felt like putting my head inside tv and shouting at the idiots. What they are winning here is a 'series' and just a series. And its not the first time that Aus are loosing a series (or drawing one) in the middle of their top run. To replace Aus, Eng has to do this a few times (home and away) and also to beat all other teams home and away (which this Aus side still looks capable of doing).

    And I am sick of the endless 'end of the era' comments ! All I see is Aus loosing a series, and Hayden probably ending his career. With rest of the lineup getting their act together, and a fit McGrath back into side, the same Aus lineup can 'walk all over' this Eng team six months down the line. And mainly so because the Eng batting is still so weak. (btw..did you hear any voices of sanity dissecting the Eng batting ??...No?...lets look at each and every Eng player sometime later, and what they have done with the bat this series)

    You also say "-- the team has been surrendering, in game after game, without a fight. Without pride. In this context, Peter Roebuck salutes the Aussies who, faced with a match situation that could only end one way, ..." - Hey but we were faced with a same situation not long back in Mumbai, and we not only faught, we WON ! I know there is the pitch argument, but the essential point is that it was more of a mental fight we won there, form vise Aussies were better.

    By Blogger worma, at 03:04  

  • Prem

    You put it exactly the way that I could not. Worma ofcourse did not agree to your post either, but the fact is Indian cricket fans fail to see the defeatist mentality of the Indian team. The team just seems to give up long before the actual result. When Bond unleashed a few thunderbolts in his first over, that was enough to send the top order scurrying for cover. There was no willingness to grit it out in the middle. If all the wickets had fallen to genuine wicket taking deliveries (I guess Venugopal got a brute first ball), I would agree that the team lost to a brilliant opponent and it does happen once in a while. but in this case, the wickets were thrown away as the batsmen were clueless.

    Worma - the fight back against Australia at Mumbai WAS AFTER WE HAD LOST the series. And again on a disputable underprepared. I was there at Mumbai that day and stayed at the same hotel where the Aussie team was put up. They were least impressed with the wicket on day one when the game started late due to unexpected (and our weather bureau could not forecast even 12 hours earlier) rain. They knew what they were in for even before the game started. The wicket was probably customed made for India. (And we almost lost is a different case).

    India has fought back in the past - the Eden Test is just one example. But they have been far too few and far too scatterred. This team is not consistently good at that art. They seemed to have learnt it in 2003 but after the Pak series they have lost their way again. So it was for a brief period of around a year that the India team showed some spunk.

    There is no harm in losing....what hurts is the way we do. And off late even when we win some games (like the one againt the Zims) it seems to hurt. :-)

    By Blogger vshan, at 04:22  

  • How many of you listened to Ravi Shastri go "the Indians have bounced back in this tournament with a RRRRSOUNDING win over Zimbabwe".

    Gawd! Shastri could have left the presentation to someone sober. Not sure what he got to drink yesterday.

    By Blogger vshan, at 04:24  

  • Sure vshan, I dont say this Indian team is half as good as the Aus team. I just gave the mumbai example to say that I dont think the contrast that Prem is trying to bring out by '..we just surrender game after game..' is correct in context of our test match team. Sure we were on a high, and we are playing below par now. As I said earlier, the point I was trying to bring out was the 'mental' aspect of that mumbai fight. How many teams in the world, even on helpful pitches, would have considered stopping this Aus side from scoring a 100 runs !

    If you are saying that India was able to fight the Aussies just because we got a helpful pitch, then you are not looking at the picture as it is. We lost to them in bangalore, and quite badly at that. Still we came back very strongly in chennai and had more than 50% chance of winning on that rained out final day. Also consider this, the Aussie team is great, we have all been saying and believing that (I also). And you minus McGrath and Warne and see the dip in performance. How come ? I thought the 'team' was great ? And now, using this info, put the absence of Sachin from that Aussie series in right perspective ! Isn't it great that we gave them a fight despite him not being there? (and we also had a loss of form for some of our key players, like Aus is suffering today)

    So...what Prem said..and what you are saying...I dont agree that our TEST MACH TEAM is performing this much hopelessly. Note the stress on 'test match team' and try to think test match performance only.

    Again, I agree we are not playing as best as we could and should. But its not been a case of '...surrendering game after game..'. The truth is somewhere in the middle

    By Blogger worma, at 04:40  

  • ..oh..and let me insist on my pet subject...I still think we have the best test match batting lineup in the world...going by the results we have had so far...and not going by what we are going to do in future

    By Blogger worma, at 04:43  

  • Worma

    I will wait till the next real test series. I would only be too happy to be proven wrong. But if the team continues in the same script, and the BCCI does not get its act together, Chappell may start rueing this new assignment. The team needs a revamp and that was clear immediately after the Aussie series. We did not bother to plug the hole then. We could have done something after the SA series - we won the series, so it was assumed things were back to normal service. But the small holes during the Aussie series have become gaping holes now and the trend that started with poor ODI performances may now start telling on the test side as well.

    The last three notable test series (Pak, SA and Aus) have been below par performance from a team that dreams of being the best and that claims is the second best behind the Aussies.

    By Blogger vshan, at 04:58  

  • vshan, even I would wait for the next series. Meanwhile, was trying to see where we 'are' today. BCCI, note, has been in this state for a long time. Team can do well (and has done well) despite BCCI mis-management. The team does not need a revamp. At the most, by the end of this season, we may need to have a diff skipper with kaif or yuv taking up that test spot left by Gang. There was nothing else evident in the Aus series, except that all the players were playing below par. Same as the Aus is doing today. And I dont think Aus also need a revamp (except maybe hayden's farewell, that too not likely yet). The holes in the Aus series were of playing below potential..mainly the batsmen (with no exceptions, not even RD) and most have to still lift themselves. Only Sehwag came back strongly in tests (hope his ODI form doesnt affect that, as it didn't throughout last year).

    The last three series were surely below par, but as I repeatedly say, not hopelessly below par (not surrendering game after game). And lets forget what the team (actually the mainstream media, not the team) claims. Its not number two, and would not have been so even if Eng had lost to Aus. When this team claimed number two position, they were there, and have slipped since then mainly due to superb rise of Eng team, and to a lesser extent to its own dip in performance.

    Sure the dream should continue, now more so because suddenly the Aus have opened the gates slightly.

    By Blogger worma, at 05:37  

  • By Blogger worma, at 05:46  

  • " We are also looking into the possibility of going for a professional baseball player, as they generally tend to be very good fielders."

    So, would the Pakis train with gloves and catching with one hand? But there's a good idea. Ever since Woolmer came into the fray, they have improved as a team too. Their infighting still remains, which is great to read about.

    Ponting getting away with just a fine was bad enough. Now, he's talking about the spirit of the game. I wonder where this spirit was when they were doing all the stuff. To begin with, that piece of trash called McG should apologize to Sarwan. How hypocritical can people get!!

    By Blogger Toney, at 09:47  

  • toney...sure pak is doing quite well in ODIs..and generally on the rise in tests also...but remember it took a while for them. Woolmer's initial few months, and few series hardly had any visible impact (and I remember similar frustrations being expressed with his appointment and with the team in general, as what we see in India today). Btw Eng tour to Pak should be really interesting !

    And 'spirit of cricket' lecture from an Aussie mouth, would anyone take that seriously :-)

    By Blogger worma, at 09:54  

  • Meanwhile Prem and others, here's another interesting story from outside Indian realms. About the buildup of Bangladesh tour of SL. Its interesting to see how much does Whatmore utilise his insider information on SL ODI strategies. After all he is the co-inventor of the modern SL ODI setup. Here's the preview story http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/slvbdesh/content/story/217642.html Its surprising that this angle has not been played up in the story. Sure Bangladesh are not talented enough to always implement the plans, but still in ODIs it can be a factor.

    By Blogger worma, at 10:28  

  • From Cricinfo....

    "That Glenn McGrath ... what a bastard."
    Cricket nut Mick Jagger profiles Australia's veteran seamer

    By Blogger Ruchir Joshi, at 10:52  

  • From Cricinfo....

    "Whether we win or lose, we relish creating a bit of an arse-nipper."
    Ashley Giles on the Test series that has been a little too close for comfort

    By Blogger Ruchir Joshi, at 10:53  

  • Guys
    here are a few links for free online TV

    The best of the lot is in the form of this software.It has about 10-12 channels inclusing ESPN & Star sports. I might be wrong but Espn should be broadcasting the cricket matches

    Few Espn Asia links; Some work some dont

    Espn Asia
    80 Kbps

    152 kbps

    141 kbps

    150 kbps

    225 kbps

    One below is for Ten sports; has to be played in winamp

    By Blogger JD, at 11:20  

  • Check out some Ashes and generally cricket related blogs being listed on BBC blogwatch here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4197642.stm

    By Blogger worma, at 12:01  

  • SopCast can be d/l here too

    By Blogger JD, at 12:06  

  • jd,
    Are these links long lasting ones (meaning are there chances that any one of them could just be a bad link one day)?

    As for the ESPN links, I think most of the links are for ESPN in the far east, right? That would mean no cricket but plenty of football... :)

    By Blogger Toney, at 12:11  

  • The links are for Espn Asia and atleast couple of them seem to be working throughout. Not too sure about which has cricket. I'd try the espn links and also the ten sports link

    With thses links there is always the risk of them becoming dead. The SopCast software though is awesome. Try it out

    By Blogger JD, at 12:21  

  • Meanwhile Wright says Zimbabwe should be banned from test cricket, and gives the right reasons also here http://www.rediff.com/cricket/2005/aug/30wright.htm And I agree, they should be immediately banned....at the end of September ;-)

    By Blogger worma, at 13:06  

  • Hello Prem

    I have been commissioned to write a piece on cricket blogs for the 2006 Wisden Almanack.

    I'd be very interested to know more about your blog (when you started, why etc). I'd also be very interested to know how you think blogs have changed the way fans follow the game.

    If you were able to do a post on this subject, so that those who follow your blog could also comment, I would be very grateful.

    I am particularly looking at how blogs have played a part in the two big series of this year (the Ashes and India v Pakistan).


    Alastair McLellan

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