Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Game Blues of RSA - The Chokers of the game.

As the World Twenty20 Tournament is all set to commence tomorrow in England, with almost everyone betting their money on the pre-tournament favourites South African or the Indian teams to bring home the cup, this post might enable the Indian supporters to heave a huge sigh of relief.

The South African Cricket Team was suspended by the International Cricket Council for the government's apartheid policy in the year 1970, as it could field only white players and play against the white nations, which was completely against the policy of the world-governing body of the game. The ICC reinstated South Africa as a Test nation in 1991 after the deconstruction of apartheid, and the team played its first sanctioned match since 1970 (and its first ever One-Day International) against India in Calcutta on 10 November 1991.

They might be the world no.1 team in ODIs and no.2 in Test Cricket at present, and perhaps the second most consistent side in world for about two decades now next only to the Aussies, but when it has mattered the most, they have invariably faltered. This shows up in the only major ICC trophy in their kitty, the ICC Champions Trophy in the year 1998. They've reached the semifinals of the ICC ODI World Cup thrice in the five they've played since they were reinstated,  but have not reached the finals even once.

It all Began Here

It was only three months since they were drafted back as a member of the ICC, and what a dream debut they had at the World Cup!! They made the semifinals and set up their clash with the other choker-team in the game, England. It was the 22nd of March in the year 1992 at the SCG, and England made 252 in their 45 overs. South Africa stood a good chance, when they needed 22 to win off 13 deliveries, when there was a downpour. When play resumed, it was the same 22 to get off 7. Once again, rain started as if the rain god didn't want to provide the South Africans even a theoretical chance of making it to the final. When play at last resumed, by the rain rule, they needed 22 to get off one final delivery. It was a heartbreak for the South African supporters as they witnessed their team being knocked out due to a stupid rule.

The WC'99 Episode:

The South Africans are those who looked almost invincible as they topped their group and made it to the Super Six stage. They won almost all the games they played. But one ill-fated game changed it all. It was the Australia vs South Africa game in the Super Sixes, and Herschelle Gibbs dropped an easy catch of Steve Waugh, the then Aussie skipper who made a century in that game to win it. He was famously reported to have told Gibbs then, "You've just dropped the World cup,mate!" Then, as it turned out to be, a repeat match occured as the semifinals between the two teams. When 'Zulu' Klusener was romping home, a moment of madness from Allan Donald resulted in the match ending in a tie, and the Aussies made it to the final on the basis of the net run rate, and eventually won the trophy. 

The WC'03 Episode:

South Africa, in its cricketing history, got to host its first major cricket tournament in the year 2003. The ICC World Cup came to their own country, and for the umpteenth time, they were billed the favourites to win the tournament. But they were in for a shock, as they lost their opening game to the Caribbeans. But, they had a chance of crossing over to the second round had they won their rain-affected game against the Lankans. Pollock, in another moment of madness, made a mess of the calculations, as he instructed Mark Boucher to play out the last delivery and not lose a wicket. But, he was wrong as they needed one more run to win that game and make it to the next round and that infamous tied match pushed RSA out of the tournament. Pollock relinquished his captaincy as a result of that foolishness, and Graeme Smith took over the mantle.

So, all the Indian fans out there!!! Hope that the Proteas under Smith are there for an encore of any of these significant moments, this time around! :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Timeless Test - a Game which didn't serve it's purpose!

In the modern era, Test Cricket is generally perceived as a defensive game when compared to the more modern versions like the ODIs or the Twenty-20s. This is because while the other versions of the game ensure that there is a result and a winner in each game played unless it is affected by the elements of nature, the ancient form of cricket has a Draw as a result, where there is no specific winner of the game. No person likes to follow an event which is insignificant and does not produce any result. In the 1930s itself, Cricket Administrators thought about it and thus, conceived the Timeless Test, in which no team could play out time to force a draw on the match, theoretically. It also means that there is far less reason for a side to declare an innings, since time pressure should not affect the chances of winning the game.

The most significant Timeless Test in the history of the game is the one played at Kingsmead, Durban between the 3rd of and 14th of March in the year 1939. It was also the last Timeless Test in the game, held for ten days. England were 1-0 up in the 5 match series, and it was the last test in the series. South Africa batted first, scored 530 runs, more importantly at a whopping run rate of 1.96!!! England followed suit and were dismissed for 316, at an equally impressive run rate of 2.01! ;-) After the second Innings of South Africa, the English were set a target of 696 to win the match.

The perfect Anti-Climax

Though the English were dismissed for a paltry 316 in their first outing, they would have favoured themselves to win, with the likes of Wally Hammond, Bill Edrich and Len Hutton in their side, and with the mediocrity of the South African attack ; atleast once they reached 496/3 at the end of the ninth day. They needed 200 runs to win, with seven more wickets in hand. Everyone would have thought it was going to be a cakewalk for them. But that was not what the match turned out to be.

On the final day, South Africa put forth a great effort to check the flow of runs and keen fielding. Hammond and Eddie Paynter, weren't able to score runs at their will. This paid way to frustration, and as almost always, Desperation ended up at their own peril. Moreover, two interruptions occurred through rain and Hammond, when endeavouring to force the pace, was stumped. When Hammond was dismissed finally at the score at 650, they needed just 46 more runs to win the game. But, drama prevailed as the Englishmen were confused in whether to continue the game or not. This is because, they were fast running out of time to catch the ship bound for their home country, and rain was pouring in the ground, ensuring the match could not be resumed for anytime soon. And thus, most unfortunately when victory was within grasp, they had to abort the game at 654/5, at an expected run rate of 2.24 [:x] and they had to rush inorder to board the ship. Ah!! What a perfect anti-climax to a game conceived to ensure that the match ends with a result! :-( Any England fan who had a look at the scorecard given here in the image, would have suffered a heartbreak!! ;-)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Act of cowardice or mockery of the Game in the modern era - Underarm Bowling

Underarm bowling, which had its origin along with the origin of the game itself, became virtually extinct after the First World War. This is due to the evolution of other popular bowling actions like the roundarm (remember,Lasith Malinga? ;-) ) or the more conventional overarm actions, as time passed by. But, there are a few instances in modern day cricket where the bowlers still bowled underarm to register some form of protest. Not surprisingly, both the notable instances of Underarm bowling in modern day cricket involve the Australians. The first one defines Cowardice, whereas the other is an absolute mockery of the laws of the game.

The Reason for all the Hue and Cry

This happened at the MCG, in the third final of the Benson & Hedges Cup between the trans-tasmanian rivals on February 1,1981. Australia had won the first two matches and needed to win this to ensure that they lift the trophy without needing to play any more extra games. Greg Chappell, perhaps the most infamous of all the Indian Cricket team coaches, was the skipper of Australia at that time. As the kiwis needed 6 off the final delivery to tie the match with Brian McKechnie on strike, Greg ordered the bowler, his brother Trevor, to bowl an underarm delivery, which was not against the laws of the game until that particular match. Australia won the game, but were booed off the field by spectators. The New Zealand batsmen walked off in disgust, McKechnie throwing his bat to the ground in frustration. It was perhaps the ugliest scene one could have ever witnessed on a cricket field.

While many cricket followers would know about the ugly incident which happened on the 1st of February, 1981, and its aftermaths, which include the scrapping of the underarm bowling as a legal method of bowling in cricket, not many may know that this feat (!) was repeated by another Australian in an official International match.

Birth of Twenty-20 Internationals- Not so Auspicious

It was the 17th of February in the year 2005. It was all set for the first ever official International match in the newest format of cricket, the Twenty-20 to be held at Auckland between the trans-tasmanian rivals, Australia taking on the Kiwis. Australia batted first and riding on skipper Ponting's superb unbeaten 55-ball 98, they ended up at an imposing total of 214 for the loss of five wickets at the end of their twenty overs. The Kiwis were having a monumental task ahead, to chase down 215. It proved too much for them, as they needed 45 off the final delivery bowled by Glenn McGrath to Kyle Mills. Everyone would have expected the Pigeon, one of the most feared bowlers of all time, to get a wicket of his counterpart in the Kiwi line-up. Instead, he made a total mockery of the game's laws by rolling the ball down the ground, bowling Underarm. The most freakish of umpires, Billy Bowden handed out a Soccer-like red card to McGrath and the match ended thus in a very, very unpopular manner. It was not so much of an Auspicious beginning for the T20s in the International arena.

Bodyline - Tactic that ruined everyone!

This tactic derived its name from the infamous Ashes Tour of Australia in the year 1932-33, which is known as the Bodyline Series, forever. The brain behind this tactic was the English skipper, Douglas Jardine. Bradman was at his unfathomable best in the earlier Ashes scoring an aggregate of 974 runs, which is a World record till date. The English team mantle was handed over to Jardine, and he planned to implement this tactic, mainly due to the fear of the legend. A Bodyline bowler aimed the cricket ball at the leg stump of the opposing batsman, in the hope of creating legside deflections that could be caught by one of several fielders in the quadrant of the field behind square leg.

There were various players inside the English camp who voiced their dissatisfaction about the immoral win-at-all-cost approach of their team led by Jardine, but it was to no avail. Jardine had two potential missiles in the form of Harold Larwood, one of the fastest bowlers in the history of the game and his Nottinghamshire teammate, Bill Voce. The rebels in the English team included Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, who became the captain of the Indian team that toured England in the 1940s, and even the team's vice captain, Bob Wyatt was unhappy with his skipper's approach.

The aftermaths of this series were ill-desired. Harold Larwood, one of the greatest fast bowling talents of the world, never played for England again. Welcomed home as a popular hero, he soon found that `diplomacy' was at work. At Lord's members of the MCC committee had begun to understand the cause of Australian indignation. Larwood was reprimanded severely and was asked to apologize by the MCC, which he refused to do so. He justified saying that he just paid heed to his captain's words, but the skipper didn't support his teammate as the latter was left out of the national team forever. With the World War - II impending, this sourness in relations between the two countries was not at all desired. While Jardine's motive was successful, as they regained the Ashes with a margin of 4-1 and had reduced the batting average of Bradman in that series to a highly mortal 56, this series remains the most ill-tempered cricket series in the history of the game.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A post dedicated to The WALL - The epitome of batting!

Rahul Sharad Dravid is perhaps the greatest ever batsman to grace the game from India, might be next only to Sachin in terms of the statistics. But he is a certain match-winner on his own right. And perhaps, no other Indian batsman has a greater contribution in the matches won by India.

The Beginning

The beginning of the Test career of Dravid (and also, our Dada) was not a good situation for the Indian team to be in, which was on its tour of England. One of their main willow-wielders, Sanjay Manjrekar had been injured, and Navjot Sidhu, the big-time freak, had an altercation with the then skipper, Azharuddin and flew back home. Two new guys in the place of established cricketers taking guard at Lord's wasn't a great situation, trailing 1-0 in the series. But these two came to the party, and how!! Ganguly scored a century (131) whereas the Wall missed out on a well-deserved ton by just 5 runs. In doing so, he became the 25th player to be dismissed in 90s in his debut innings.

Some Records

  • Dravid is the only player to score a century in all the ten test-playing nations.
  • Dravid was the top run-getter in the 1999 ICC World Cup, scoring 461 runs.
  • Has the record for the most number of century partnerships in the history of test cricket.
  • Dravid is one among the only three batsmen to hit Test centuries in four consecutive innings. The other two are Jack Fingleton and Alan Melville. Dravid achieved this by hitting scores of 115, 148, 217 and 100* in three successive innings against England and one against the West Indies. Only Everton Weekes, with centuries in five consecutive innings, has achieved a longer sequence of consecutive Test hundreds.
  • Dravid holds the record for the most number of catches by a non-wicketkeeper (184, till date) in the world.
  • Has the record of not being dismissed on duck for 120 consecutive ODI matches.
  • During his captaincy the Indian team broke the 14 match West Indies record for most consecutive won matches in One-Day Internationals while chasing a total. For this 17 match run, Dravid was the captain for 15 matches and Sourav Ganguly was the captain for the other two. This streak was broken on 20 May 2006, when India lost to the West Indies by one run, at Sabina Park, Jamaica.
  • He is the fastest batsman in the history of Test cricket to make 9,000 runs. The former Indian captain brought up the landmark in his 176th innings playing against West Indies in 2006 and broke the earlier record of Brian Lara.