Monday, October 25, 2010


The Cricinfo jurors have completed their exercise of selecting the All-Time World XI squad. And it looks a good one too (as it was bound to)! Here's a look at it:

Now, 7 of my XI that I had chosen here have been selected in the First XI by the Cricinfo jury. 2 find a place in the Second XI... and 1 finds himself in the Third XI, which was not officially selected but was mentioned here.

The 1 player in my XI to miss out completely was Ken Barrington, which is a shame really. A man with a batting average of 58.67 with 20 tons during the 1950s and 60s missing out... well, one cannot help it when spoiled for riches!

I was surprised to see Wasim Akram in the First XI... not that I think he was not good enough! I was expecting Wasim Akram in the Second XI definitely though.

I was disappointed to see Virender Sehwag absent from the First XI as well as the Second XI. Ian Chappell mentions in his interview that his choice had been Sehwag for opening... and he has a very sound logic too. You select teams to win matches... and with Sehwag taking on bowlers right at the top with consistency unmatched in modern day cricket, you had a guy who can win matches on his own.

I have always believed that bowlers win you Test matches. The same can be said about very few batsmen. Virender Sehwag, in my opinion, is one of them.

Otherwise, the team looks awesome. In respect of the Readers' XI, it is obvious that the team has been voted for by readers who have not bothered to consider cricket played before 1970s. Only Sir Don Bradman from that team played exclusively before the 1970s, and Sir Garry Sobers played before and through the 1970s.

One last word... the biggest surprise, disappointment and shock was to see that Jacques Kallis is missing from the First XI, the Second XI as well as the Third XI. An all rounder of his capability... one I regard as equal to Garry Sobers amongst the best batting all rounders of all time... if he's missing from such a list, it's more than just a shame... it's a tragedy! If such an exercise of picking the All-Time XI were to be repeated in a few years' time (after Kallis' retirement), I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him even replacing Sobers in the First XI, because a guy as good as him with the bat and the ball, you just cannot ignore!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Muttiah Muralitharan has recently revealed a list of the ten batsmen whom he found most difficult to bowl to. It's surprising to see 2 Englishmen figure in such a list! And yes, this confirms (once again) that Navjot Singh Sidhu was one of the finest players of spin bowling there has ever been... even Shane Warne acknowledges the craft of Sidhu against the slower men!

So, here's the list (with their average and no. of dismissals against Murali in Test cricket):

1. Brian Lara (West Indies)
2. Mohammad Azharuddin (India)
3. Sachin Tendulkar (India)
4. Navjot Singh Sidhu (India)
5. Saleem Malik (Pakistan)
6. Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan)
7. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
8. Graham Thorpe (England)
9. John Crawley (England)
10. Hansie Cronje (South Africa)

I was surprised to see Hansie Cronje in the list, and not his more illustrious teammate against spin bowling... Jacques Kallis! I have a feeling that had Murali's career been a little longer, he might have then even considered putting Hashim Amla somewhere on that list!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Another brilliant Test match, wasn't it? Four results possible at the start of Day 5 and three results possible about an hour and a half into Day 5... all this after a match where three results were possible right till the very last ball was bowled... not at all bad for Test cricket!

I have not blogged over this Test match, but I have followed this Test closely. And so I will try and make up for my lack of blogging with this post.

DAY 1:

Another loss of toss... it is so frustrating to see Dhoni lose all his tosses that this time I did not even bother tuning in for the toss. I thought that maybe if I don't watch the toss live, the coin might favour India. But as it turned out, it did not and our bowlers had to start off their work on Day 1 itself.

Australia dominated Day 1, despite their skipper Ponting falling to a dolly from Raina late in the day. It was a very good knock by Ponting, though he should have gone on to make more. But North was batting at the end of day's play, and because of his feast-or-famine syndrome, the signs were ominous for India.

I think Dhoni erred in giving Raina more overs after the Ponting dismissal. A set batsman can lose concentration against a part-timer... a new batsman is unlikely to. A new batsman concentrates harder while getting set in early... so the part-timer made things easier for North and Paine. Had Dhoni employed his main men then, who knows, it could have been a bigger famine for North and more pain for Paine!

DAY 2:

Australia again took the first session comprehensively before the Indian juggernaut started post lunch. North did well to reach his 5th Test hundred, to the delight of many (read Poms) and chagrin of many others (read Aussies). Pujara effected a brilliant run out, and I was happy. I had read a lot and seen a bit of his prodigious skill with the bat, but I had never known that he was also a very handy fielder. It was a pleasant surprise for me.

When India came out to bat, I was almost expecting Sehwag to get out soon after Hilfenhaus hit his helmet. I didn't know it would happen immediately. How sore! It would have been good to see Sehwag get to atleast 1 big century in the 'series'. Sadly, it was not to be.

But, on the brighter side, Sachin had progressed to smooth 40s with Vijay and India was looking comfortable at the end of day's play.

DAY 3:

I wore the T-shirt that is Sachin's good luck charm... and how it worked! Sachin batted through the day, ended unbeaten on 191, guided Vijay to his maiden ton in Test cricket and ensured that India ended the day in a position of awesome strength.

The sore points were Johnson's shooter that trapped Pujara (I really wanted him to do well with Sachin for company) and then Raina throwing away his wicket at the end of the day.

That wicket of Raina should have taught something to Ponting... that the moment he tried to be a little more attacking by bringing the field in, the batsman perished. He should have used this knowledge more effectively in the 2nd innings against India's newer batsmen. He used this tactic against Sachin Tendulkar when Hauritz was bowling, and saw the master batsman hitting 2 consecutive sixes late in the match. But had he used it against Vijay or Pujara, the results might have been very different.

DAY 4:

I have seen some wonderful under-rated innings in cricket. Ponting's 72 on Day 4 of this Test was amongst the finest of these. But before his innings, it was disappointing to see India's tail fold up so cheaply. I know many bloggers (SB in particular) were rooting for a triple from SRT, but I wasn't that overly optimistic about such an eventuality... but yes, it was delightful to see SRT with another double in the bag.

His dismissal and Dhoni's incapability to bat with the tail (he's no VVS, let alone Steve Waugh) meant that India had just a 17-run cushion. But in a way, the fact that India was bowled out before lunch meant that India could go for a definite positive result in the match. Had India batted along till Tea or more and then declared, that would have shut the game on Australia and then they would have been content to bat very watchfully and play out a draw.

Our capitulation gave the Aussies a sniff and they went after us, which gave us the chance to win. It reminded me of how Ganguly had declared at Kolkata 2001 with just enough to entice the Australians to go for a 17th consecutive Test win. That in the end was what earned us the match, in my opinion.

Since Dhoni was unlikely to declare, its good that we were dismissed. Coming back to Ponting's knock, it was classy. There was high pressure, the pitch was difficult, he had had a poor history in India... and he rose up to the occasion. I may dislike Ponting a lot, but I have to admit that I grudgingly admired this wonderful knock by the Aussie skipper. If anything, that knock ensured that Australia ended the day with a chance of a win.

DAY 5:

The day started with a chance of another Mohali-like finish. It didn't end that way... but it was another good and satisfying day of cricket. Zaheer and Sreesanth bowled well first up, and just when frustration was starting to build up, Zaheer produced a majestic ball that took off Mitchell Johnson's off stump. I was happy that the attack started with the two seamers, because I really didn't want to see the spinners in action again. Our spinners cannot do to the tails what Anil Kumble was capable of... so it's good that they were not needed.

Sehwag failed when we batted, and though I did not want it, I was kind of expecting it. During the commercial break at the fall of Sehwag's wicket, I had gone to take a leak and when I returned, my dad told me that Pujara has come in to bat. I was sure that he was mistaken, but as it turned out, he was not. Immediately, I told him that this is one very smart move.

It could have backfired... and backfired big time. Pujara could have failed, and then coming down the order, Dravid also might have continued his poor run of form and poor record at Bangalore. The batting below him is not our strength (especially on last day pitches) and we could have lost the match with that move. But it was a good move nevertheless.

I have already mentioned how Ganguly had declared in Kolkata 2001 at a stage where Aussies could still go for a win. This move was similar... a Ganguly-type-of risk. Aussies saw two young men in a high pressure situation and decided to attack them. The young men knew what would come and had already decided to counterattack. It worked out perfectly in the end. By the time lunch came around, the match was almost in the bag and Pujara, in particular, had shown that he belongs.

The Master came along and helped himself to another unbeaten half-century, and was there at the other end and Pujara soaked in the adulation on his maiden half-ton... Sachin must have though of Faisalabad 1989! It was heart-breaking to see the expression on Pujara's face when he was dismissed by Hauritz. But don't worry Che, as the Bangalore crowd stood up in the acknowledgement of your efforts, there were million others in India who stood up in front of their TV screens doing the same. All these fans slept peacefully at night knowing that the future of Indian batting, that for over a decade was carried by the likes of RSD, SRT and VVS, still looked positive in the form of CHE.

It was nice to see Sachin blast a couple more out of the ground against Nathan Hauritz (almost felt pity for him then)... few must have realised that Sachin Tendulkar has hit more sixes in this Bangalore Test than he hit over the entire duration of IPL 2010 where he was the top run-getter. This got the crowd (which was fantastic over the 5 days) into a frenzy. The KSCA deserve a pat on their backs for this, I believe.

But the best move by Dhoni was reserved for right at the end. Guess who was the first person to get his hands on the Border Gavaskar Trophy after Dhoni had collected it from SMG... yes, it was CHE! Dhoni gave Che the trophy at the end of the presentation and that got the lad beaming... it was great to watch!

Technically, Che played a very small role in India retaining that piece of silverware... just 2 catches at Mohali. The result at Bangalore would not have mattered as that trophy would have stayed in India. But technicalities don't matter here... we were watching Che make a mark... finally!

P.S.: I wore the T-shirt that is Sachin's good luck charm again on Day 5. So, all in all, it meant that on the days when I wore that T-shirt, Sachin scored exactly 200 runs without being dismissed (and yes, hit Hauritz four times over the ropes).

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Harbhajan Singh to Ponting, FOUR, 82.0 kph, Almost holed out at deep backward square-leg Zaheer Khan simply didn't pick it. He was too late in moving. Harbhajan isn't amused. Zaheer has been pretty poor in the field right from the start. This was a slightly short one, Ponting went back to pull but top-edged it. Zaheer should have started to move at this point but he froze. He then moved but by then he couldn't reach it.
The last thing Ponting would have wanted is to start getting out in the process of pulling the spinners... as if the pacers are not enough!

Friday, October 8, 2010


Over four posts on this blog, I have analysed and selected my team for the Cricinfo’s All-Time World XI Test team. Here is a look at the entire team: 

1. Sir Jack Hobbs (England)
2. Virender Sehwag (India)
3. Sir Donald Bradman (Australia)
4. Sachin Tendulkar (India)
5. Ken Barrington (England)
6. Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
7. Adam Gilchrist (Australia)
8. Imran Khan (Pakistan)
9. Shane Warne (Australia)
10. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
11. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)

Looks a formidable side, doesn’t it? However, when I was discussing this side with a friend, he told me that it is indeed a very strong side, but it really does not have a feel of being the ALL-TIME XI. And so I took another searching look at it.

And I thought that he had a point. The names in the side are big champions in their own right, but does this resemble what an ALL-TIME XI should be like? He told me that I should consider removing either Jacques Kallis or Muttiah Muralitharan, and consider putting in a fast bowler like Dennis Lilllee or Michael Holding or Fred Trueman or Allan Donald or even Curtly Ambrose or Waqar Younis or Wasim Akram.

He was of the opinion that of all the great, fiery and devastating fast bowlers that have ruled our game, it is quite meek that my ALL-TIME WORLD XI’s new ball attack be headed by just Malcolm Marshall and Imran Khan, with Jacques Kallis as the first change pacer. In my post about the bowlers, Elegantstroke had a similar comment about the new ball attack.

And so I made two changes. I replaced Jacques Kallis with Sir Garfield Sobers and then replaced Muttiah Muralitharan with Fred Trueman. Two contemporary greats replaced by two past greats. The rationale behind this is simple: Sir Garry Sobers is another batting all rounder like Jacques Kallis, but he is a spinning all rounder rather than a medium pace one. Having made this change, I could then omit Murali from the team (rather painfully… you see, 800 wickets is quite a loss) and bring in lightening speed and fire in the form of Fred Trueman. With a strike rate of a wicket in a little of every 8 overs, I have ensured that on an average day, my new ball attack will bring me 2 wickets by the end of their first spell.

So here’s the look at my new bowling unit: Malcolm Marshall, Fred Trueman, Imran Khan, Shane Warne and Sir Garfield Sobers. Does this sound better than the previous one… I think so!

So my final team for the Cricinfo ALL-TIME WORLD XI in is:

1. Sir Jack Hobbs (England)
2. Virender Sehwag (India)
3. Sir Donald Bradman (Australia)
4. Sachin Tendulkar (India)
5. Ken Barrington (England)
6. Sir Garfield Sobers (West Indies)
7. Adam Gilchrist (Australia)
8. Imran Khan (Pakistan)
9. Shane Warne (Australia)
10. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
11. Fred Trueman (Australia)

And now comes the question of captaincy… there are only three reasonable contenders for this job – Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garry Sobers and Imran Khan. Here are their records as captains:

  • Sir Donald Bradman: M 24 W 15 D 6 L 3, and his batting average improved to 101.51 from a career average of 99.94
  • Sir Garfield Sobers: M 39 W 9 D 20 L 10, and his batting as well as bowing averages were almost identical to his career averages
  • Imran Khan: M 48 W 14 D 26 L 8, and his batting average improved to 52.34 from 37.69 and his bowling average improved to 20.26 from 22.81 
So it was a fight between Imran Khan and Sir Don Bradman. Though Imran’s feats are prima facie relatively more impressive, I would still go for Sir Don Bradman. I know Imran Khan had to lead a Pakistani side, which is always more difficult than Sir Don’s Australia… but the captaincy of ALL-TIME WORLD XI is not only a recognition of their abilities, but also an honour. And no one deserves this honour more than Sir Donald Bradman.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Just the last three places remain in my All-Time World XI... and I might add, the MOST important ones. The men who will largely be responsible for getting the 20 wickets that win a Test match. The BOWLERS.

As for the other spots, here are the Test statistics of the nominees:

I have classified all the bowlers in the list as either: 1. Slow Left Arm, 2. Leg Spinners, 3. Off Spinners, and 4. Pace (irrespective of whether they were express pace or medium pace, swing bowlers or seam bowlers etc).

I have already chosen Imran Khan and Jacques Kallis as my all rounders... and thus, I want 2 spinners and 1 pacer amongst the lot above. And amongst the spinner, I want at least 1 leg spinner. I wouldn't mind picking 2 leg-spinners, but I have a strict objection to playing 2 off-spinners.

So, here goes... The two spinners of this team are... Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. It may sound an easy choice... but it was not. Both these bowlers have had certain criticisms. Both do not have a great record against India. But then I thought, amongst spinners, who does? That should not take anything away from their greatness.

Then there was the matter of Murali's record against the Aussies... the dominant team of the era he played in. There are also doubters who will use his statistics against the minnows like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to show how much impact they had on his overall figures. But then, this selection is not pure statistics. Murali, in his prime, had this stamina to bowl on and on for hours at a stretch. And more often than not, he threatened. He turned the ball on every wicket. And he had great control over his turn. Such a bowler certainly deserves his place in the team!

Amongst the faster bowlers, it was not too difficult despite the presence of some of the greatest bowlers there. I chose Malcolm Marshall... he was fast, pacy, fiery and regarded by many as one of the All-Time Best. One statistic that I pay a lot of attention to for Test bowlers is their Strike Rate... and with Marshall's 46.7, and also his brilliant average of 20.94, my decision is firmly made.

So here is my complete bowling unit: Malcolm Marshall, Imran Khan, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Jacques Kallis.

I will do one last post on this XI, where I will decide the captain and talk about the entire team as a unit.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


There are not too many nominees for the All - Rounders spot... and this is such an important role that lesser the better.

A Reminder: I had removed Kallis from the analysis of Middle Order Batsmen and had decided to include him in the All Rounders analysis. That is why you will see his name below (highlighted yellow). Here are the statistics:

Now, I want two All-Rounders in my team. One bowling all-rounder and one batting all-rounder. That would be my ideal combination.

For the role of the batting all rounder, the contest was between Sir Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis. A tight one... and I choose Jacques Kallis. Both are mighty men, capable of performing the unthinkable deeds. Kallis may never get to a double century in his career, but you won't need too many double centuries from him in a middle order of Bradman, Tendulkar and Barrington (the ones I have chosen).

What tilted the scales in favour of Kallis was a pure statistical detail... it was his bowling strike rate of 67.2 against 91.9. When my batting all rounder can take a wicket once every 11 overs or so, it is commendable. I can;t ask for a lot more. And thus despite the greatness of Sir Garry Sobers, I have to exclude him from my squad.

For the spot of the bowling all rounder, the men on my shortlist were Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Richard Hadlee. All these men have enviable numbers above and are legends in their own ways. But for this particular spot, I had long decided that the man I select would be based on fitness. I'll explain why...

The spot of the Bowling All Rounder is, in my opinion, the most important one in a Test team. He is one of the chief men responsible to get you the 20 wickets that can win you a Test match... and if the batsmen fool around, he is also expected to score a few down the order. A team is very dependent of such men, if they are available. And as a result, their absence due to injuries places their team into a big area of discomfort as they have to usually fill in with a regular bowler, thereby giving up a batsman. That is why, I place a high price on the fitness of the men in my shortlist.

So, Imran Khan had a career of 21 years. Kapil Dev once held a record of most number of consecutive Test appearances for India. Richard Hadlee also had just one major shoulder injury to speak of during his career. And Ian Botham also had a decently fit career. But what counts against Ian Botham was his indiscipline, as his career not only surged improbable heights, but also bottomless depths.

So as my shortlist cuts down to 3, my decision (again a very tough one) goes to Imran Khan, who only narrowly beat Kapil Dev. In the end, a career of 21 years overcame the record of most consecutive Test appearances. Phew!

So here's a recap of the team I have selected thus far:

Openers: Sir Jack Hobbs, Virender Sehwag
Middle Order: Sir Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Ken Barrington
Batting All Rounder: Jacques Kallis
Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist
Bowling All Rounder: Imran Khan

Now what remains is the choice of bowlers, which will come in a day or two.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Over 4 and a half days - 28 hours and 10 minutes of enthralling cricket... after watching the Fates tilt their heads this way and then that... after watching men battle physical barriers of their injured bodies as well as thwarting the opposition every time they threatened to go one better... after watching myriad emotions etched on the faces of different men at different stages of the match... I am left a satisfied being

It was Test cricket at its very best, and this match ranks up amongst the very best there have been. Amongst the matches involving India, this one was the most thrilling finish to a Test match in my living memory. Kolkata 2001 and Chennai 2001 against the same opposition from Down Under do come close, as more than 2 results were possible on both those occasions as well till the very end. But this one takes the honour for me.

I know the Tied Test of Madras 1986 (again versus Australia) was brilliant... but that does not constitute as my living memory... you see, I was born a couple of years after that.

Australia have played Edgbaston 2005 against their Ashes rivals England... and they have had some thrilling draws as well against the same opposition. But for the Indian fan in me, this was a treat.

All through Day 5, my head kept going back to the great England - Australia battle at Edgbaston in 2005, where the heroics of Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz almost stole the Test from England before Steve Harmison and Geriant Jones combined to create a moment etched in history.

This match was a little different though. At Edgbaston, England were clearly the team on top through majority of the Test match. Australia came fighting back only on Day 5 to reduce the gap to 2 runs. At Mohali 2010, the two teams were involved in a very equal battle... and no side could claim to be absolutely on top of the other at any point in time through the Test. Some sessions were won by India and some by Australia, but a high number of them were in the grey areas... neither mine nor yours!

There were many moments today that were extremely special... and some of them will remain vividly clear in my memory for a long time to come. Laxman getting animatedly angry at Ojha and mouthing a few colourful expletives that I'd thought he didn't even know, the pain on Ishant's face as he was trudging off after being ruled out by Ian Gould, the horrific mix-up between Dhoni and Raina that resulted in the former being run out, the pumped up reactions of the Aussie outfit when Tendulkar's attempted upper cut ended up into the hands of Hussey at gully, Ojha's leg byes that sealed a win... oh, and there were many more!

In the end, it panned out just as Laxman had said earlier - that the Aussies don't give you an inch. And they didn't... or at least, till Marcus North's Steven Smith's (thank you, Elegantstroke for the correction) overthrow that gave India the match.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Oh well, this is one difficult task. Selecting the middle order of the World's All-Time Test XI. Before I start this exercise, I'll mention the team that I have already picked thus far in one previous blog.

Openers: Sir Jack Hobbs, Virender Sehwag.
Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist.

Now, the middle order... there's the question of whether it should be a 3-man or a 4-man middle order... and there are some BIG names eligible. Here's a look at the Test numbers of the men selected by Cricinfo as eligible for selection into the World XI:

Seriously big names and seriously difficult decision. My first task was shortlisting some names who are good enough to make the cut for the All-Time World XI team in my opinion. Those names are highlighted yellow.

As great the others above are, I do not think that they are ones to make the cut for the All-Time World XI. It was a particularly difficult decision to leave out Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid, but I had no choice. This decision was based on the numbers listed above, their profile descriptions on Cricinfo and whatever other knowledge I possessed of their cricket.

Now, Kallis was causing a bit of a problem. He is too good a bowler to be considered as a specialist middle-order batsman. So, I have cut him out of this analysis and decided to include him in my All Rounders analysis. This then made the task slightly easier for me as I was able to decide upon the formation of my team, which will be: 2 Openers, 3 Middle Order Batsmen, 2 All Rounders, 1 Wicketkeeper and 3 Bowlers.

What remains in front of me is a list of 10 batsmen... the best you can find anywhere! And I have to select just 3 of them... a pity!

The easiest selection was the No. 3 spot... no one can hold that other than Sir Donald Bradman. I don't even have to discuss his case further. The numbers, the stories, the quotes... there's everything available to back this decision.

And for the 2 remaining spots, I choose Ken Barrington and Sachin Tendulkar. Again, it was very difficult to leave out Brian Lara, George Headley, Sir Viv Richards and Wally Hammond. But after frying my brains over it, I settled on the former two.

Sir Viv Richards lost a place in my team because for all his intimidating persona, his Test records fall short of the other mighty men included above. And to inspire fear in the bowlers, I have Sehwag opening the batting for this team. That ensured that Viv missed out.

Omitting George "The Black Bradman" Headley was even more difficult. In fact, I penned him in my team initially before scratching his name out. What counted against him was that all his runs have come against the English and Australian attacks in those two countries and his home archipelago of West Indies. He just played 1 Test at a different place - against Indian at Delhi where he made 2. So he was never really tested on slower pitches against good spin bowling. He did not even play South Africa ever. That led to his omission. Not his fault, but I really can't help it much.

Barrington and Tendulkar climbed the ladder above Lara and Hammond because they have played everywhere, scored everywhere and scored BIG everywhere... In Tendulkar, the team has a player who can bat in any gear, can adapt his game for any situation and play any bowler. Barrington got in as he could provide the ideal foil with his resolute style of batting. His natural game, according to his Cricinfo profile, was attacking... but he changed it to be a "stonewaller" and thus, he becomes a part of my team.

I know there will be many objections to this selection... I just hope the Don at least is approved by all. Please do comment about my middle order selection and let me know about your opinions.


Wow, what a brilliant Test match we are having! The last Test played in India was the 2nd India - South Africa Test at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. And now this one! Test match cricket is alive and kicking, biting, turning and doing all sorts of things even in India...

Today (Day 4) was the best day in this test so far... I love days that see heaps of wickets falling... and 14 was more than I bargained for last night!

When Watson began the attack this morning, it was good to watch. I think that innings shows, more than anything else, that scoring is still not too difficult on this pitch if the batsmen are looking to score. If they get bogged down, it will be extremely difficult.

Ishant's match-turning over was exhilarating to watch. Watson's wicket was gifted, not earned. And then Ponting and almost Clarke. What can I say about Ricky Ponting. In the lead up to this series, there was a slightly subdued talk about Ponting's new ailment called the 'short ball'. Subdued because short pitched stuff in Indian conditions was very unlikely to trouble a puller of the caliber of Ricky Ponting. But if Ponting is so keen to trouble himself with that shot, then so be it.

Tendulkar loves his cover drives and punches through the off side. They are the biggest run-generators for him. But he gave them all up in Sydney 2004 because they were letting him down. Once his confidence was restored, they were back. Ponting, who saw Tendulkar play that innings, should have learnt his lessons by now. Its not as if Ponting does not have any other shot in his repertoire... he has more than most other batsmen around. If only he could use them judiciously, he would increase his Test career by 2 years at least... that's a guarantee!

The second session was also panning out nicely before we saw an Ian-Gould-howler! Harbhajan should have been embarrassed to even appeal for it... instead, we had Mr. Gould raising his finger. Katich and Hussey had added 16 in 6.4 overs and were looking good... but after that, the next 5 wickets went down for just 38 runs in 13.4 overs. Target 216.

A tricky target... but manageable. And then came the second howler of the day - this time from the crooked finger of Billy Bowden. If anything, this was an even bigger howler than the first one. The big edge and the ball going outside off... what on earth was Bill thinking! Ben Hilfenhaus then bowled an inspired spell to skittle out a few more... and India ended at 55 - 4 with Sachin on 10* and Zaheer on 5*.

Oh man, I just can't wait for the Day 5 to commence. Though most believe that the balance is tilted towards Australia today, I still feel that India is not too far behind. The key is the fact that there are only 161 more runs to go. Two expensive overs tomorrow and Ponting will be forced to spread out his field a little... it may happen even earlier since he is known to be a defensive captain these days!

A lot will depend on Laxman's fitness tomorrow. If he can bat, it will be a huge thing for India. Because just the sight of Laxman walking out to bat (maybe with a runner) will help shift the momentum towards India. He's had a good history of 2nd innings scores and a good history of scores against Australia. Add the two together, and Ponting will be dreading the sight of Laxman walking out tomorrow. Plus, there is a small matter of Sachin Tendulkar still batting... he's looked comfortable against all bowlers in this Test, maybe except Marcus North ;)

An intriguing, exciting and exhilarating day of Test cricket awaits us tomorrow. Sad that there again won't be too many people witnessing it live from the stands!

P.S.: And yes, I was delighted to see Pujara make his first mark in Test cricket with the two catches. Does anyone know if they will be credited to him or the player on whose behalf he was fielding?

Sunday, October 3, 2010


1. This was Sachin Tendulkar's 8th dismissal in the nineties in Test cricket... taking him to the 4th position alongside Kallicharran (WI) and Inzamam (Pak) in the all time list of most dismissals in the 90s behind Dravid (10), Steve Waugh (10) and Michael Slater (9).

2. Tendulkar also has 17 dismissals in his 90s in ODI cricket and 1 other occasion when he remained not out in his 90s. In One Day Cricket, this 18 occasions of being stranded in the 90s is a comfortable World Record... way ahead of 2nd-placed Grant Flower (Zim), Aravinda De Silva (SL) and Nathan Astle (NZ) at 9. Amusingly, Sachin would have had 52 tons in Tests and 55 in ODIs had he converted even half of his forays to the nineties into 100s!

3. On Day 2, Virendra Sehwag scored a fifty... and as a result, he has now managed a 50+ score in each of his last 11 Tests... a world record he jointly holds now with Sir Viv Richards (WI) and Gautam Gambhir (Ind). Gambhir had a chance to break Viv's record against South Africa at Nagpur earlier this year, but he failed. Will Viru go one better at Bangalore against the Aussies?

4. Sachin Tendulkar is not behind the above trio... he's now scored a 50+ score in each of his last 9 Tests. In fact, Sachin has scored a 50+ score in 17 of his last 19 Tests (starting from the match in which he surpassed Brian Lara... at the same ground and against the same opposition as he is playing now). What a phenomenal time he is having!

5. On Day 2, Zaheer Khan's 5-wicket haul was the 100th instance of a 5-for being recorded in an India-Australia Test match. Mitchell Johnson's 5-64 becomes 101st.

6. Mitchell Johnson is now the 8th highest wicket taker for Australia against India in Tests (34 wickets). Amongst the top 10 for Australia against India, Johnson has the 2nd worst average (32.79) after Shane Warne (43 @ 47.18)!

7. This is the 2nd time in 3 Tests that Marcus North has gotten a batsman out in his 90s. He got Salman Butt (Pak) stumped on 92 at Lord's before getting Sachin Tendulkar lbw today on 98.


The entire exercise of selecting an All Time World XI is extremely difficult... so I have chosen the two simplest positions to fill in first - the Openers and the Wicketkeeper. Why are they simple? Because there will only be 2 openers in all the World XIs and there will only be 1 Keeper. So first the Openers...

Here is a look at the Test statistics of the 16 openers eligible for selection:

My choices are the legendary Sir Jack Hobbs (England) and the on-his-way-to-be-legendary Virender Sehwag (India).

I did give a lot of consideration to 3 other names - Sunil Gavaskar (India), Barry Richards (South Africa) and Gordon Greenidge (West Indies). But I wanted to pick one aggressor with one solid man at the top. Sehwag easily edged out Greenidge for the role of the aggressor in my squad, and Hobbs beat Gavaskar to the top. A man who averaged 57 in the 1910s and 1920s had to be given some serious considerations. Barry Richards lost out because I am choosing an All-Time TEST XI. Despite his mighty prowess with the bat, Richards does not get into my squad as he played just 4 Tests. It is not his fault... but life was never fair!

Now coming to the wicketkeeper's slot, I don't need to go into the statistics. My choice was simple - Adam Gilchrist (Australia). I know a lot of people would pick Alan Knott, but Gilchrist scores above him for me. His keeping could not be faulted and he was the ideal aggressor lower down the order after what certainly will be a mighty middle order.

When the middle order is a little brittle, teams need to have a solid batting technician in their keeper at No. 6 / 7. But when you have a very strong and solid middle order, you can afford an aggressive man with the gloves. Thus, Gilchrist gets my nod.

I will do the analysis for the middle order soon...

Friday, October 1, 2010


1. Shane Watson reaching his 100 off 258 balls... and I used to think that he was an opener in the Matthew Hayden mould, rather than Simon Katich!

2. How come Watson celebrated in such a sober manner on reaching 3-figures? No obnoxious smiling or anything annoying... Some relief for him nudging his way out of his infamous trysts with the nervous 90s...

3. How much money was Ishant Sharma paid for his 8 no-balls?

4. When will MS Dhoni next win a toss for India in his whites?

5. When was the last time Australia scored less than 225 over an entire day of batting? Or for that matter, spent an entire session of 33 overs strolling at less than 1.5 runs per over for 45 runs?

6. Good old David Shepherd would have cursed the Australians (Watson, North and Paine in particular)... they were stuck on 222 for 30 deliveries!

7. Finally, it was great to see Cheteshwar Pujara on the field during a Test match... even if it was only in the role of a substitute fielder!