“I never play cricket. It requires one to assume such indecent postures.” – Oscar Wilde
I’m not sure what Oscar Wilde’s exact thoughts about cricket were, but he certainly must have imagined a Kevin Pietersen changing his grip from right hand to left hand, forcing the wicketkeeper to move from the right side to the left side while the bowler is in the middle of his run-up, and in all the chaos, thrashing the bewildered bowler for a six. Yeah, I’m sure, that’s what he thought in the morning calm, between the sip of tea and the jotting of the quote above. Nothing else about cricket can be dubbed indecent.
Cricket is going through a phase I’m tempted to call the ‘renaissance of modern cricket’. Be it the voluntary changes brought about with smaller boundaries, sporting wickets - as in the IPL - better cricket gears and the involuntary changes brought about with the advent of Twenty20, cricket is being played like never before. Strange and at times awe-inspiring shots are coming off the bat. Add to that, commercial interests to the tune of billions. Never before had cricket been so competitive. While, as a cricket enthusiast, one may relish this form of high-speed, high-risk, better-packaged cricket, it wouldn’t be unwise to question, ‘Where is this leading to?’ or ‘Are we playing cricket?’ Given the competition, it’s obvious players would add new shots, however strange, to their armory. The ICC needs to delve into the core of the issue and only then can a good solution be made.
Take Kevin Pietersen’s strange shot as an example. After he played the shot off his own bat, the ICC and the MCC did bat around about it for sometime and fortunately didn’t play a straight bat, thus accepting it to be legal. Present cricketers didn’t even bat an eyelid citing Twenty20 would produce stranger innovations and the ICC is happily batting for them, oblivious of the prime perpetrator – the Bat.
It’s not just Twenty20, modern cricket bats are doing as much harm as anything can do to cricket. If Twenty20 has allowed batsmen to plan outrageous shots, good bats have allowed them to execute such shots. Given that winning is the be-all and end-all these days and players are producing unusual shots in desperation, the day is not far away when with the help of a good bat and strong muscles one handed tennis shots become the order of the day. Cricket will cease to be cricket and end up being a shoddy hotchpotch of golf, baseball and tennis. If the administrators care a fig about the game, a check must be put not only on the format but also on the cricket gear and equipment.
Innovation is exciting but cheapjack innovation based on jerry-built technique is a strict no-no. And to expose weak techniques, the quality of bats needs to be controlled. Let the boundaries be small, let the pitch be flat, you still need to be a good batsman to dispatch the ball, unless you have a very good bat in hand. A good bat hides bad technique. What would be a wrong shot is transformed into brilliant due to the sheer strength of the bat. Take MS Dhoni for example. He has over 5000 international runs in all the three forms of the game in just over three years and one is yet to see a good cover drive off his bat. If he’s the future, cricket is indubitably taking a nosedive.
Ian Chappell said in the post match analysis in an Asia Cup match a couple of days back that he once asked Andrew Symonds about the improvement in the quality of bats and Symonds replied with a gesture of hand showing a 45 degree rise. True, good bats produce amazing shots and we have seen yorkers been hit for sixes, reverse sweeps hit for sixes but who wouldn’t love to watch a crisp cover drive or an immaculate straight drive. They fetch boundaries and yet do not need strong bats or muscles. The rate at which bats are getting stronger, one might have to be contented with flat-batted hits through the cover. Gone would be the days when a shot would make you exclaim ‘Beautiful!’ Cricket would look much better on newspaper than on television. And then there would be commercials or would they be then?. Now don’t get me started on that.
|Posted by Zapper on Sat 28 Jun||38 comments|
Forget IPL turning international cricket on its head, the latest scandal that has English grey beards tutting into their teas is Kevin Pietersen's left handed switch. The MCC have hastily convened an emergency meeting in their ivory tower to decide whether to add a new rule making a mid-delivery batting grip switch illegal. An interesting perspective comes from Paul Collingwood, a man not known for batting innovation, who was at the non-striker's end when it happened:
"I covered my eyes as soon as he turned his body around. I was quite surprised and I went 'Oh no' but he smashed it. In fact he smashed it twice. He did actually come up the wicket and say 'I was thinking about that in bed last night,' so at least we know the visualisation was there."
So now we know what KP thinks about in bed. Good to know. Personally, I think if a batsman has the stones to back his ability and attempt such a risky shot, more power to him. And to those bemoaning another disadvantage against bowlers in this batsman-friendly era, Daniel Vettori has an elegant solution that should even the ledger:
"The only thing I would say about it is that if you're going to bat left-handed then I think to even it up for the bowlers you should have both sides of the wide line. That would bring your skill into play and the wicketkeeper's skill into play, if a batsman wants to change then it should be fair for both ball and batsmen."
So if a bowler sees the batsman switch his grip, he can easily shoot the ball down the legside (which was previously the offside) without fear of being called a wide. It's a risk free delivery - most bowlers would have a third man so the boundary is safe. Just hope you have a good wicketkeeper.
|Posted by JC on Tue 17 Jun||61 comments|
Here is something you don't see everyday - Kevin Pietersen switching to a left hand grip mid-delivery then smashing the ball for six. Then he repeats the shot for good measure! Speaking as a legspinner, this kind of shot becoming commonplace is a slow bowler's worst nightmare. As a cricket fan, it's exhilirating stuff and I hope to see more of it. Of course, the next bloke who attempts it and gets out will look like the greatest tool in cricketing history so you can only imagine someone with the confidence and ego of KP having a crack.
|Posted by JC on Mon 16 Jun||82 comments|
While my experiment to reinvent myself as a spin bowler/tailender sounds good in theory, making it happen in reality is proving more difficult than expected. Just several games into the winter season, I'm already having doubts. The goal with my new team is to be a bowler first, tailend batsman second. However, right from the outset, I've ended up batting at #3 or #4. To make matters worse, the team has more spin bowlers than an Indian Hall of Fame - 5 "genuine" spinners with me at the bottom of the pecking order. Much easier to go with the flow and concentrate on batting.
Nevertheless, I'm staying the course. When we took the field this week, the opposition took the long handle to our opening bowlers. Smarting from the last time I bowled to a rampant opener, I sweated on some wickets falling before coming on. Fortunately, their destructive lefthander fell for 50. I came on at the 24 over mark with the opposition motoring along at 7 runs per over. My first ball was anxious, flat and slightly short - punched through the covers for four. Another boundary and my first over went for 12 runs. After conceding 37 runs in my first match, my bowling figures were now 0 for 49 off 3 overs. The captain must be loving me!
Fortunately, I found some rhythm. The next 3 overs only conceded a few singles and twos. A few balls were squirted into the air through the covers but never to a fieldsman, dammit! My fifth over conceded several boundaries - surely this would be the end of my spell. But the captain kept me on for the penultimate over.
One delivery was a rank long hop and top edged directly into the hands of point. Finally, a wicket for my new team! And predictably, off a pie. My last over went for 4 runs - not bad for death bowling from a legspinner. Final figures - 1 for 44 of 6 overs. Expensive but in an innings going at over 7 per over and bowling at the death, well, certainly an improvement on 37 off 2 overs :-)
Chasing 7 per over was always a big ask. The captain informed me I was batting at #3. Normally I love batting but this was wreaking havoc with my master plan. How can I slog like a tailender going in first drop?! But the required run rate dictated quick scoring so I figured after the first wicket fell, I could slog with impunity.
Easier said than done. This was the most disciplined bowling attack I'd faced yet. Not uncomfortably quick - just medium pacers - but barrel straight line and length. One guy was a dead set Glenn McGrath - 6 consecutive deliveries on off stump, just short of a length. In the end, I got desperate, blocked a ball towards mid-on and called for a quick, somewhat suicidal single. The fieldsman swooped in, threw at the stumps, missed and I bagged 4 overthrows for my troubles. Mmm, 5 runs off a defensive prod, I'll have more of that, thanks!
Then runs started to come. A short one down the leg, hooked to the boundary. Pigeon miraculously bowled a short wide one, cut for four. We were scoring at 5 per over. I decided to throw the bat at everything. The new bowler was getting good away swing. I tried to straight drive over his head, got a thick edge over point for four. Next ball, same shot, same direction, this time point took the catch. Out for 23. In half the time it would've taken batting for the Cavs.
The wickets continued to tumble as our tailenders fell in similar fashion, trying to smash the ball into next week. The run rate faltered and we were eventually all out 130 runs short of the total. Outbatted, outbowled by a superior side (must be what it's like for teams playing Australia). But I did stick to my plan - bat like a tailender and bowled my longest ever spell (previous longest was a 5 over spell for the Cavs). So the experiment continues...
|Posted by JC on Fri 13 Jun||37 comments|
With Australia soon to tour India, Cricket-Blog is currently in the calm before the storm (who'll ever forget the madness of Bollyline). In the lead up, a new Indian author has joined the Cricket-Blog stable, Zapper:
I'm a 22 year old mechanical engineer residing in Kolkata, India. I would be joining the power generation sector very soon. Cricket had been the love of my life until it got replaced by mathematics on account of parental pressure. Now that the IPL is showering millions on the cricketers, they are ruing their decision like many other Indian parents. All Hail IPL!
Nevertheless, a man's first love always occupies a different spot in his heart and so was it in my case. It peaked during the 2003 World Cup, when not only did I watch all the matches but also didn't miss the repeat telecasts. The Aussie bulldozing of the Indian cricket team in the finals is something I'd like to forget though. My cricket career came to a grinding halt when I fractured my right wrist, ironically in a football match. After recovering, I continued playing gully cricket with 50 gram plastic balls though. :-)
I liked the way cricket-blog.com acted as a forum where fans from Australia and India expressed their deeply felt sentiments/opinions during the India tour of Australia 2007. With the Champions Trophy nearing, I'd like to see fans from the other countries as well, participating in the discussion and increase awareness about each other's cultures.
The tone of my narration is humorous, sarcastic and also a bit contentious, given that I stay very near to Sourav Ganguly's house ;-). Incase my article or a part of my article hurts a person/community, let me assure him/them that it's completely unintentional. I try to be as unbiased as possible though at times passion may blind me. I have full respect for all members/visitors of this blog and I abide by the Spirit of Cricket-Blog.
|Posted by JC on Mon 9 Jun||887 comments|
Australia employed GPS tracking and virtual batting studios to train their cricketers. England went so far to build a mechanical Shane Warne. Now New Zealand are bringing their squad into the 21st Century with their own innovation: high tech pants:
The trousers - manufactured by New Zealand-based outfitters Canterbury - were set to be used only from October, but they have been tried in practice. Also included is the micro-slide version for fielders, and the IonX BaseLayer performance underwear which is claimed to improve performance by 2.7%.
"To start with, we looked at putting two patches on the bowlers' trousers - one to shine the ball, and one to scuff it up, in case you wanted to produce reverse-swing. But we have since dropped the abrasive patch. I'm a member of MCC, and I didn't want to lose my membership for going against the spirit of cricket."
They say matches are won by those one-percenters, that extra bit of effort or skill that gives you the edge over your opponent. Now the Black Caps have underwear that apparently make them 2.7% better (but better at what?) Still, if matches are won by that 1% edge, their magic new undies should make them world beaters!
|Posted by JC on Thu 5 Jun||66 comments|
Fast on the heels of Stuart Macgill's retirement is the news that apparently, Shane Warne isn't interested in an Ashes comeback. We all knew it was desperately improbable. Speculation of a Warne comeback is driven more by the hope of seeing Warnie back in Test cricket than any realistic expectation that it could actually happen.
Nevertheless, like a fool, I'll continue to daydream of watching Warnie once again befuddle English batsmen. This news doesn't come from the horse's mouth but James Sutherland who assures us he heard it from Warne. I won't be convinced by a rumor passed on from a friend of a friend's roommate's sister. Maybe Sutherland got it wrong, Chinese whisper's style. When Warne said a comeback is the furthest thing from his mind, perhaps he actually said a comeback is the foremost thing in his mind.
Anyhoo, there are a whole bunch of Tests between now and then. Cricket Australia should blood Beau Casson in the 3rd Test. If he turns out to be rubbish, Dan Cullen, Cullen Bailey or even old-timer Bryce Mcgain might get a crack in India. Talk about a baptism of fire. If they all suck and the nation cries out for Warne, well, I'm sure the guy has enough of a messiah complex to be persuaded. A guy can dream.
|Posted by JC on Wed 4 Jun||45 comments|
Almost as sudden as Damien Martyn's AWOL retirement, Stuart Macgill has announced his retirement upon the end of the current 2nd Test. Gorilla has been waiting for over a decade for Warnie to retire. Now he finally gets his time in the sun, he's been delivering nothing but longhops and waist high full tosses. You get the feeling half his mind was on planning his next TV show on wine tasting as he came into bowl. Seeing the writing on the wall, he's decided to leave before he's pushed.
What of the 3rd Test? Will Beau Casson be thrown into the deep end? I'd like to see it although again, you could never accuse the Australian selectors of taking bold decisions. More likely is Ashley Noffke gets the nod. Win-win as far as I'm concerned.
Even more interesting is who will be Australia's spinner in next year's Ashes. A Warnie comeback still seems impossible but Warnie did say if Macgill breaks his leg, he might consider it. A retirement works just as well.
|Posted by JC on Mon 2 Jun||41 comments|