Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Australia In Disarray: The Hilarious Watson Non-Run Out

Loss, loss, loss. I’m going to kick the Australians while they’re down, if only because they will certainly come back, win five series in a row and then take home the World Cup once more. So savor this while it lasts. Below is a video from the ODI against Sri Lanka, featuring the hilariously botched run-out produced by Haddin/Watson/Clarke (also the answer to, “How many Australians do you need to hit a stump?”):

A Bad Week For ODI Haters

The last few ODI matches played around the world — Pakistan v. South Africa; Sri Lanka v. Australia — have been just about the most scintillating stuff you’ll see in this format. By that, I don’t mean they were just close, one-wicket, nail-biting affairs. Odds are, you’ll see a few of those in T20 as well.

No, I mean the type of thrill on offer is unique to the game. A. Razzaq, for instance, had to guide his team for an astonishing number of overs before he came close to knocking off the target. The same goes for the unlikely pair of A. Mathews and L. Malinga. When they came together, they needed more than 100 runs in 25 overs with just 2 wickets in hand. That’s a plot line only an ODI can deliver.

Now, sure, you could say these are freak events (Mathews and Malinga had to score a record partnership for their team to win). But because of the added length and time, this week’s fun has been just so much sweeter than the T20 variety.

The Relative Ethics Of Randiv’s No-Ball

Poor Randiv. The guy has gone from a promising bowler and Murali-successor to subcontinental scourge, pilloried by one of the greatest Test batsmen of our time, as well as his own cricket board.

Granted, his crime — deliberately no-balling a delivery to deny Virender Sehwag centurion status — doesn’t deserve any plaudits. It was also strange: Randiv bowled a couple of deliveries, which Sehwag hit straight to a fielder, but then, apparently after a word from T. Dilshan, he decided he had enough and prematurely ended the show.

OK. He apologized, Sangakarra apologized, India’s cricket team manager accepted. All well and good. But I think the scandal speaks to the double standard that bowlers have to endure in cricket. Batsmen don’t have to walk after nicking a ball; they can pull out of a delivery if they’re not ready, and they can even stop play if they don’t like their bat or gloves. What unwritten rights do bowlers really have?

Take another example: if two batsmen are struggling to make it to the end of a day’s play in a Test match, they will do all they can to delay each over. Frequent conversations, gardening, you name it. And that’s allowed! Sure, some forward umpires will frown about it, but most authorities generally accept the practice.

It’s not a perfect analogy to the Randiv incident, I realize. Randiv had nothing to gain from the match by no-balling; it was nothing less than a mean-spirited play to deny another play a token award. But if you’re a bowler in the modern era, embattled and bruised as you are by what counts for a proper pitch these days, you’ll take any small liberties you can. And if that means sticking it to a batsman, so be it.

India’s Selection Woes

Two contrasting analyses on India’s selection issues from Cricinfo. The first, from Harsha Bhogle, on India’s no. 7 (all-rounder) problem:

India’s wish list is pretty obvious really, and a first reading will expose the biggest problem with it. Ideally this is what I suspect Kirsten and Dhoni and Srikkanth would be looking at the evening before the first game: SachinTendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar or Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha. Eleven of those 12 names look settled, but for India to be strong at the World Cup, No. 7 needs to be identified, and at the moment Irfan Pathan has gone underground.

Sure, there’s a problem there, but for the most part, the team is settled. Now, the preview of India’s game against Sri Lanka tomorrow:

India’s questions are several: Is Ravindra Jadeja good enough? Is there an in-form allrounder who can replace Jadeja, or should the part-time spinners fill the role of the fifth bowler in the subcontinent? Is medium-pacer Abhimanyu Mithun good enough? Should Virat Kohli play in the middle order, or should Rohit Sharma be persisted with? Will Ishant Sharma’s form dip further if he is looted for runs in this format? And how long will Dinesh Karthik continue to squander starts?

Injuries obviously complicate the picture, as do the selectors’ decision (the right one, I believe) to rest some key players. Still, the relative merits of Kohli, Sharma and Karthik will determine India’s lineup in the long-term — and I’m not sure it’s an issue easily settled.

Let India Go Home

Sure, I’ll watch this latest tri-series concoction between New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka. I don’t have much of an option — I’m a cricket addict, and illegal, sketchy, pop-up leaden illegal streaming sites are very good enablers.

No, I’d be just as happy if the Indian team returned home and relaxed before their more taxing assignments begin this year (South Africa, eep). We just played an Asia Cup in Dambulla, before the Test series that just concluded. If we have to organize so many tournaments featuring India, then at least have the courtesy to develop tiers of teams to develop the bench talent. (And please, please, give M.S. Dhoni a break — if his fingers can’t handle things, let ’em head off to the southern coast of Sri Lanka and enjoy the beach.)

A final note: if India fares badly in this contest, be it resolved that no one should care. Really. If they want to go out there and play like idiots, let them. Let ’em have some fun.

India-Sri Lanka Match, Exhibit 1 In Test Cricket

After that awful, terrible, horrible 2nd Test between India and Sri Lanka, we saw loads of presumptive obituaries for Test cricket as a format. The biggest complaint — the pitch — became even more glaring when the groundsman said his job, basically, was to deliver five days of Test cricket, not compelling Test cricket.

Well, we’ve just witnessed a great Test match. Read Samir Chopra to see just how good it was. But I haven’t yet seen just yet any announcements of the re-birth of Test cricket. So, in that spirit, let me review what made this game so unbelievably great, and why it could only happen in the length, time and quirks that Test cricket requires. I’ll do this quickly:

Day 1, Sri Lanka bats promisingly, but there are hints this pitch will suffer as the match goes on. Day 2, India looks in trouble after 300 runs, but then, relies on the unlikely pair of Mithun/Mishra to guide them to parity (in no other format would these two matter as much for their batting prowess as in Test cricket). So, India, slightly ahead, suddenly turns the game decidedly in their favor Day 4, reducing Sri Lanka to 87/7 (just repeat that score again, because in the context of the series — 600 run totals and what not — that’s huge). But then, in the next session alone, Sri Lanka turned the game again, scoring a lead of 200+ runs, thanks in large part to a man known chiefly for his unorthodox spin.

Day 5: it could have gone either way. Had Dilshan taken Tendulkar at short leg, we would have had a much closer contest, and possibly even another result. Test cricket in a nutshell: plot twists, individual struggles and rivalries, a larger team effort. Brilliant stuff. Long live.

India, Sri Lanka — Poised Thrillingly

Oh boy. I’ve already given up on this Indian side at least three times this match, but hope springs eternal. Say India bowls Sri Lanka out for 200 runs  — or maybe even 250 — by the end of this day. They should have a good chance of equaling the series, barring a wearying pitch and some nasty spinners. No? Impossible, you say? What with Sangakarra, Jayawardene and Samaraweera in our midst?

Either way, we’re going to get a good look at proper, exciting Test cricket. First, India’s spinners must once again shoulder the burden and run out Sri Lanka. And then, it’s their batsmen’s turn — assume Sehwag fails (as he often does in the 2nd innings) — will Dravid stand up finally? Or will have to rely on the unlikely talents of Mithun/Mishra?

Lay Off The Indian Bowlers Just A Little Bit

I noticed a full onslaught from my Twitter friends about India’s insipid bowling on Day 1 against the Sri Lankans. To which I offer this as a defense: 1) Yes, the bowling has been a tad “toothless,” as Cricinfo says, but it wasn’t the bowling attack we wanted. Zaheer Khan should have been there, but he’s not. Injuries take tolls.

2) Perhaps so, detractors may respond, but India should never be in a position to rely solely on one person. Hasn’t Ishant Sharma grown enough in the past few years that he could improve his seam position? Yes, but at the same time, we have to recognize the conditions these guys are bowling in. If India had won the toss, we’d likely be pleased as punch right now that the Sri Lankans were on the receiving end (and I have little doubt they would have been — though perhaps that’s just naivete). But this is how things work in Sri Lanka: the team that wins the toss bats first, takes advantage of a belter of a pitch, and then pressures the other team with 500+ runs in the board.

Again, I don’t like this bowling attack any more than the rest of you. Still, this is history we’re talking about — this is how it’s always been. So let’s just wait for that declaration, shall we?

Kumar Sangakarra Knows Things

Kumar Sangakarra trained to be a lawyer, and judging from this quote about the Future Tours Program, he’s done well with the logic part of the examination:

“Rankings need to be fairly done. A fair FTP is the first step towards having proper rankings. Once every two years each side should play each other at least once, home or away. That’s how you get a fair deal when it comes to Test cricket.”

I agree. The rankings are silly, but more importantly, so is the ridiculous way we schedule Tests. If we’re serious about broadening cricket’s base, we need to do more than simply focus on India, Australia and England. Yes, New Zealand v. India in India isn’t too exciting, but this is how rivalries and histories build up: you have to play each other first.

Tony Grieg Is Talking Nonsense

It’s far too late here in the United States to be watching cricket, but I can’t sleep. And in such a mood, Tony Grieg is not very easy to handle. As a general rule, I like Grieg; he more or less introduced me to cricket when he was part of the 1996 World Cup commentary team. He does have one major flaw: he’s unbelievably, ridiculously opinionated.

Take this flap over the URDS. Burned by a few previous incidents, India said they didn’t want it this Test series, even though Sri Lanka, the home team, did. Now, we can disagree about this (and we have; see here). But I think it’s ridiculous to make assertions about which team made the right decision based on one successful appeal within the first half-hour on the first day in the First Test. That is, however, precisely what Grieg just did, after A. Mithun gave a good shout for LBW against T. Dilshan. “That would have been one for India,” Grieg said. “Maybe they made the wrong decision.” (Maybe, but the sample here is very, very small.)

He then went on to say that the “ICC needed to get its act together,” and allow home teams to choose the URDS if they wanted. Again: ridiculous. Yes, some teams haven’t figured out the URDS, but it may just be that captains, already burdened with a long array of choices, do not want to confront another one (should we appeal the umpire’s decision? Where did that ball land? Should we save them?). Besides, it’s not as if the URDS is perfect; there have been more than a few quibbles that batsmen can be found both in and out on the same ball depending on how inconclusive TV replays can be.

And finally: cricket home teams have curators, audience, the ability to quickly  call in substitutes — why on earth would you want to give them something more?