Sunday, September 25, 2016

India: 500 Not Out

India play their 500th Test match at Kanpur against the Kiwis. Could have been just another game but cricket (and its fans) love statistics. So becomes one of the most significant games in India's Test history. To celebrate this milestone, its time to pick up an XI of India's most memorable moments in the Test arena.

Disclaimer - The memories are the ones which happened on my watch. So all are post 1989 or as we cricket tragics mark the event, after Sachin Tendulkar's debut.

1. That Partnership at Eden Gardens, 2001
The greatest turnaround in the history of the game at one of its greatest centers against an all-conquering Australian side who were treating the series as the "Final Frontier". They were well on their way to achieve their goal till they were stopped in their tracks by VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. The 4th day's play was not just match or series turning, it permanently instilled a belief in all Indian fans that miracles do happen.

2. The Chase in Chennai, 2008
By itself it would be remembered as one of our greatest victories. India chased down 387 with Sachin Tendulkar hitting the winning runs after Sehwag had given a turbo-powered start to the chase. But then it wasn't just any other game, being played in the aftermath of the horrific Mumbai attacks. Sometimes sport can provide just that bit of healing touch to a whole nation.

Rahul Dravid hitting the winning runs on the 5th day. An image firmly etched in the memories of the Indian fan. Australia had scored big, but they ran into a pair of familiar foes. The Dravid-VVS combo ensured that both teams are on equal footing after the first innings. And then the much maligned Ajit Agarkar produced his best spell of Test match bowling to knock out the Australians. And he was there at the other end with Dravid to see it through to the end.

On a green pitch, India chose to bat first and the English team had the absolute privilege of being the only team to witness centuries from Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly in the same innings. And they followed it by slumping to an innings defeat against the spin duo of Kumble & Harbhajan on a green top.

5. The Monkeygate Test, Sydney, 2008
A match India lost on the field but where on-field incidents spilled over threatening diplomatic relations. Players were called over for investigations by international judges into racial abuse. There were umpiring controversies galore and accusations of cheating. Questions were raised on the very spirit of the game. The Australians seemed rattled as Anil Kumble declared that "there was only one team playing in the spirit of the game", reminding them of Bodyline time. It was ugly. And after all that the Indians bounced back to win the next one at Perth. Karma. Probably.

6. Sreesanth's six off Andre Nel, Johannesberg, 2006
S. Sreesanth, one of the biggest enigmas of Indian cricket. A freakish talent which went to waste. Amongst his achievements, the one stand-out would be to shut up Andre Nel. And he did it in his own maverick style. Hits a six, runs off to the other end and then starts... dancing!!! Leaving Nel bemused and everyone else rolling in laughter. And he also picked up 8 wickets in the game to win India's first ever Test victory in South Africa.

7. Declared at 194, Multan, 2004
The match had it all. India's first Test victory in Pakistan. Sehwag establishing his legendary status by hitting India's first ever Test triple. And Dravid declaring with Sachin batting at 194. Something which the stat-hungry Indian fan could not get his head around. But all's well that ends well.

8. Kapil Dev's Blitzkrieg off Eddie Hemmings, Lords, 1990
You need 24 runs to avoid the follow-on. And you have a genuine number 11 for company at the other end. So what do you do? If you are Kapil Dev, you take matters into your own hand and just hammer 4 consecutive sixes. And Hirwani at the other end promptly got out the very next ball. Couldn't prevent a defeat but it was heroic. Personally, me missed out following most of Kapil Dev's glorious career and only remember the dragged out ending in pursuit of Hadlee's Test record.

9. Kumble's Perfect 10, Kotla, 1999
On a pitch which had been dug up a few weeks before, Anil Kumble produced one of those freakish spells of bowling, taking out all 10 Pakistani wickets in the 2nd innings and squaring up the series. And wiping off some of the bad memories of the previous game at Chennai.

10. The Chennai heart-break, 1999
One of the heart-breaking results for an Indian fan. Sachin Tendulkar nearly pulled off a 4th innings chase all by himself. But the tail could not finish up the job. India were left 12 short off what would have been a sensational victory against arch-rivals Pakistan.

11. Bludgeoned in Bridgetown, 1997
For an Indian fan, the 90s were really tough to watch, especially when India was playing abroad. We just couldn't get an overseas test victory (not even in Zimbabwe). So when India got a target of 120 against West Indies, it seemed the elusive overseas victory would be finally achieved. But the pace trio of Ambrose, Bishop and Rose had other plans as India were blown away for 81. That overseas victory would have to wait a few more years.

And the 12th Man. The Test that wasn't, Centurion, 2001
Two full-strength national sides taking on each other in a five day clash played under Test match conditions but not being called a Test match. The aftermath of the Mike Denness affair had led to India lodging a protest. ICC did not withdraw the referee. So India and South Africa got a different referee. ICC removed Test status from the game (but it was still a first class game). This could have been Dravid's captaincy debut. And for poor Connor Willaims, this was his only match for India and could have been his debut. He never payed another international. And the Kanpur Test would have been India's 501st.

And the ones which did not make to the list - Irfan Pathan's first over hat-trick against Pakistan, Sehwag's 293 against Sri Lanka, Zaheer Khan's jellybean incident, Kumble bowling with a broken jaw, Dravid's Sabina Park exploits, Harbhajan's 2001 series. And many, many more.

Hopefully many more will come in over the coming years.

The Eden Gardens winning moment

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jharkhand Domestic Schedule: 2016-17 Season

After some judicial delays, the domestic cricket season has been announced. And as has been the case every year, some more tinkering has been done with the different tournaments. Cricket has been constantly evolving. India's domestic cricket even more so. So this year we have
  • a new domestic team in Chhattisgarh
  • Duleep Trophy is now a 3-team affair being played under lights with a pink ball. (A First-Class Challenger Trophy)
  • Mustaq Ali Trophy will now be an inter-zonal tournament instead of being an inter-state one (A T20 Deodhar Trophy)
  • All Ranji matches will be played at neutral venues.
Like the past few seasons, Slisptream Cricket will continue putting out regular posts about Jharkhand's progress in these tournaments. Last year the team had a fairly good run reaching the quarter-finals in all three formats. Lets wait and watch their progress this season.

Jharkhand's fixtures for 2016-17

Ranji Trophy - Jharkhand has been promoted into Group B, which will be sending 3 teams into the knock-outs.
  1. October 6-9, 2016, vs Maharashtra (Delhi)
  2. October 13-16, 2016, vs Karnataka (Chennai)
  3. October 20-23, 2016, vs Rajasthan (Vadodara)
  4. October 27-30, 2016 vs Vidarbha (Wayanad, Kerala)
  5. November 5-8, 2016, vs Delhi (Thumba, Kerala)
  6. November 13-16, 2016, vs Saurashtra (Agartala)
  7. November 29-December 2, 2016, vs Assam (Vizianagaram)
  8. December 7-10, 2016, vs Odisha (Chennai)
The knock-outs will be held in second half of Decemeber with the final being played in January.

Vijay Hazare Trophy - Jharkhand are placed in Group D, with all games being played in Kolkata
  1. February 25, 2017, vs Karnataka
  2. February 26, 2017, vs Chhattisgarh
  3. February 27, 2017, vs Services
  4. March 1, 2017, vs Saurashtra
  5. March 3, 2017, vs Hyderabad
  6. March 6, 2017, vs Jammu & Kashmir
2 teams will progress into the quarter-finals from each group. The final is slated for 18th March, 2017.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Gulabi Gend

Sometime last week. 

The Olympics were over and won’t be back for the next 4 years. After 17 days of non-stop multi-sport action, a giant void has been left in prime time television. In an attempt to fill up this void, started surfing through the sports channels and ended up on some live cricket telecast. And it wasn’t just any game. History was being created. The first ever first-class game being played in India with a pink ball. Between India Green and India Red (or maybe it was India Blue).

The pink ball is still very much a novelty. Enough to keep me hooked for a while. It was looking pretty under the lights. And our Jharkhand Bradman, Saurabh Tiwary was on crease. Only after watching the action for some time did I notice the commentary. 2 commentators giving a ball by ball report of the on-field action. One speaking in Hindi and the other in English.  

And then I heard. Gulabi Gend!

Ahh! The pearls of Hindi commentary. Where the commentator translates every word literally (e.g. Chhotti Gend, Lamba shot etc.) Wonder why though? After all sport has its own language and need not be dumbed down by this literal translation. Also reminded me of the movie Lagaan, which had the best Hindi commentator ever. (Maybe with the exception of the Sehwag-Shoaib Akhtar combo).

Anyways back to the "gulabi gend" game. It was an interesting game with the fortunes swinging around heavily from ball to bat. There was quite a decent crowd enjoying the game as well. While I am not too sure about the players reactions, the pink ball was easily spotted on the TV especially in the background of the green pitches. Run making was fast. Bowlers also held an advantage at times. Although quite a few catches were dropped. Maybe visibility issues? The audience might be ready for pink ball cricket but this project is still in pilot stage. Further testing in different conditions is needed before launching it on to the interantional stage in India. 

However, while the pink ball was a novelty, this alternating commentary needs to be stopped. It is jarring to hear and well makes you want to switch off the TV. BCCI, क्या आप सुन रहे हो ?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Arbit Stats #57: Blockathon

Test Match #2209: Sri Lanka vs Australia

Probably one of the best Test matches in a while. If it had been an Ashes game, paeans would have been written about it. But it was a Test match in Sri Lanka (like another one in Galle almost a year back).

Unlike most matches, there was a third player involved, the rain Gods. They had their own way of making their presence felt at different points in the game. Australia were on top, Sri Lanka fought to keep the lead down. Then came the Kusal Mendis special, rains appeared on and off,  but Australia sank deeper and deeper. Then came the block with an eye on the rains. The block went on and on, the skies grew darker, but the rains stayed away. After 178 balls of stoic resistance, the wicket was prised out. And Sri lanka romped home to a famous win, only their second ever against Australia.

But what a resistance it was. Steve O'Keefe and Peter Nevill just blocked their way in a partnership of 178 balls with just one scoring shot making new records for the biggest runless period of play - over 23 overs without scoring a run. For a perspective that is longer  than an entire T20 innings!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Arbit Stats #56: Virat Kohli

Test Match #2207: West Indies vs India, Antigua

This is India's 248th Test abroad. And Virat Kohli becomes the 1st Indian captain to score a double century away. Previous record being held by Mohammaed Azharuddin's 192 in New Zealand. (Full List)

Interestingly this is also his highest score in any format of senior cricket.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Arbit Stats #55: Misbah

Test Match #2206: England vs Pakistan, Lords

At the ripe young age of 42 Years & 47 Days, Misbah-ul-Haq became the oldest captain to score a Test Match century. And then proceeded to celebrate the mark by doing 10 Push-ups. 

May you play forever. After all you bring a sense of sanity in the madness that is Pakistan cricket.

Source: Getty Images

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ranji at Nets

Sometimes the internet can come up with gems. 

The black and white video depicts Kumar Shri Ranjitsinghji (better known as Ranji) practicing in the nets. The video was shot during the 1897-98 Ashes tour in Australia by Henry Walter Barnett. He made three more such films during the tour but those are now lost.

Although the video is not from any game, but it is probably the oldest cricketing action of any kind captured on film. The silent film depicts Ranji practicing an array of shots. We hardly see the bowler or any other player. Except for the gentleman standing behind the nets in a waistcoat and hat, watching the proceedings while barely moving.  

Observations from the film 
  • Players of earlier time wore different kind of clothes. The white shirt, cuffed to the wrists, wouldn't have looked out of place in formal gatherings.
  • There are no bails on the stumps
  • The famous "Leg Glance" - the shot which Ranji is said to have invented.
  • The only protective equipment visible are the pads. (Even gloves are missing or not visible)
  • And finally (as pointed out by a friend), how thin the bat is as compared to the modern bats.
Cricket has evolved a lot since the days of Ranji, but the evolution seems to have been almost entirely in favour of the batsmen with the bowlers being treated as second-grade citizens. Thicker bats, smaller boundaries, bowling and fielding restrictions, pitches being covered, protective equipment (helmet, arm guard, chest guard and what not), Free Hits. All this making batting easier (relatively speaking since Ranji's time). And of course the players are much fitter and stronger. Batting from a Test has evolved into the brute power of T20.

On the other hand bowler's have had to evolve themselves. Newer innovations are being crafted. e.g. Bodyline, Bouncers, Doosra, Carrom Ball, Reverse Swing, Slower Ball, Slow Bouncer etc. But many of these have been treated with suspicion like witchcraft and the dark arts. And been banned or restrictions imposed (at various times) during the course of the cricketing history. e.g. Bodyline and Spin bowling restricted by new fielding regulations, Bouncers limited to one an over, Ball-tampering allegations against Reverse swing, Balls being changed more frequently. 

In all, things are stacked up against the bowlers, yet this lot doesn't seem to give up easily. They innovate but the administrators swing the balance back in the batsmen's favour with new regulations. Cricket certainly has changed quite a bit over the years.

P.S. India's first Test on film (Link)

Arbit Stats #54: Maiden Starts

T20I #560: Zimbabwe vs India, Harare

India beat Zimbabwe in a low-scoring encounter by 3 runs. Special highlight of the game being both innings started with a maiden to the bowler. Tendai Chatara bowled one to start India's innings while Barinder Sran started off with a maiden to commence Zimbabwe's innings. 

Slight anamoly being that Sran did concede a leg-bye, but they don't count towards the bowler's stats (like byes).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Applying for the India Coach Position

The Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has invited applications for the position of the "Head Coach" for the Senior India Men's Cricket Team (Link). In line with its new-found love for openness, BCCI has also posted the eligibility guidelines fot the post. Slipstream Cricket would like to present their case for the advertised post in line with these criterion.

Candidates applying for this position will need fulfil and demonstrate evidence of and knowledge in :
1.Should have successfully coached a cricket team of any of the member countries of the ICC, at the first class or at the International level. 
Not fulfilled. But do have multiple years of experience in managing playing XIs in Fantasy Leagues.

2.It is preferred that the candidate should be qualified through a certification/assessment program conducted by any of the full member countries and currently possess such a valid certification. 
Not fulfilled, but this criterion is preferred and not compulsory

3.Should be able to prepare and present a coaching plan elaborating the approach for ‘Team India’ to attain leadership position in all formats of the game. 
I am ready with my Vision & Mission for Team India (but this is a public forum so not sharing details here)

4.Demonstrate methods/tools to effectively measure individual player performance and present metrics to the Board, which will in turn measure the performance of the team, on a consistent and timely basis. 
Moneyball type evaluation will KPIs on defined OKRs will be used and 360° feedback shared with relevant stake-holders for performance improvement. 

5.Demonstrate an understanding and ability of employing a multi disciplinary approach that will include sports psychology and sports medicine, and effectively manage the work load of the players, thereby enhancing their contribution to the cause of the team. 
"employ a multi-disciplinary approach"; "effectively manage work-load", "enhance contribution". I like this heavy use of MBA jargons. I shall have a result-oriented holistic approach towards achieving our one-year vision to reach the number one ranking across formats while ensuring all-round development of stakeholders.

6.Communication skills befitting the coach of an International team are mandatory along with the ability to effectively convey the right messages and must demonstrate proficiency in English. It is desirable to communicate in Hindi and other regional Indian languages.
English, Hindi, and snatches of Marathi, Assamese and Bangla - this one I sail through [Fluent in Minionese also, although that may not be relevent here]

7.Should be well versed with the latest technologies/trends in sports software and ability to utilise the same, which will assist in analysing/ improving the performance of the player and the team. 
Can play around Cricinfo's Statsguru & have proficiency in MS Office products (oops, that was for Pakistan's coach position)

8.Mandatory that the candidate should have an impeccable personal record, devoid of any past or current disputes, with any of the member boards of the ICC or its affiliates. 
All clear on this front!!!

9.Demonstrate plans and ability to contribute to the NCA Cricket Development Programmes and forecasting/planning to develop the next generation cricketer and agree to make themselves available for the NCA, as and when they are not with the team. 
Proper Supply Chain Management tools will be used so that resource wastage is minimized  and the supply pipeline to the national team doesn't run dry (Also Refer 4 & 5 above).

Out of nine, six criterion fully met, 1 partially met, and one is optional. I rest my case! 
Now awaiting a call from Mr. Ajay Shirke, Hony Secretary BCCI.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Arbit Stats #53: Nervous 9990s

Test Match #2204: England vs Sri Lanka

Before the start of the series Alastair Cook needed 36 runs to become the first Englishman to reach the 10,000 career Test runs mark. However this seems to have become a big bugbear for him as he has fallen short twice in the pursuit. In the 2nd Test of the series, he has become the 3rd batsmen to be dismissed in the nervous 9990s in Test tally.

Previous members of the nervous 9990s club - Lara & Jayawardene. (Elite company).

So the wait becomes longer for Cook.