Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011...the year gone by

As the evening lit up to celebrating sparkles, people across the globe in their respective time zones, donning their best outfits strode out to join friends & gatherings to dance & rejoice, hugging each other in exuberant bonhomie, waving off 2011 & welcoming 2012......
Sipping a cup of brewing coffee, I sit down to reflect the year that went so many ways, an extremely challenging year.....emotionally, physically, professionally & maybe even has been a roller coaster of events, mostly devastating I more difficult than the I sounding gloomy & out of tune, on a day, when everyone seems to be in a festive mood???........mind totters into a winding pathway of truly is a struggle to gather words & pen them down.....

The Mid East, especially the Islamic countries, saw numerous political uprisings....January saw protesters demonstrating at Tahrir Square in Cairo leading to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigning from his three decade old tyranny......The Tunisian Govt fell after a month long & violent protests, as the President fled to Saudi Arabia after 23 years of regime....Bahrain witnessed revolts, as the King declared emergency to quell civil unrest....Libyan uprising was bloody & violent spread over months which eventually saw the brutal death of their dictator Muammar Gaddafi & his son.....Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Israel, too experienced uprising of common man against was all very violent & if some deep rooted rebellion was gushing out.......leaving behind a trail of death & devastation. The most sought after & chased terrorist over a decade, Osama Bin Laden, was finally located & killed by US troops in a small hamlet in Pakistan, bringing to surface, the country's close association with terrorism & its deathly impact. 
Nature too was devastating round the year, as earthquakes scaling 9.1 & subsequent tsunami swept east of Japan........floods hit Brazil, ............volcanoes erupted in Chile,........ Thailand, Cambodia & Philippines were inundated by floods,.... quakes in Turkey,....all resulting in numerous losses of human lives & infrastructure.....
The global economy has looked bleak, as Europe & Americas have been struggling for growth....with sensex tanking across. Jobs have been scarce & increments minimal.....the picture has been mostly dismal. 

It was also a year of so many many celebrities, who had contributed towards the welfare of the world today, left us....forever : Elizabeth Taylor, the violet eyed hollywood diva; Dev Anand, India's evergreen romantic hero; Shammi Kapur, the Elvis Presley of India; Amy Winehouse, famed singer succumbing to drug abuse; Jagjit Singh, the ghazal maestro with a golden voice; Bhupen Hazarika, the famous singer writer from Assam; Pandit Bhimsen Joshi,  classical singer, Bharat Ratna recipient; Sultan Khan, sarangi player; MF Hussain, the controversial painter; Joe Frazier, World Boxing Champion; S Ballesteros, former World No1 golfer; Socrates, Brazilian footballer; MAK Pataudi, better known as Tiger Pataudi of Indian Cricket; Kim Jong, North Korean dictator; Hargobind Khorana, the Nobel Prize winner in medicine; PC Alexander, ex Governor of Maharashtra; Mario Miranda, famous cartoonist; Satya Sai Baba, the spiritual guru from Puttaparthi; Dorjee Khandu, the promising Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, who died in a helicopter crash; & not to forget Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Inc........& so many more. Each one of them, having contributed so meaningfully to our lives..... It has indeed been a year of losses.....heavy losses...
As a Wall Street sign read " 10 years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope & Johnny Cash. Now we have no Jobs, no Hope &  no Cash!!" ......a true reflection of the year that has been ......

Back in India, the common man rose in unison against Corruption, under the clean shoulders of Anna Hazare, demanding a strong Lokpal Bill......the drama, however continues into the new year, as the Central Govt continues to shamelessly try & thwart the initiatives. The Govt & the opposition are relentless in their own pursuit of political brownie points, as the common man languishes under the burden of inflation, price rise, & false promises. 
Mamata Banerjee became the first woman & 11th Chief Minister of West Bengal, ending almost four decades of Left rule......time will tell, if she brings in refreshing & developmental changes, as we look forward in anticipation. 
In July, Mumbai again witnessed serial bomb blasts, raising questions on security issues & terrorism. In December, severe negligence of authorities led to fire at AMRI hospital in Kolkata, leading to almost 100 tragic deaths. Nature vent its fury on Sikkim, as quakes left many dead & large scale destruction. 

There were few reasons to rejoice as well, as India won the World Cup Cricket in Mumbai after 28 long years of wait, under Dhoni's captaincy, beating Sri Lanka in the finals. India also won the World Kabaddi Championship, as expected. Noida hosted the first ever Formula 1 race in India, won by Sebastian Vettel, which had celebrities from all over the world coming over, in a racing extravaganza...vroooooommmmmm. In Dec, Sehwag flayed the Windies attack to score 219 runs, the highest ever by an individual in an ODI, as Sachin's 100th century eluded him this year.
Also was the song - Kolaveri Di by Dhanush, Rajnikanth's son in law, which had the country & beyond going foot tapping crazy all over....something that I could not fathom....musically its a stupid song, lyrically even stupider.....don't know what caught the fancy & imagination of the youth !!!! Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar was slapped hard by a Sikh youth.....what took anyone so long ????..could anyone repeat the performance plss ?

Phew, the coffee has turned cold & bitter, as it looks like a year gone by, full of challenging circumstances, bitter memories, & I am not even listing down personal experiences of the year....they have been bizarre, even if politely put !!!..... does 2012 bring in better tidings ?? ....only time will tell.
The mind, as for now feels tired & fatigued.....parties just don't excite, & silence beckons ... .almost eerie on impact. Waiting for God ????....Love ????......Peace ???? or just plain simple laughter over a cup of coffee, with someone you love!!!!

On our part, we will optimistically look forward, pray for well being, strive for success & dream.....
Hopefully the coffee will brew & taste better......

Thursday, December 29, 2011

29th Dec'2011 : Day 4 Melbourne

I had said in my parting comment yesterday that chasing anything around 300 runs in this wicket for the final innings would be difficult even for this extremely strong & experienced Indian batting line up.......& it seems, all the experts in the commentary box, the likes of Saurav Ganguly, Wasim Akram, Ian Chappel, Ravi Shastri et all echoed similar sentiments, infact most of them pegged the score around 250.
And as the day unfolded, the Aussie tail wagged & later in the day, the Indian batting collapsed once again, giving Australians the vital 1-0 lead in the series.

Pattinson, coming in at No 10, to join Hussey, showed that he was no bunny with the bat. The 3rd ball of the 2nd over of the day from Yadav was smacked to the boundary through extra cover, signalling his intent & capability very very clearly. At the other end, Hussey too kept the score board ticking, blazing a couple of sweetly timed boundaries off Zaheer to take the lead closer to the 250 mark. But Zaks came back immediately with a splendid delivery to remove the dangerous Hussey, caught behind,...the score reading 197 for 9, & India needing just one more wicket to get started with the chase....the match evenly poised.
But the last pair of Pattinson & Hilfenhaus frustrated the Indian attack & Dhoni looked quite out of ideas, with surprisingly defensive field placing, as vital runs kept adding to the total. It was finally Ishant Sharma in the 77th over, who got Hilfenhaus to edge to Laxman in the slips, as the Aussie innings finally came to an end for 240 many as 61 runs added since resuming play today, of which 43 came for the last wicket.....Pattinson remaining unbeaten for a splendid 37. Interestingly, even in the 1st innings, he was unbeaten for 18 runs!!! No wonder, he has 1st class century to his credit in the Australian domestic cricket.....he certainly can bat. For the Indians, Yadav had taken 4 wickets, Zaks 3, Ishant 2 & Ashwin 1. The bowling had been quite disciplined & fierce by the pacers.

India needed to chase 292 runs for a victory, & given the way the pitch had behaved till now, & the current Indian batting form, the prospect looked looked rather steep & tough. It needed a strong opening partnership to lay the foundation, & both Sehwag and Gambhir had their task cut out. However, in just the 6th over of the innings, Hilfenhaus got Sehwag to hit straight to Hussey at gully for a mere 7 runs, & scorecard showed 17 for 1.......big big wicket for Australia just before lunch.
After lunch, Siddle claimed Gambhir with a ripping delivery, edging the top end of the bat to slips, & then, a little later Pattinson clean bowled Dravid.......the innings was just 19 overs old & the top three wickets gone, as India tottered to 58 for 3. Tendulkar batted as he did in the 1st innings, confident & aggressive, & needed support at the other end. However, 2nd innings specialist Laxman disappointed, flicking a Pattinson delivery to be caught at short square leg & Virat Kohli getting plumb LBW to Hilfenhaus......India 69 for 5......defeat a certainty. Tendulkar too did not last much longer, driving Siddle uppishly to Hussey at gully for a resolute but inconsequential 32 runs.
Dhoni & Ashwin delayed the inevitable with some belligerent hitting, as India went to tea with score at 117 for 6. After tea, Ashwin top edged Siddle for a simple catch, scoring an enterprising 30, while Zaheer hit a four & six before edging Pattinson to short leg, & Captain Dhoni getting an inside edge from Pattinson to his stumps. The last pair of Ishant Sharma & Umesh Yadav added another 27 runs, before Yadav holed out in the deep. The Indian innings had folded tamely for 169 runs in 48 overs, handing over a 122 runs victory to Australia.

This was India's fifth consecutive defeat in test matches overseas(losing 4-0 to England during summer) as the year comes to an end, certainly a worry for Indian think tank. They need to regroup quickly before the next test begins at Sydney on 3rd Jan'12. The inexperienced & injury prone bowling was rather commendable, with Yadav bowling his heart out & Zaheer along with Ishant supporting well, without any niggle alarms. Ashwin tried too many variations thereby losing on consistency, but he is a class bowler in the making. Fielding was patchy, with catches dropped at crucial stages of the game, but the biggest disappointment was the collective failure of the much vaunted batting line up. Barring Tendulkar & Ashwin in both innings & Dravid & Sehwag in the 1st innings, the rest caved in rather timidly. Dravid got bowled out three times (once to a no ball), which is rare & Gambhir is struggling with his feet movement, while Laxman surprisingly failed to get going against his favourite opponents. Kohli & Dhoni looked all at sea against genuine movement off the seam. The spectre of Sachin getting his 100th century still seems to overburden the focus of the batting nucleus, & this needs to be addressed immediately.
Indians are normally sluggish at the start of any overseas tour, & that builds too much of pressure on the team, thereafter, but this team has a wonderful blend of youth & experience & we all would expect them to bounce back rather strongly. Dhoni needs to show more spunk & enterprise, especially in polishing off the opponents tail.....he seems to be giving away from position of strength too often of late !!!!
For the Australians, return of form at the opportune time for old war horses Ponting & Hussey, would be a welcome sign. Cowan got an interesting & patient fifty on debut & has the makings to take on the vacant opening spot left by Justin Langer, while Warner, a brilliant prospect, needs to curb a bit of his carefree hitting to succeed in this longer version of the game. The faith reposed on Hilfenhaus by bringing him back to the test side proved a brilliant move as he bowled with purpose & pace, brilliantly supported by Pattinson & Siddle.
The team is young & in the process of building for the future & seems to be well disciplined, with loads of talent to fall back on.

The Man of the Match was James Pattinson, the 21 year old good looking hunk from Victoria & deservingly so. As a front line bowler he had match figures of 6 wickets for 108 runs & with the bat scored crucial & unbeaten 55 runs.....certainly a wonderful prospect for Australia ahead. Earlier in the year, he had taken 5 for 27 against the Kiwis on debut & has gone from strength to strength since then. He is strongly built, displays intent & intelligence on the field & can truly become a match winning bowler who can also bat.

See you all at Sydney on 3rd Jan next year & hoping India regroups positively for a fighting series. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

28th Dec'2011 : Day 3 Melbourne

Day 3 in any test match is expected to be the best day for batting. With India starting at 214 for 3, & a solid batting line up to come, most critics predicted a long haul ahead. However, in true traditions of the uncertainties of cricket, the day turned out to be nightmarish for the batsmen.
In the very second ball of the day, with no addition to the score, Hilfenhaus rattled Dravid's off stump to start the slump. The next 7 overs produced only 6 runs, as Siddle consumed Laxman, India's most reliable bat in these conditions, caught behind, with score reading a dismal 221 for 5. Virat Kohli was next to go, caught behind to Hilfenhaus, & then Dhoni edged Hilli to Hussey at gully, as Indian total dipped to 245 for 7. With the new ball taken, the Aussie pacers were all over the famed Indian batting. Ishant, the nightwatchman, having braved the fiery attack for 69 deliveries finally fell to Hilifanhaus, as Zaks was bowled out by Pattinson. Ashwin tried some lusty hits, before Indian innings folded for 282...conceding a lead of 51 runs, as the umpires called Lunch. Had Ashwin & Yadav not added 23 crucial runs for the last wicket, India would have been in further trouble. Hifenhaus claimed 5 wickets, while Siddle & Pattinson claimed 2 apiece. Indians had lost 8 wickets for just 68 runs, allowing the Australians to come back strongly in the game.

The unexpected collapse of the Indian batsmen & a healthy lead of 51 runs probably got the Aussies overconfident, as a resolute Indian side trooped in to filed after lunch. Young Umesh Yadav was all pumped up as he bowled with fierce pace & controlled line, as Zaheer kept the pressure from the other end. Yadav ripped through the Australian batting, getting openers Warner & Cowan in the 7th over & then Shaun Marsh in the 12th over, while Ishant Sharma bowled skipper Clarke in the very next over, as the total read 27 for 4. India were right back in the game, as old warhorse Ponting & Hussey attempted to rebuild the innings.....both under tremendous pressure to perform. The pair worked hard against a probing Indian attack & at tea the score read 81 for 4. Both the batsmen reached individual milestones of well deserved 50s, adding 115 runs in the bargain, as Dhoni kept trying various options to break the partnership. It was finally Zaheer who got the breakthrough, getting Ponting to edge to Sehwag in the gully for a very well made 60 runs, & the downward spiral for the Aussies started again. Zaheer then got Haddin out, Yadav claimed Siddle, while Ashwin got Lyon, as the Australian innings limped to 179 for 8 at the end  of the day. Umesh Yadav had bowled brilliantly claiming 4 wickets, while Zaks got 2 & Ishant and Ashwin chipped in with one each. Had Hussey not survived a straightforward catch to Dravid in the slips off Ashwin, it could have been worse for the hosts, who failed to capitalize on a surprise first innings lead.

The day witnessed 15 wickets going down today for just 247 runs, as the Australians lead by 230 runs, with just two wickets in hand. If Hussey, who's batting on 79 invaluable runs, can thwart the Indian bowling till lunch at least & take the lead beyond 300 runs tomorrow, it would advantage Australia, as Indian batting has been brittle in recent times, & barring Dravid & Laxman, there is no genuine 2nd innings player, especially while chasing. If the Indians manage to restrict the lead to around 250 runs, then they should be able to chase successfully. Either ways, this test match, having swung both ways till now in a see saw battle,  is heading for a result, which will make the series most interesting ahead.
Join me tomorrow.....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27th Dec'2011 : Day - 2 Melbourne

Unlike yesterday, it was blue skies, with occasional small fluffs of white clouds whiling by, as bright sun welcomed the players in the middle. Overnight batsmen Siddle & Haddin took stance with score at 277 for 6, as Umesh Yadav marked his run up....two slips & a gully, third man, point, mid off, mid on, long off, deep mid wicket, 2 proceedings got underway.
Zaheer, from the other end stuck in his first over(the 2nd over of the day), consuming the ever dangerous Haddin, with an away seaming delivery, kissing the outside edge, & Sehwag at gully gobbling the catch gratefully. In came Pattinson to join Siddle, with Yadav & Zaks bowling in tandem....Next to go was Siddle, with Zaks again finding the nick of the blade & Dhoni behind doing the rest......291 for 8, & both overnight batsmen back in the pavillion. Zaheer had done the job of being the frontline bowler for India. Hilfenhaus in next, hit quite lustily to take Australia past the 300 mark, Zaheer looked like tiring out, & Yadav or Ishant not making much of an impact....drinks break at this stage was certainly a welcome sign for the fielders.  Finally spin introduced by Dhoni, provided the breakthrough, as Ashwin lured Hilfenhaus to hole out at long on, where Virat Kohli made no mistakes. The last pair dragged the score to 333, when Ashwin bowled Lyon round the legs....the Aussie 1st innings had lasted 110 overs. An at par score, one would say.

Indian innings started with Gambhir taking strike & Sehwag at the non striker's end....three slips, gully & a short leg, as Pattinson started the bowling in earnest with a maiden. Lunch was round the corner & India had to negotiate three overs, before the break.....Gambhir was edgy, while Sehwag looked his normal self. Hilfenhaus & Pattinson continued pounding after lunch, as Sehwag started to open up. However, he got into a needeless word spat with Pattinson & Siddle, as the Umpire intervened to caution. This must have broken the concentration of Gambhir at the other end, who had been quite edgy till now, & he perished to an edge behind of Hilfenhaus....India score reading 22 for 1 after 8 overs. Sehwag continued as he normally does, hitting clearly & across the line....reaching a scorching 50 in just 59 deliveries. He got a life in the very next over, as Haddin grassed a regulation nick off Pattinson, but could not capitalize on this chance. Pattinson, bowling an extremely good spell, had his revenge, as Sehwag went for a cover drive & edged onto the stumps.....out for a blazing 67 off 83 deliveries.....he had his chances, but could not convert a big score. He however, reached an important milestone, crossing 8000 runs in test cricket, the fifth Indian to do so, till date. At the other end, Dravid seemed to be scratching & getting beaten at regular intervals, but surviving diligently, as Tendulkar walked into the middle to a rapturous crowd....anticipation of a big 100 !!!! With tea break round the corner Hussey induced Tendulkar into an inside edge, which fell just short of the silly mid on, as the Indians across the globe watching would have heaved a sigh of relief.
Whatever, he had for tea, Sachin came back into the middle in a completely different frame of mind, clobbering Siddle for a six, uppercutting over slips, bringing up the 100 for India. Runs started to flow again, as Dravid clawed to a rather inelegant, edgy fifty off 137 deliveries, & Sachin racing to his own in just 55 deliveries....a complete contrast of batting display by the two masters of the game in the middle. 200 runs for India came in the 57th over, as Clarke looked out of ideas to get a wicket. With the day nearing end, he rested his confidence with his best bowlers of the day, Pattinson & Siddle...both bowling their heart out. It was Siddle, who got the crowd roaring back, as he broke through the defensive Wall of Dravid to rattle the off & middle stump......however, Dravid was lucky to escape, as Siddle had overstepped & the Umpire, after consulting the replays, ruled it a No-Ball....heart wrenching decision for a bowler. Siddle continued to torment Dravid with his incisive nipping deliveries, as Pattinson kept the other end tied up with some equally good bowling. Finally Siddle got his reward as he broke through Tendulkar's defence this time, clean bowling him for a brilliantly compiled 73 runs off just 98 balls. It was the last over of the day, as Tendulkar trudged back to the pavilion......the 100th ton still eluding him.

Dravid survived the day, to battle it out in the middle tomorrow, as India closed the day at 214 for 3. For the Indians, Zaks bowled beautifully in the morning & then Sehwag & Tendulkar entertained the crowd with some splendid batting display, though both of them would be disappointed to have missed out on a deserving hundred. For the Aussies, Siddle & Pattinson really bowled superbly & with a bit of luck, & some half chances converted in the field, would have had more wickets to cap the performance.
I would say, at the end of the day, the match is tilted slightly in India's favor, trailing the Aussies by 119 runs with 7 wickets in hand. Tomorrow's first session would be the Aussie pacers use the morning movement off the pitch & how the Indian batting responds. With Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni & Ashwin to come in & Dravid still holding one end up, one would expect India to pile up a healthy 1st innings lead....but then its Cricket....with glorious uncertainties.

Tune in tomorrow morning......

Monday, December 26, 2011

26th Dec'11 : Day -1, Melbourne

Battle lines drawn, as India take on Australia at MCG, Melbourne on the Boxing Day. The playing XI for India - Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant & Yadav, while for Australia - Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Haddin, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon & Hilfenhaus.

Toss won by Clarke & he chose to bat on a green wicket. The overcast conditions did promise bounce & seam, as Zaheer took over the red cherry to start the proceedings. Debudante Cowen  took stance as the crowd roared, with Warner at the other end. Zaheer, sporting a new hairstyle, looked a little rusty in his opening spell, though Yadav from the other end generated healthy pace. The openers started quite well, with Cowen holding one end & Warner scoring from the other. Warner was just about cutting loose with a six off Yadav, when rains brought the first of the interruptions. Warner, probably in a hurry to score, erred in concentration & immediately on resumption of play, lost his wicket to Yadav, caught behind in the 14th over of the match...a wicket maiden. He was looking menacing in his 37 off 49 deliveries. Next man in Shaun Marsh did not last long, snicking outside the offstump to Yadav, to be caught by Kohli in the gully for a blob. In a spate of two overs, from 46 for no loss, the Aussies were reduced to 46 for 2, as in strode Ricky Ponting, to a buzzing stand. Yadav, buoyed by two quick wickets, was spitting fire & immediately stuck Ponting on the helmet with a rising bouncer, followed by another one....the crowd roared at the prospect of an interesting contest.
Ponting, veteran of many battles, dug in bravely & started to get his timing & strokes, as runs trickled in. Rain interruptions did not waver his concentration & Cowen at the other end held firm. 100 runs for the innings came in the 29th over, as Dhoni kept shuffling his bowlers in short bursts, including Ashwin. 50 for Ponting came in the 38th over, as the crowd rose in approval...the run rate, a healthy 3.62 per over. Cowen got to his 50 in the 43rd over, a brilliant & patient 50 on debut, as the pair had put on 100 invaluable runs.....a little later the team total had crossed 150 runs. Just as it seemed, the resilient Aussies had tamed the Indian attack, Yadav came back with another snorter, rearing up enough to catch the high end of Ponting's bat & an easy edge to Laxman in the slips.....3 down for 159. Ponting gone for a well grafted 62.....surely he would be screaming at himself to let go of making it a big hundred. ......a huge wicket for India, as Yadav's figures read an impressive 11-2-61-3. In walked skipper Michael Clarke, looking resolute. 200 runs on board by 61st over as Cowen & Clarke started to settle down. However, Zaks had other ideas, as he produced a stunner of an over in the 65th. First he got Clarke to edge onto stumps & then immediately in the next delivery had Hussey edge to Dhoni behind.....two very important wickets in the middle to rock Australia back to 206 for 5. Hussey was probably unfortunate, as the ball brushed his sleeves on way to Dhoni, as the Indians appealed UDRS for the series meant, umpire's decision stayed......Hussey walked back screaming livid.....just what happens when you are out of form. Two overs later, Cowen's wonderful debut vigil at the center came to an end, edging to Ashwin to Dhoni behind.....a superb 68 runs to start his test career. Looks a good batting prospect for the Aussies ahead....a la Justin Langer mould. Once again, the hotspot did not show any edge, & umpire's decision upheld....
With Siddle & Haddin at the crease, it looked like the Indians would be able to wipe away the tail.....the new ball in the 80th over however did not do any more trick as the Aussies ended the day at 277 for 6, with Haddin at 21 & Siddle at 34, having already added 63 runs to stabilize the innings.....both capable to wielding the willow tomorrow for some useful & crucial runs.
I felt, Dhoni did not or could not close the lid by going all out with his attack at crucial stages. Umesh Yadav bowled with spark & got dividends with 3 wickets, though he was expensive, while Zaheer bowled craftily & got 2 very important wickets to peg the Australian innings back. Ishant was good & bad in spells & Ashwin probably tried too many tricks together. For the opening day, Australia were at the receiving end of the umpiring errors, in absence of UDRS as Hussey & Cowen had to walk back in agony, while Indians celebrated. Ponting was edgy & elegant, but had grafted a solid half century......he would rue missing out on a big innings that could have helped his sagging career as well as his country's cause.
It will be interesting to see how far the Australian tail wags,......anything above 350 would make the match fascinating, as Indians would then be up against some genuine pace bowling & a roaring crowd.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

India Down Under 2012 ...Agneepath or Agonypath !!!

"Good morning & welcome to the, on the Boxing Day, India take on the might of the Aussies down under,..... the ground's lush green, light westerly wind blowing across, as the two Captains amble across to the pitch along with the Umpire & Match Referee for the toss......the stands are filling up,....people are streaming in with their beer glasses.....this is Richie Benaud along with my fellow commentator Bill Lawry"......nostalgia fills in as we remember these thickly accentuated words......its been the same over so many years....getting up early morning to switch on the TV & gape at the fascinating contest that ensues...

India vs Australia test series down under, 2012 touted as the "Agneepath Series"......the "Final Frontier" doesn't get any bigger, as the two modern era Champion teams lock on for a mouth watering contest.....this time around India under the Midas touch captaincy of Dhoni striving to achieve a series victory Down Under, a feat which has eluded the Indian team till now, while on the other hand the mighty Aussies under the captaincy of Michael Clarke, trying to regain the lost form of invincibility.
Both the sides have been wobbling over the past one year or so. India lost its No1 status to England most horrendously in the summer & the Aussies credibly drew against the Proteas at South Africa & then back home, squandered a lead to draw with New Zealand....both the team's batting coming cropper against some determined bowling by the opposition.
India arguably has the best batting line up in the world today, at least on paper, with the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, with Rohit Sharma in the reserves.....almost a never ending batting machine, with each one of them having scored at least a century in tests....seemingly invincible, capable of putting up a monumental total or chasing one. Keeping law of averages in mind, even if any three of the batsmen get amongst runs, India can safely combat any least on paper. The bowling however looks the weak link......Zaheer & Ishant, the frontline pacers with their freak fitness issues, are a worry, putting immense pressure on rookie Umesh Yadav(a tearaway pacer after a long time). The spin deptt under Ashwin & Ojha are good though, bringing in wonderful variation to test the Aussies.
Aussies currently going through a painful building process, after the retirement of Mcgrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Hayden, Gillespie, Symonds, Langar, Lee, & others. Punter Ponting is struggling with form as is Hussey, & Michael Clarke is the only batsmen with experience in the middle, with Haddin bringing up the rear. Warner, Cowan, Marsh, etc are brilliant talent, but need to establish themselves in the tests. In bowling, Pattinson, Lyon, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, etc are upcoming stars & one will need to see how they perform against the deep batting line up of India.

In all a wonderful contest on cards....a series which can go either way. India probably has the best chance for a series win, if they play to their merits, a possibility they had come tantalizingly close in the last two series, one under Saurav Ganguly in 2003, & the other under Kumble in 2007. India tends to get shrouded by individual milestones, & the agonizing wait for Sachin's 100th century has been troubling India's focus for sometime now. There's no doubt, he will achieve the feat, soon enough, but as of now, this seems to be eating into the teams focus. However, according to me, it will be the batting of Sehwag, Dravid & Laxman, which will determine India's chances along with the bowling of Zaheer & Ashwin......

Awaiting boxing day.....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week end round up in front of the TV....worth it !!!

Writing after a long hiatus is always a challenge, & I can feel that. However, the last two & a half weeks turned out to be a good resting for me, with the freak accident rendering me almost speechless for the better part of this time. Books, matches on TV, music, sleep kept my company in between jarred hours of dull throb on the jawline, sometimes bordering around feverish pain.....

Sehwag's double hundred against the hapless Windies was long long overdue. An innings characterised by non other than Sehwag himself, he took off from the word go, tearing into the Windies attack. Runs flowed like a mountain river in rains, as 50 came in 41 deliveries....100 in 69, 150 in 112 & 200 in was like a blurrrr....& finally when he holed out at long off for 219 off 149 deliveries, there were still 3 overs to go. Had he stayed till the end, he could've well gone past 250 runs !!!!!....simply unbelievable.....& that's what Virender Sehwag is in his approach & capabilities....arguably one of the most destructive batsman of all times, in any format of the game. Today, he holds the highest individual score for India in both ODI & Test matches, & is probably the only one capable of going past Lara's world record of 400 runs.....the only thing he needs to do is to stay & not gift away his wicket !!
Manoj Tiwari too did his bit over the weekend by getting his first ODI hundred in the last match of the innings played to his potential, getting the MoM award, as Rohit Sharma, with his lazy elegance picked up the Man of the Series award. The next generation batting for India looks good on the capable shoulders of these batsmen along with Virat Kohli, Raina, Pujara & others waiting in the wings.

Down Under, the Aussies were locked in an interesting duel with neighbouring the Black Caps levelled the series at Hobart in a low scoring match. David Warner's century was in a lost cause, as the Aussies tumbled to a 7 run loss against some exceptional bowling by Bracewell. The new look Aussies under Clarke, have been rather brittle in the middle order over the past few months, crashing to some inexplicable scores, while being on top....including the ignominious 47 all out against the South Africans at Cape Town. While in new rookies, Pattinson, Lyon, Cummins the Aussies have found rhythm in their bowling department, the batting seems to be tottering, with Ponting struggling at the top & Hussey in the middle.
It will be interesting to get up early mornings to watch the series Down Under between India & Australia later this month. Both the sides are undergoing transition & struggling to hit top form.

In soccer, it was the el Classico at La Liga, on Saturday night that kept me awake till the wee hours of the morning & it was worth every second of watching this fascinating contest. Barcelona vs Real Madrid, arguably the best two teams in the world today, is always a mouth watering contest. Playing before the home crowd at Bernabau, Real Madrid shot ahead in the 21st second of the match through a Karim Benzema goal & for the first 25 minutes odd, they were all over the Barca defence....but Ronaldo missed a gilt edged chance to go 2-0 up, as the Catalans slowly came back in the game. A Messi magic in the 30th minute saw, Sanchez equalize for Barca & the game started to open up. The possession play of Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Fabregas, Abidal, Puyol, Dani Alves took over & the magic started to the end the scoreline showed a convincing 3-1 win for Barca over was a superb display of football. Looking forward to more of such encounters between these two bitter rivals over the season....

I shall be back covering the Series Down keep looking for some intersting play & comments here.....
Cheerio !!!