Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dream Shattered, but the Tigers come of age.....

When Bangladesh restricted Pakistan to a modest 236 for 9, it seemed they would cruise to a well deserved victory in the finals of the Asia Cup. The Mirpur stadium, over packed to capacity, screaming & dancing furiously in anticipation, looked all set to realize a dream.....a mega tournament victory, that was for the takings.
Despite Tamim's well made half century at the top, & Shakib's gallant 60+ try in the middle, the others allowed mind demons to take over & the chase kept going out of hands for Bangladesh, as the crowd caved into a painful silence. With 47 runs needed in the last five overs, hard hitting by Mahmadullah, Mashrafe & captain Mushfiqur brought the crowd back to life & expectancy. But with just four runs needed off the last two deliveries, Abdur Razzak messed up, getting bowled out & Shahadat could only manage one was all over. Pakistan had sneaked victory as Bangladesh frittered away their best chance till date to win a mega tournament.
The Bangladeshi players looked paralyzed stunned into silence.....Captain Mushfiqur hid his face, weeping inconsolably as Shakib held him in embrace, tears streaming down.....both thinking, "Wish I stayed a little longer with the bat"....& surely, had any one of them held nerves & stayed at the wicket, Bangladesh would have been sure winners & deservingly so....but then, this is cricket....the best of the dreams shatter !!! The whole country would probably take time to recover from this near miss.......

No credit can be taken away from the Bangladeshi cricketers, as they fought like real tigers. They were the real winners from this tournament. In the round robin league, they had lost narrowly to Pakistan, before credibly defeating World Champions India & former World Cup Champions Sri Lanka to reach the finals. Here too, they seemed a well oiled team with belief in their abilities & should have crossed the finishing line, with a little more luck & pluck !!!
As a team, Bangladesh should now look forward....they have achieved a lot from this tournament....they have world class players in Shakib ul Hasan, Mashrafe, Tamim Iqbal etc & have all that takes to become Champions..... they are maturing as a cricket playing nation & should be a strength to reckon with ahead.

All the best Bangladesh....

Friday, March 16, 2012

The 100th Century......finally

 5.05 pm local time, the Mirpur Stadium packed to capacity, like sardines in a box, watched in eager anticipation, as in the 44th over of the Indian innings, Sachin nudged Shakib Al Hasan behind square & ambled across….the crowd erupted in joy & relief.....finally the wait was over….for the masses, for the innumerable fans across the globe, for the critics, for the detractors…..& for the GOD of Cricket himself ...the 100th century milestone achieved against a pleading yet enterprising Bangladesh bowling attack. One of the most talked about landmarks in cricketing history ever. As the decibel level crossed new sound barriers in the stadium & across India, the weary old youth of cricket, took off his helmet, looked up at the sky, waved his bat at the dressing room in acknowledgement. He then pointed his bat handle at the India flag sign on his helmet…..probably saying, “I always play for my country India…..& that’s my greatest motivation”. 
This probably has been one of his longest & weariest wait(the longest & the fiercest wait would be the World Cup win last summer…..that was a wait for 22 years !!!)….as the expectations kept weighing him down every time he strode into bat over the last one year…..there have been so many close calls, since his 99th hundred…..the near misses floated from Mohali to Lords to Oval to Mumbai to Melbourne to Sydney, Down Under….so near & yet so far, tentative prods, tantalizingly many times …. certainly frustrating & painful….drawing parallel with Samuel Beckett’s famous book  ”Waiting for Godoth” … very true !!..... Statistically Sachin has got out 27 times in the nervous 90’s in his career thus far…..staggering, isn’t it !!!
This wait was for 368 days & 33 innings, weighing down almost every cricketing fan, especially the Indian fan…..praying feverishly to get over with….& Sachin himself acknowledged saying, “this was the toughest of them all”……baring his human side. Though many critics would reflect, why here??....why against minnows Bangladesh???.....why scale 100th century on a losing cause????(India lost the match)…… but a lot many more would heave a sigh of relief, including Sachin himself….its over man… if freed from a invisible imprisonment!!!!! Will anyone ever emulate this feat ???..... Well as they say, “Mushkil hi Nahi, Namumkin hai”….not just difficult, its impossible…..

Retirement next ??? or is there something else to achieve yet?????.......well only Sachin can answer that……..
The new hairstyle, the new found arrogance in words, the feeling light factor, hopefully contributes for the Indian cricket ahead……as we all build expectations again…..on some new milestone !!!!
Way to go Sachin….. we worship your genius…..

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Monumental Wall...A Cricketer & A Gentleman

It all ended at a press conference in Bangalore today…the 9th of March’2012……Rahul Dravid, The Wall, decided to hang his boots from international & rest his National Cap, which he wore for glorious 16 + years. He said he was leaving the game "Sad but Proud"…. It wasn’t an easy decision, but he was comfortable with it because it was time to move on & let the next generation take over !!!!......The announcement, so typical of Dravid….quietly solid & authentic.....once again, without fanfare & glitz....just plain, simple & workmanlike. The Wall spoke in the presence of his former team mate Anil Kumble, someone with whom he has shared the dressing room & the cricketing grounds across the globe over years…..
Almost always, staying in the shadows of more celebrated & glamorous fellow cricketers, Rahul will be ever remembered as one of the last of the classical Test batsman, for his technique, grit, & workmanlike attitude of never giving up & batting for prolonged periods, building brick by brick, grinding the opposition attack to dust,…..The Wall went on to become the monument of Indian batting, the perfectionist, the backbone & foundation over which players with gifted flair like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag, & others flourished & hogged limelight.
Many felt he should have bid adieu to international cricket after the 2011 series in England, where he top scored the series & was the only Indian batsman thwarting the English swing attack, albeit for a losing cause……in the very next series Down Under, The Wall was repeatedly breached….an ugly sight for his innumerable fans all over. The gentleman just kept trying manfully, oblivious of his critics.

They say that the morning shows the day & Dravid’s debut at Lords in 1996 was typical of what the world would be witnessing over the next decade & a half. A debut century missed by 5 runs, as his partner Ganguly, also on debut, scorched the offside & the cameras for a brilliant hundred. The Wall was clearly in the making…..the quintessential worker…the mason who built tirelessly for others to take centre stage. However, Dravid would be remembered as one of the greatest player of his generation & certainly one of the most accomplished of all times. He scored 13,288 Test runs - behind only Tendulkar - in 164 matches, with 36 hundreds at an average of 52.31. He has faced 31,258 deliveries in test matches, battling in 88 century partnerships with various players, both all time records in test cricket history. His ODI career, which effectively ended in 2008 with a brief reprisal in 2011, yielded more than 10,000 runs and 12 centuries. He also has 210 catches, a Test record, in addition to 196 catches in ODIs…stupendous statistics by any stretch of imagination.  He has been one of the fittest players of his time which allowed him to play 93 test matches on the trot from his debut. In his tenure for Indian cricket, he was arguably our best batsman abroad. 
If there was anything he did not relish in cricket, it was keeping wickets or opening the batting, & as divine interventions would have it, he had to do both….& he did with iron resolution & with splendid results for himself & the team.
While it would be difficult to single out a particular innings for Dravid, a few would certainly feature amongst arguably his best. The 180 against Steve Waugh’s marauding Aussies at Kolkata in 2001 in a match winning partnership with Laxman,….the 233 against Australia at Adelaide in 2003, the 148 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1997, the 148 against England at Headingly in 2002, the 270 against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 2004 & certainly 117 against England at Nottingham in 2011……all pure gems.

Time moves on & so will cricket, but come what may, Rahul Dravid, The Wall…or shall we say, The Monument, will be sorely missed….in the dressing room, on the pitch facing furious bowling attacks, the dependable pair of hands at slips….the man, the machine, the gentleman, the cricketer, the silent good man, who never stopped trying. 

We will miss you Jammie…