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An end of an Innings… Sachin Tendulkar

November 11, 2013 Leave a comment

sachin attitude

Sachin Tendulkar has been the greatest sports icon for India and he inspired Indians from all walks of life. I am just one among the millions who love, admire and awed by the talent of Sachin Tendulkar on the cricketing field. For long time he was the only sports superstar that we had to boast about. Saying this I am not trying to ignore the accolades of our other sporting stars like Vishwanathan Anand, Vijay Amritraj, Prakash Padukone, Milka singh, PT Usha and others. While they were great none of them achieved anything close to what Sachin has achieved in their respective sports. They were always the brides maid never the bride. We can argue at length that cricket has much more budgets, funds and support than any other sport in India, but the fact remains that  we are a cricket crazy nation and that is the only sport where we compete at the highest level. Other than cricket I can not really think of any sport where we would be called a top class team. So why crib?

 While there are few skeptics out there who believe that there are other who were better than him;  that he only plays for records or he should have retired couple of years back, I choose to ignore them as people who speak without out facts in hand.For those who play the tune that Sachin was never a match winner and played for his centuries, pls check this analysis of his win ratio for those games he hit a century, the links are given below.

(“Another Sachin century, another match India couldn’t win…” is there merit in that statistic.) 

Centuries going down the drain….Sachin and his 12 non productive centuries

Those who are convinced that he plays for the records, I just want to add “he plays and the records follow him”. What i really like about Sachin Tendulkar is his humility. The fact that he has been humble all his live even after what he has acheived is in itself a great achievement as a human being.In the two decades we have not come come across any controversy, loose gossip or incidents that have always been associated with super stars.He is always calm, composed and always speaks with  dignity that befitted someone who is not only a great sportstar but a good human too. He is someone who can be a sporting idol for current generation and generations to come.

 As his innings comes to a close and and he walks back in to the pavilion one last time, I tSachin-Tendulkar byehought is is just right to compile all that he has achieved on the green circle. Given below are 200 facts about Sachin that you may like to know.

(Compiled from internet)

1. His father named him after the legendary music director Sachin Dev Burman.

2. During his school days, he grew his hair and tied a band around it to copy his idol, tennis legend John McEnroe.

3. While growing up, Sachin would ask his friend Ramesh Pardhe to dip a rubber ball in water and hurl it at him to see the wet marks left on the bat to know whether he had middled the ball!

Read more…

A Very Very Special (V.V.S.)Laxman

August 21, 2012 Leave a comment

There are Batsmen and there are artists, just like a shot that sends a ball flying over the mid-off to cross the boundary and a gentle flick of the ball from the off stump that send the ball racing to the square leg boundary . There are a lot of great batsmen with amazing stats in international cricket, but the artists are endangered species. VVS Laxman   is one of those artists on the endangered list who just got extinct.

Of all the supremely gifted Indian stroke makers of the last two decades, arguably none have dazzled in quite the manner of the man dubbed ‘Very Very Special’. When in full flow Laxman’s effortless grace at the wicket is unmatched in the world game and while he hasn’t consistently matched the run-scoring feats of his contemporaries Tendulkar and Dravid (and there’s no disgrace in that), he has produced innings of such class and significance that his status as one of the modern era’s most gifted technicians is secured. Like other Indian artist of yesteryears notably Gundappa Viswanath, Azhar, and Dravid in recent years VVS would not only bring India out of its self-inflected batting woes , he would always do that in style, there was always beauty in the way he approached the job he is assigned. Wristy, willowy and sinuous, he can match – sometimes even better – Tendulkar for stroke play. His on-side game is comparable to his idol Azharuddin’s, yet he is decidedly more assured on the off side and has the rare gift of being able to hit the same ball to either side. He truly justifies his dressing room nickname “VVS…Very Very Special”

VVS affinity with Australia seems to be legendary.  A lot has been said and even more written about his 281 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001, when he helped India win after being forced to follow on, and his 73 not out at Mohali in 2010, when he overcame a sore back and guided his team to a thrilling one-wicket triumph while batting with tail-enders, both against Australia. He then spoiled Steve Waugh’s farewell Test series. A backs-to-the-wall 303-run stand with Rahul Dravid sets up the famous victory in Adelaide before a dazzling 178 in Sydney and a triple-century partnership with Sachin Tendulkar gives India a chance to seal the series

The Australians give him a rare compliment by acknowledging that it is not only difficult to ball but and almost impossible to set a field for VVS, he can hit the same ball to either sides of the field with the same effort. His affinity for Australia started early. In his first outing with the India Under-19s, he averaged 110.25 in three Tests against the visiting Australian U-19 team, which includes Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds. He ends his career next to Sachin as second largest runs scored by an Indian against Australia.

He was a master of winning loosing battles; his fourth innings specials gave us hope for a win or a draw  even in some hopeless conditions. Chasing a testing fourth-innings target of 257 in Colombo, Laxman eases to an unbeaten 103. After being four down for 62, India canters to a five-wicket win. Next time it was rescuing the team from even deeper problems. Chasing 216 against Australia, India were 124 for 8 when Laxman put on his Superman cape again, scoring an undefeated 73 to steer India to a one-wicket victory. For me even his 96 against South Africa in a low scoring 2nd Innings was one that defined him as India’s finest artist. In a match where the second highest score of a batsman was 39, VVS was able to muster a 38 and 96 to secure the match for India.

He was an orthodox player with some very unorthodox shots. With a large repertoire of shots VVS could have been a great ODI player, but for some unexplainable reason he was never able to maintain his position in the team. I was really surprised to learn that in his entire test career Laxman hit only 5 sixes. It is, of course, as a classical Test batsman that Laxman will always be spoken of in glowing terms by those with a sense of art and aesthetic, beauty and poetry, perfection and style.

I believe he never got what he deserved, like the Unknown Soldier, he came and performed and went back. He was the soldier who was lost among the war heroes of his time. When the blaster, master and the wall failed, he was there to get India out of its peril.  It makes me sad that he retired without much fanfare; I wish he was there to sign off in style with NZ series in India. He would always be remembered for his touch of genius and as a perfect gentleman.

In Tendulkar country

January 30, 2012 2 comments

In Tendulkar country.

An American writer new to cricket, experiences the first couple of weeks of the World Cup, navigating the madness of a billion fans and chasing the soul of the game.  An exception writer and a great story to see Cricket from the perspective of an outsider. This is a brilliant story……..

Dravid, the cricketer of substance

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Rahul Dravid a Legend

For eight months now the Indian cricket fan has waited with breathless anticipation for the ultimate cricket icon, Sachin Tendulkar, to score his 100th international hundred. All this while, one man has stayed under the radar, doing what he has done with quiet efficiency for several years now. In this season of hype and noise, of made-for-TV fasts and high-pitched spectacles, Rahul Dravid has reaffirmed one’s faith in old fashioned values of solidity and integrity. The 38-year-old Bangalorean, in the autumn of a glorious cricketing career, has shown that true class doesn’t need a megaphone for self-promotion but only needs an unswerving commitment to one’s profession. In the process, Dravid has provided an inspiration to the silent majority who prefer their heroes to be performers rather than showmen.

To be in the limelight and yet stay out of it can’t be easy and yet Dravid has handled the highs and lows of life with equanimity and perhaps greater dignity than most of his peers. Remember Dravid’s first test in 1996 was also a debut match for Saurav Ganguly. Comrades in the revival of Indian cricket, their attitude to life and the game could have been scarcely more different.

Ganguly was the ‘Prince of Kolkata’, almost born to rule. Dravid, by contrast, carried a rather more prosaic epithet – ‘The Wall’. Ganguly was emotional and excitable, baring his chest to adoring supporters at Lords in a coming of age cricketing moment. Somehow, one can’t imagine Dravid revealing his biceps in public. When Ganguly was dropped, Kolkata came out on the streets. If Dravid were to be dropped, it is doubtful that the traffic would stop on Bangalore’s MG Road. Perhaps, Ganguly’s ebullience made him the better captain, but clearly Dravid’s dedication has ensured longevity.

Of his contemporaries, only Tendulkar stands ahead of him in terms of runs and centuries. Perhaps playing in the Tendulkar era has meant that we have never quite been able to appreciate the full range of Dravid’s skills. The Bradman age saw the emergence of many great batsmen but such was Sir Don’s influence on the game that all others were overshadowed. The Tendulkar phenomenon has had a similar effect. And yet, if Tendulkar is the artist, Dravid has been the artisan, chiselling away at perfecting his craft to the point where he can actually claim to be in the same exalted space as the Mumbai genius.

In some respects, Dravid actually has the edge over the mighty Tendulkar. For example, if you exclude Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, Dravid’s average in overseas series is marginally better than Sachin’s as is his contribution to India’s overseas wins. Quite remarkably, 32 of his 36 test centuries have come in wins or draws, confirming his stature as a true match winner. Add to nearly 13,000 test runs, the small matter of 10,000 ODI runs and 200 plus test catches, and his place as an all time great is assured.

And yet, more than the runs, it’s the character of the man that has stood out. In a long international career, there is only one controversy that one can associate with Dravid: when as stand-in captain against Pakistan in Multan, he declared the Indian innings with Tendulkar batting at 194 not out. For those who see Sachin as a demi-god, the declaration was seen as the ultimate act of apostasy, designed to prevent a living deity from reaching yet another milestone. For Dravid, it was the result of a philosophy that always put team above individual, a mindset that even led him to become a wicket-keeper for a while in the ultimate interests of Indian cricket.

2011 has perhaps best defined the man’s spirit. Dropped from the One Day side, not considered good enough to play in the World Cup, battling with form, it would have been easy for Dravid to opt out. Amidst a slew of talented young batsmen, Dravid could have been forgiven for feeling like an antique item. This was, we were repeatedly told, the era of 20-20 cricket, of heavy bats and big sixes. Technique was seen as a cricketing romantic’s nostalgic yearning; contemporary cricket was all about speed and power. Dravid’s best shot was his forward defence, head right over the ball, a stroke many believed was best left to practise in a coaching manual, not on the cricket field. And yet, it is that very defensive correctness that has seen Dravid succeed in England this year when the young guns around him struggled.

Indeed, this has been the year when Dravid the batsman re-invented himself, not for the first time. In the late 90s, he wasn’t considered good enough for limited overs cricket. Not one to be easily disheartened, he worked at his game to the point where he was the top scorer in the 1999 world cup. This year, he was picked for his first ever 20-20 international, a seemingly desperate move by an Indian cricket selection system that was running out of options. Dravid responded by stroking three consecutive sixes, his way of reminding the Indian cricket fan that a genius in sport will not be chained by format.

It is possible that having answered every challenge, Dravid will seriously consider retirement soon. There are very few cricketing mountains he has left to climb and there will be no doubt a desire to spend more time with a young family. When he does eventually take the final bow, it’s unlikely to be a dramatic announcement. Somehow, theatrics and Rahul Dravid simply don’t go together. He will wish to fade quietly into the sunset, leaving behind memories of a bagful of runs, plenty of catches, but above all, a resoluteness of purpose. In an age of umpteen page three mini-celebrities, Dravid is a page one star to be treasured.

Source:http://tinyurl.com/d36trvj

The Wands of Magicians…Cricket Bats

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Cricket Bats The most fascinating aspect of a game of cricket is it batsmen. They are the ones that make you dose off on your couch or go to a doctor after the match because you have a couple of nails missing. It is their ability with a piece of willow against a 100 miles projectile that keeps us glued to the idiot box, or send a million people in a stadium go into mass hysteria. These are magicians of the game and they spin their magic with their special wands—the Cricket Bat.

I was talking to a dear friend and he suggested that i work on article that details the kind of bats that master batsmen use, specialty of their wands and i thought that it was a good Idea. But when i started researching on the bats, i felt i was unlocking a magical world. There was so much about that piece of willow that i never knew about, i thought will do a longer journey through the knowledge space, from the silent tree on English country side to the deafening  cacophony of a magic wand in the hands of a magician in a packed arena.

I though it would be appropriate to start with the wand of thekrw2bzqt grand wizard of Cricket, Sir Don Bradman, more akin to the elder wand of the “Deathly Hallows fame”. It all started for Don with a “Duke and Sons” light weight,medium grain English willow Wand (Pic On the right). This is the bat that he played his first match. He made 18 Runs and got dropped from the team after that.

He later moved on to use bats made by Sykes and Son from Yorkshire and continued to use the four crowned Sykes bat till he retired.In a local match using bat on the right the wizard hit 100 runs in 3 over’s. This is one record that no mortal can ever break. (Well it technically not possible any more with 6 ball over’s)

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So the question, What are these Wands Made of ?

Willow

After the COMBAT incident in WACA cricket ground in Perth in December 1979, where Dennis

Lillee used an aluminium bat and was unceremoniously disallowed, ICC ruled that cricket bat must be made from wood. English Willow is now the chosen favourite at test level. The cricket bat willow is a special hybrid of Salix Alba and is called Salix Alba Caerulae which may be a hybrid between white willow and cracked willow. English willow as it is called, is by nature a soft fibrous wood, with a “honeycomb” type cell structure. It is perfect for the manufacture of cricket bats, It is lightwood, strong, does not splinter, has natural moisture and its ability to be pressed in the manufacturing process to give great ball striking qualities. The fact that it grows quickly makes it commercially viable. Almost all of Salix Alba Caerulae population in England is commercially grown to manufacture Cricket Bats.

Kashmir Willow : At test Level English willow is considered a better choice than Kashmir willow. K-willow is considered to be heavy, harder and prone to cracking. It does not have the grain quality and structure of English counterpart. But if a bat is made by a master bat maker there would be no difference in the balance and lift of bat compared to an English willow bat. It is value for money and is considered better than buying a grade 3 or 4 English willow bat. K-Willow is recommended for beginners and enthusiasts but for  more serious cricket, its english cousin is recommended. English willow is whiter in colour and grainy in appearance, whereas Kashmir willow is brownish in colour and less grainy

Most bats are made from English Willow which by nature is a soft fibrous wood, with a “honeycomb” type cell structure. It is perfect for the manufacture of cricket bats because of its natural moisture and its ability to be pressed in the manufacturing process to give great ball striking qualities. Starter and particularly smaller Junior size bats tend to utilise more lower priced Kashmir Willow… this is harder and therefore more resilient but generally gives less ball striking satisfaction

Grade

I mentioned Grade above. Grade is the visual quality of the wood. Once the tree is cut they are shaped into clefts. These clefts/blades are examined to determine the grade based on the quality of the grain and the coloration. Once graded, the blades are sent off to the bat-makers who then bring out the most out of the blade as they shape the bat from the cleft.

The grade of Willow has not proved to have affected the playing ability of the bat. It is the visual quality of the bat. A grade A bat is the most attractive bat that you buy, it does not imply that is the best playing bat. But most professional bats are Grade 1 or Grade  2 bats.

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Grain

Rate of Growth of Tree and grain

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(http://www.cricketbatwillow.com/blades.php)

The Willow is available in three standards based on the Grain:Wide, Average and Narrow. A wide Grain will have 4-5 grains, an average grain will have about 10-15 and there will more than 20 grains on a narrow grain bat.The grain on the bat is dependent on the rate of growth of the willow tree. Each grain typically indicates one year.If the tree grew rapidly before it is cut  it would have a wide grain. This is the kind of tree that is grown commercially. They have an average life span of 15 years before they reach their maturity. The narrow grain variety is generally cut after 25-30 years of growth. The bats that have a Narrow grain will be quicker and play better than the wide grain bats, but tend to have a shorter life span than the wide grain bats. Since the wood is not old in wide-grain bats they tend to be stronger and will mature to be really good bats.

If you want to read further on the topic there is a good article on it at the blow link. refer to the section Narrow grain or Wide Grain. http://www.middlepeg.com/cricketbatwillow.htm. For the more adventurous who like to understand how are the trees grown, the best reference would be J.S. Wright & Sons website, they are the authority on the subject.

Continued next page…

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But you were Out.. Mr.Bell

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

By Sunil Varma

 image There is something about the English and their afternoon tea. Mr. Bell was so peevish without his evening tea; he forgot that he had to wait till the ball is officially dead. With his mind set on receiving a well-deserved pat and those Marie biscuits, he got himself run-out in a farcical way. He wandered out of his crease, thinking it is tea time but was stranded midway between his biscuits and the pitch when Praveen Kumar rose from his slumber and sent the ball back to the keeper. After some ado the third empire called Ian Bell out.

Rest of the story is more like a Bollywood drama, a wronged man gets what he deserves because of the good deeds of the another good man. Dhoni comes victorious as the virtuous leader who plays for the spirit of the game rather than to win. He might although have to answer some awkward questions from billion cricket crazy fans back home, if he lost the current test.

Ian Bell deserved to be out, he played sloppy cricket. Is it not in the spirit of the game that he should have said? “Mate, I was sloppy and I got out. Sorry captain (Strauss), but I cannot go back and play. It is bad for the spirit of the game”. He said no such thing but came back running like a kid give a second chance to bat after he got out. Would the English have shown the same philanthropy if it was Dravid on the crease instead of Bell? A little birdie tells me that, they would have shut the dressing room door tight, lest Dhoni might come and ask them to re-consider.

check these clips to find out

It made no sense, Paul Collingwood should have recalled the batsman, it was an accident and was complete gamesmanship to uproot the bails when the runner was biting the dust in the middle of the crease because of the bowler.Check  Tit For Tat from New Zealand, the irony is Paul was part of this.

The interesting part is this is not the first time something as bizarre has happened. In 1974, in a test between England and West Indies at Port of Spain, the same drama was being played. Ian bell was being played by the charismatic Kalicharan and Praveen Kumar was being played by the now famous commentator Tony Greig. The screen unfolded on the last ball of the second day, of the test. The Batsman Julian Bernard ran the ball the pitch to Tony Grieg and Kalicharan assuming it to be end of day was out of his crease. Not wanting to lose the opportunity Tony knocked the stumps down. The empire called “OUT”.

There was huge outcry from the public very similar to the public outcry at Trent Bridge. After a huge protest from the West Indies and a lot deliberations, between the captains (Rohan Kanhai and Mike Dennesse) and the match officials, English team apologized and recalled Kalicharan, who interestingly went on to score 158 runs. (Ian Bell scored 159)

In 1989 series India vs. Pakistan Wasim Akram got Srikanth on the legs and the umpire called him LBW. Kris being Kris show dissent and was very vocal about it, he contested that he nicked the ball. I was watching that match live and even as kid I found it childish at international cricket. Imran the benevolent, called him back to play, and Wasim got him out the next ball caught behind. Kris was out he should not have been called back either.

There was also another incident again with India and England in 1979, a match being played at Mumbai then Bombay. Gundappa Vishwanath recalled Bob Taylor to the crease after he was given caught behind by the umpire. Taylor went on to make 43 in the first Innings and did not need to bat in the second as England won the match by ten wickets. But the difference in this match was the umpire made a wrong call but in the earlier two incidents the batsmen were genuinely out.I am not sure if it is right to recall a batsman who was callous and got himself out.

These incidents are not uncommon in cricket, but I have not come across similar situations in any other team sport being played at national level. Would it not have been great sportsmanship, if Maradona went ahead and let his little secret about his infamous golden hand world-cup goal to the opposition? I have not come across anything similar in any other sport either. I guess other than cricket the game is played to win, in cricket the game is played for the game itself. (Did that make sense?)

It is not that Cricket is always played in spirit of the game. There are two incidents that I can recall, which went against all accepted norms of sportsmanship and sprit of the game.

The first one is the legendary bodyline series between England and Australia in 1932-33, devised to combat the extraordinary batting skills of Bradman. A bodyline delivery was one where the cricket ball was pitched short so as to rise towards the body of the batsman on the line of the leg stump, in the hope of creating leg-side deflections that could be caught by one of several fielders in the quadrant of the field behind square leg. This was considered by many to be intimidatory and physically threatening, to the point of being unfair in a game once supposed to have gentlemanly traditions, but commercialization of the game has subsequently tended to elevate the principle of ‘win at all costs’ above traditional ideals of sportsmanship. England won the series 4-1

The second one is more recent and it involved ourown Chappell. In 1981 Australia playing  against New Zealand in the third match of the five match Benson & Hedges world series cup at MCC, Greg Chappell asked his brother Trevor Chappell to deliver the last ball underarm to prevent New Zealand from scoring a six they need to tie the game. Underarm ball was technically legal like the bodyline ball, but it is totally against the spirit of the game, but Australia won the game.

India lost the match to England, with 30 minutes and a day to spare and a deficit of more than 300 runs. Stanly Ipkiss you were right buddy “nice Guys end last”

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