Category: Field reports (Page 1 of 2)

Vintage Yuvraj puts Pakistan in the shade

Yuvraj Singh

It was a Yuvraj special that made the difference in Birmingham

Yuvraj Singh announced his arrival in international cricket in a tournament then known as the International Cricket Council KnockOut in Nairobi. Exactly 295 One-Day Internationals later, he was difference between a decent score and a matchwinning one in the ICC Champions Trophy, a solid 17 years later.

The stage changed from sunny Nairobi to wet Birmingham, the tournament renamed itself, the opposition was not Steve Waugh’s Australia but Sarfaraz Ahmed’s Pakistan. One thing remained endearingly the same: Yuvraj dug out a Glenn McGrath full ball with ferocious intent then, and Hasan Ali suffered the same fate, the followthrough that once reminded the late great Hanif Mohammad of Garry Sobers, being shortened to an economical punch.

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Williamson is more than able to compete with the best

Kane Williamson

Kane Williamson is more than able to compete with the best

For all those people wondering why the Indian team’s principal sponsor is a Chinese mobile phone manufacturer while India’s biggest dairy producer is proudly on the front of the Black Caps’ jerseys, Kane Williamson provided the answer on a rain-drenched Friday in Birmingham.

After scoring a century that was typically smooth, not one shot played in anger despite bringing up three figures off only 96 balls against an Australian attack that was rated among the best at the Champions Trophy, Williamson refused to curse his team’s luck after rain cut short Australia’s innings with them 25 runs behind on the Duckworth-Lewis Stern curve.

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All-round India too good for Pakistan

India v Pakistan

Predictable Pakistan are mercurial no more

It was not so long ago that Indian fans went into a World Cup honestly thinking that the final result was irrelevant. Reaching the final was good, winning would be a bonus, but beating Pakistan on the way there was non-negotiable. In Birmingham at the 2017 Champions Trophy there was a mildly anti-climactic feel toIndia’s comfortable 124-run win.

Here was a Pakistan team that neither mercurial nor unpredicatable. Here was an Indian team on top of its game in almost every respect. For once, India even had a fast-bowling attack far superior to the one it was facing. There was no Imran, no Wasim, no Waqar, no Shoaib, and only in Mohammad Amir’s first spell, especially the testing maiden over to Rohit Sharma first up did the match feel like a contest.

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Cricket in the time of terror

India v Pakistan

The on-field action was largely calm and quiet

It was not quite Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but there was an eerie sense of calm at leafy Edgbaston where India and Pakistan played cricket in the backdrop of the atrocities of London. Not one full sleep after a van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge, that most English of landmarks, and knife-wielding men slashed and stabbed people at a restaurant in Borough Market, cricket provided a soothing oasis of normalcy.

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Nice guys New Zealand take on arch rivals

New Zealand v Australia

Do nice guys always finish last?

What can you expect when one of the nicest teams in world cricket takes on one built on a legacy of aggression, snarling and on-field skirmishes? New Zealand transformed the way audiences viewed cricketers when they rose to Brendon McCullum’s calls to play the game in a manner that was both attacking and well-behaved.

Kane Williamson, the man taking forward McCullum’s world view, has ensured that even in the face of severe provocation, the focus remains on runs and wickets, with his mates not falling into the trap or responding with words. He might be in for a bit of a surprise in the latest Australia-New Zealand clash, for Australia’s players are embroiled in a fight with their cricket board that may leave them with no appetite to dish it out on the field.

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What next for inventive Birmingham?

Birmingham

The world has much to thank Birmingham for

Maternity, it is often said, is a certainty, while paternity is a myth. And so it bears that necessity may be the mother of invention, but Birmingham never got credit for being the father.

Anyone reading these words, with acceptable and understandable skepticism should know they would not be doing so, if not for the good folk of the City of a Thousand Trades.

After all, it was Conway Berners-Lee, Birmingham bred, who brought the world the first computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, in 1951, and whose son Tim put forward the first proposal for something that we now know as the World Wide Web, in 1989. But before solving the transmission conundrum, there was the small matter of listening to the players, and Birmingham’s Michael Gerzon invented the microphone, in 1975. Go back further to 1822 and you can thank John Mitchell, who pioneered the technology of mass producing steel-nib pens when the quill was still mightier than the sword.

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It’s all backwards at the Champions Trophy

Economic Times

It’s the other way around, silly.

Where heroes become champions. The International Cricket Council greets fans and players alike with this slogan at the 2017 Champions Trophy. Entering the Oval where India were taking on Bangladesh in a practice match, several punters were scratching their heads. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, they asked, hoping that their heroes might win the tournament and become champions.

The slogan, no doubt coined by some creative genius in an office, works brilliantly, if not in the way literally intended. After all, there is so much about this tournament that seems to be backwards. 

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Man proposes, rain disposes

KSCA

The officials at KSCA must be asking, what more can we do?

A healthy Tuesday crowd at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore enjoyed the relief from the heat that evening showers brought, but many would have been flabbergasted at the actions of the ground staff. Each time the rain stopped, the ground staff removed the three giant covers that protected the square and the practice pitches, dumping the water on the outfield. No super-soppers were called for, no mucking about with sponges and the like.

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How Kohli won hearts while losing ‘friends’

Virat Kohli

Kohli’s India won’t take a backward step
© Economic Times

Virat Kohli is no sore loser, so it was ironic that the afterglow of his greatest series victory was tinged with bitterness. India got the better of Australia, 2-1, with an emphatic victory in Dharamsala but even as Kohli won hearts through a glorious home season that ended with India having beaten all opposition, he found that the people he once considered friends were anything but.

With India being the No. 1 Test team in the world, and having the rare honour of simultaneously holding victories against each of the other nine teams in the world, with the ICC’s US$ 1 million coming their way and the Indian board announcing generous bonuses, it should have been all smiles. But, the toxic undercurrent that has poisoned this series left Kohli with no option but to reassess his relationship with some members of the opposition.

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One man’s brain fade is another’s cheating

Steve Smith

Steve Smith dishes it out, but expects the benefit of doubt for himself
© Cricbuzz

There is no thing easier than being moral when it’s convenient to you. It’s also relatively easy to be gracious when everything is going your way, when you are on top of the world, and every decision you take bears fruit. Under pressure, when it seems like the world is against you, when nothing you do works out, is when a person’s true nature reveals itself.

For two days, the final India-Australia Test match has been played in the best possible spirit. With Virat Kohli out of the game, and the “chilled out” Ajinkya Rahane leading India, this was always going to be a less contentious contest than the ones that went before. It was Steven Smith, in Bangalore, who derailed what was a peaceful outing, given the history of bad blood between these teams, attempting to take unfair advantage and help from his dressing-room over a DRS call. Smith was contrite enough after, explaining away his actions as a “brain fade.” At first, it seemed that he had made an honest mistake in the heat of the moment. After all, if the attempt was to cheat – a word Virat Kohli never used but has been an undercurrent of all interactions ever since he suggested that the public moment was not the first time this had happened – Smith might have attempted more subterfuge. But, with all the shenanigans that unfolded off the field, involving bosses from cricket boards, former and current players, journalists writing about each other and fans slugging it out on social media, the last thing this series needed was a fresh infusion of spite and pettiness. Unfortunately, that was exactly what Smith provided, his behaviour reverting to the stereotype that gave rise to the term ugly Australian, in cricketing circles. When M Vijay caught Josh Hazlewood, at slip off R Ashwin, and the batsman began his walk back to the pavilion, the catcher began his sprint back to the dressing-room, to get padded up to open the innings, the umpires decided they wanted a closer look at the catch. The third umpire, Chris Gaffaney, looked at videos over and over and decided that the ball had brushed the turf before getting under Vijay’s fingers. It is not unusual for catches taken close to the turf to be ruled bump balls even when the fielder has fingers under the ball, thanks to a phenomenon known as foreshortening. When looking at two-dimensional visuals of a three-dimensional event, as is the case with television replays, an element of doubt creeps in, and in the case of low catches this always goes in the batsman’s favour. Could Vijay have known that the ball had gone from edge straight to hand? Should he have realised that the catch may not have been a clean one? Could he have immediately suggested that he did not know for sure if the dismissal was straightforward? These intangible questions will never be satisfactorily answered, but anyone who has played even a basic level of cricket will know that it is entirely possible for a close-in fielder not to know for sure whether he has caught a ball cleanly, in that split second when the action happens. A fielder’s natural instinct is to appeal, which is all Vijay did. Why Smith, sitting in the viewing area outside the dressing room, assumed that Vijay knew he had not caught it cleanly and yet claimed the catch, made evident by his most eloquent outburst caught cleanly by television cameras: “F***ing cheat”, is anyone’s guess. Smith, who has been caught doing something the wider world will agree, falls closer to the cheating end of the spectrum than the brain fade, may well claim that he said “F***ing shit” rather than the more offensive version, should it come to that. Graeme Hick, Australia’s batting coach, fronted the media on the day and did his best to defuse the situation, saying he knew nothing of what Smith might or might not have said. When pressed, Hick, a quality slip fielder himself, said: “Close to the bat, sometimes you’re not 100% sure. He would’ve felt it go into his fingers and felt that it was a clean catch.” Smith, clearly did not believe in giving Vijay, the benefit of doubt. Why he then expects anyone to extend the same courtesy to him, for his alleged brain fade, is anyone’s guess. Smith may not have heard of Laurence Sterne, the Irish novelist and clergyman, but he will do well to ponder one simple line on the long flight back to Australia: “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

(This article first appeared on Cricbuzz on March 28, 2017)

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