The video that you’ve been waiting to watch has downloaded 99% and just as you get ready to click play, the connection drops. The ATM that hasn’t been refilled in a week is finally working and after waiting patiently in the queue, it runs out of cash just as you reach the door. The European vacation you’ve been planning your whole life is within reach thanks to a bonus, but you can’t get a visa because your passport is about to expire. These are the kind of third-world problems that readers of this column will only be too familiar with.
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A long home season beckoned India, and Ravindra Jadeja was less than pleased when he had to leave his beloved horses behind and make the trip to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. But there was work to be done. Even Jadeja did not know just how much.
While he has always been accurate, Jadeja was slowly acquiring a reputation of being a great bad-wicket bowler who was merely steady on other surfaces. Jadeja, it was felt, was truly effective only when bowling straight on rank turners. This, of course, was not true, but as the high and mighty like to put it, perception matters as much as reality.
Soon after making his Ranji Trophy debut for Bengal back in 2007, Saha established himself as the premier glovesman in Indian first class cricket. Moving naturally on his feet, anticipating well, at ease standing back to the quick men and at his best close to the stumps against the spinners, Saha was the most skilled and agile wicketkeeper since perhaps Nayan Mongia. And yet, despite making his Test debut in 2010, Saha would rack up just three Test matches in four years, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from the longest format in Melbourne.
They are usually the biggest men on a cricket field. When they are doing their jobs properly, it makes for spectacular theatre. New ball in hand, four slips waiting at the far end, a fast bowler gathering momentum from his long run, driving through the crease and straining every sinew in his body in an explosive action to send down a thunderbolt is one of cricket’s greatest sights. The snarling that follows is merely an added bonus. Fast bowlers, cricket’s hardest working athletes, rarely ever go unnoticed.
It’s 7.30 in the morning and the Pune sun is yet to become its harsh best.
There is a lone batsman out at the nets. He’s taking throw-downs from a left-arm spinner who is firing the ball in flat and at pace. The batsman is not wearing a front pad because he wants to develop the habit of feeling the ball on the middle of his bat, ruling out pad play and with it the lbw. The batsman in question is Steven Smith, Australia’s captain, and the man walking him through this extra practice session, while a Test match is on, is S. Sriram. If one image summed up Australia’s mentality as they attempted to tame India and its conditions, it is this.
“It’s a great day for singin’ a song and it’s a great day for movin’ along. And it’s a great day from morning to night. And it’s a great day for everybody’s plight.”
The immortal Lt. Col. Frank Slade, played by the peerless Al Pacino in the timeless movie, Scent of a Woman, goes from being the grumpiest sourpuss on the planet to the happiest man in the world in a classic scene that anyone who has watched the movie will remember as long as they live. To be at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, a nameless face among a throbbing sea of humanity in the stands of a great cricket ground on a day when the home team overcame a determined and worthy adversary was perhaps the closest one could come to feeling the euphoria that Pacino so expertly encapsulated.
At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore India and Australia are locked in a battle that has all the best of Test cricket. The bowlers are constantly asking questions and batsmen are forced to fight not merely to stay at the crease but for every run. The art of bowling and batting on surfaces such as this one are unfamiliar to players from both teams. What exactly are the challenges? What do they need to do to adapt? L Sivaramakrishnan, the former India spinner who has spent a lifetime watching cricket deconstructs the art of bowling and batting on turning tracks:
Pressure, pressure, pressure. Nathan Lyon tightened the screws and India's batsmen had nowhere to hide.
Virat Kohli has spent half his international career being the angry young man of Indian cricket. The captain, however has chosen a distinctly more amicable path in his latest avatar. Having lost the first Test against Australia by the crushing margin of 333 runs, Kohli knew that he was likely to be asked some annoying questions ahead of the second Test in Bangalore. He focussed on the team’s lack of intent at key moments of the first Test, and bantered cheerfully with journalists who mustered the temerity to try and poke a reaction out of him. Excerpts:
If you watched Indian cricket in the late 1990s or the 2000s you will be familiar with this scene. The batsman has been drawn forward by the legspinner, beaten in the air or off the pitch and just as the bowler begins to celebrate he sees that the wicketkeeper was also beaten and the ball has run away for four byes. Anil Kumble would do his best to hide his true feelings at such moments, but the disappointment of the prey eluding a carefully laid trap would shine through. No cussing, no yelling, but that piercing look down the length of 22 yards left no-one in any doubt about what happened.