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Sea of blue advances cricket colonisation

“You’re at the wrong ground mate.”

These were the words welcoming an Englishman who walked to his seat in the stands at the Vauxhall end of the Oval Cricket Ground. A group of raucous Indians were trying to put this outsider in his place. “At least you should be wearing an India shirt, because we’re playing against Australia, your enemy.”

The irony that the forefathers of this very English gent, sporting his team’s colours, established this ground back in 1845, and that the first Test in the country was played here in 1880 was clearly lost on the men wearing India’s blue. 


Warner rattled after net bowler suffers blow to head

There was brief panic during Australia’s net session at the Oval when a net bowler could not get out of the way of a fierce hit from David Warner. The bowler, a medium pacer, was in his followthrough when the shot hit him on the head. He was immediately attended to by medical staff and was conscious, smiling and said his name.

The bowler, of Indian origin, said his name was Jai Kishan, and was taken to hospital as a precaution. He was expected to remain under observation for 24 hours.


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.

The situation Australia’s cricketers find themselves in is a tricky one. Cricket Australia has done nothing to disabuse public of the notion that here is a bunch of highly paid cricketers being greedy for more. The players, who are taking a stand based on principle, for the well-being of players below the international level, have stayed united, but this does not mean they can take their eye off the business at hand on the field.

“Oh look, there’s always a little bit of chatter around it, but once you’re actually in the camp and playing cricket or training – as a player that is probably the last thing on your mind,” said Moises Henriques, an allrounder in the true sense of the word in his position as player and representative of the Australian Cricketers’ Association. “When you’re having breakfast or coffee you might chat about it, but definitely not at training. At the game, the only thing you’re worrying about is playing as good cricket as you can.”

While Henriques has a clearly defined role, being part of the executive committee of the ACA, he maintained that this deadlock was not about individual players.“Obviously we’re a part of the decision making process and the strategy of how we play it as players, but the ACA is just a representative agent of the players as a whole,” said Henriques. “So really, the decision gets made by the players and then the ACA acts on their behalf. It’s not like we are going to do anything that the players don’t want to do. It’s a collective agreement and we speak on behalf of all the players.”

Henriques also reminded Cricket Australia that a sticking to hard positions may be costly for both parties. “I think coming to an agreement would be the quickest way forward and that’s all we’ve got to worry about as players, hoping that the agreement gets made as quick as possible,” he said, leaving the door just a touch open for compromise. “Maybe CA might have to give a little bit in the end, we might have to give a little bit, who knows? But the players know that we need to get to an agreement. We want to play cricket. Guys want to play international cricket, state cricket. The players want the deal sorted and I’m sure CA do as well.”

On Thursday, Steve Smith, the Australian captain, said that the issue was not distracting his team from the task of taking on New Zealand. “No, it’s been good. The guys have been great. We know that the ACA’s handling everything back home,” said Smith. “And for us, our focus is on this tournament, and it needs to be, because we’re coming up against some good opposition. It’s a very cutthroat tournament. And you need to be switched on the whole time. So the boys are focused on that.”

That the two teams know each other inside out is a given, thanks to the number of times they have played each other in the recent past. In the last year alone, the two teams have met eight times in 50-over cricket, with the scales being even at four wins each. Williamson hoped that his team could find a way to spring a surprise, despite the familiarity with the opposition. “Yes, we have played each other a lot, and we are fairly familiar with each other. But teams are always trying to do something slightly different, I guess, plans to get on top of the opposition. So for us it’s trying to attack it as best we can. You come into these one-off clashes, they are very different, perhaps just being involved in a series,” said Williamson. “And you never know, there might be the odd curveball at times that people try just because there’s that sort of, that mindset of coming into a game.”

(This article first appeared on the Scroll website on June 2, 2017) READ MORE

What next for inventive 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.


Day 2: Dharamsala decider evenly poised

Economic Times, March 27

At the end of the second day the match was poised on knife’s edge
© Economic Times

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. The Australian cricket team might have met the Dalai Lama on the eve of the Dharamsala Test, but it was these words, Matthew 7:7, from the King James Bible that typified their effort on a second day’s play that left the game poised on the proverbial knife’s edge.

Josh Hazlewood asked questions with the dexterity and tact of an interrogator wearing down a stubborn suspect, marrying nagging accuracy and monstrous movement off the cracks in the pitch, and the wicket of M Vijay was given to him, the batsman playing at a ball that was short enough to leave after being given a torrid time.


How Hirwani sharpened Jadeja’s arrows

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.

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja has grown from great bad-wicket bowler to all-round steady hand.
© The Scroll

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.

So Jadeja showed up at the door of Narendra Hirwani, a bowler so rustic and self-tutored that he has become something of a master in the art of coaching spinners. Hirwani’s first task was to get Jadeja bowling a lot. International cricketers can occasionally be a pampered lot, protected in the nets and not bowled too much because there is so much actual matchplay happening these days.


Saha’s time has come

Wriddhiman Saha

Wriddhiman Saha waited long, but when he got the chance he made it count
© Man’s World

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.


How Australia ambushed India in Pune

It’s 7.30 in the morning and the Pune sun is yet to become its harsh best.

Steven Smith drives

Steven Smith © Sportstar

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 should come as no surprise that Smith played one of the best innings of his career, a second-innings century on a rank turner that set up his team’s victory. Smith may have been put down more than once in the course of that knock, but the manner in which he approached batting, having a specific plan and the discipline to stick to it while shutting out all else was the single biggest difference between the run-making approaches of the two teams.


Chinnaswamy Stadium

India wins, Indians live and love

Chinnaswamy Stadium

To be in the stands and watch the Indian team give back the love they get each day was priceless.
© Anand Vasu

“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.


Curator Lyon turns Bangalore pitch to home advantage

Pressure, pressure, pressure. Nathan Lyon tightened the screws and India's batsmen had nowhere to hide.


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