Sunday, 23 October 2011

Kumar Sangakkara- An Unsung Legend

Sri Lanka's former skipper Kumar Sangakkara batted out of his skin to save Sri Lanka from a humiliating defeat against Pakistan. Sangakkara scored a double ton to help Sri Lanka salvage a draw from the worst of situations of test match cricket. Pakistan scored a mammoth 511 in reply to Lanka's 197 and then Sri Lanka scored 483 runs courtesy Sanga's double ton to secure the draw. Sangakkara's 211 run innings showed his character and showed that among Tendulkar, Ponting and Kallis even his name deserves a special mention. He is Sri Lanka's ultimate unsung legend.

Sangakkara has been one of Sri Lanka's greatest batting assets for the past 11 years. His performances in both tests and one dayers have been phenomenal. Lanka's Wicket keeper batsman has an amazing record to his name. The 101 test veteran has scored 8864 runs at an average of 56.45 with a strike rate of 54.82. He has 26 centuries and 36 half centuries to his name and a best of 287. He bats at number 3 and has an impeccable batting technique. The stylish left hander has been performing consistently for Sri Lanka for the past 10 years and has been one of the main reasons for Sri Lanka's ascent to the top teams in the last decade. He is that kind of a player who keeps hitting the purple patch now and then and comes to the rescue whenever the team requires him.

Sangakkara has many a times saved Sri Lanka from defeats by playing out of his skin. The recent innings against Pakistan and the one against England this June where in a similar situation he scored a hundred in the 2nd innings to help Lanka secure a draw clearly show his resilience and focus. Sri Lanka was always considered a force at home but minnows outside. But what is startling about Sangakkara is his performance away from home. In 43 tests away from home he has scored 3713 runs at an average of 50.17 with 10 hundreds. that shows he is the same regardless of the venue. Also he averages 71 in matches Sri Lanka has won. Also another feature of his is his performance in the 3rd or 4th innings of a test match. In the 3rd or 4th innings he has scored 3341 runs at an average of 54.77 which is quite comparable to his overall average of 56! Also 11 of his 26 hundreds have come in the 3rd or 4th innings!

Then why is such a great player not included in the list of contemporary legends. Whenever we talk about great test batsman of modern era, we talk about Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis, Lara or Dravid but nobody says Sangakkara. Even in Sri Lanka people worship Ranatunga, Jayasuriya or Murali but Sangakkara's contribution is often ignored. The man has consistently scored runs for Sri Lanka and deserves to be mentioned alongside Tendulkar, Ponting and others. Infact he is one of the major contributors to Sri Lankan cricket and also world cricket. Sri Lankan team is heavily dependent on his services and alongwith Jayawardene he is the pillar of Sri Lankan middle order. Its time to include one more man among the contemporary legends. KUMAR SANGAKKARA!!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Kohli- The Next Tendulkar?

India have beaten England in the 2nd ODI and that too comprehensively. Chasing 238, India lost just 2 wickets and romped home with about 13 overs to spare. Kohli and Gambhir(Delhi guys) guided India to this victory in Delhi. Kohli scored an 89 ball hundred while Gambhir supported equally well with an 84 run innings. But one thing is certain, Kohli has cemented his place amongst the Indian batting mainstays at the moment. He has scored 7 hundreds in his 60 odd one day career. Is he on way to becoming the next Tendulkar or is it too early to talk about this?

Game- Talking about his game, no one can deny that his game is top notch. Kohli has stormed into the top batsmen very very early in his career and walked ahead of many young, talented but more experienced players to play in India's successful 2011 WC campaign. He bats at no. 4 in ODI's and has the right kind of game that is required in a one day game. His game is pretty much like Tendulkar's  who hits boundaries and also runs hard between the wickets. His career so far has been near perfect with runs and centuries coming regularly. He has now become one of the pillars of Indian middle order and you can trust him to stay on in difficult conditions. He plays shots all around the park. He pulls well, cuts well and drives frequently. He can hit sixes as well and can accelerate when required. Kohli has this quality of molding his game easily according to the situation. He has no major weakness for any type of bowling or any type of pitch. He focuses on finishing the game rather than throwing it off like in the one dayer against England yesterday. The fact that he flourished in India's last 2 losing ODI campaigns, one in South Africa and the other in England clearly show his potential.On this basis he clearly matches up with the best and might as well go on to become the next Tendulkar.

Numbers- Kohli has played 66 ODI's and has scored 2496 runs at an excellent average of 45.38 with a nice strike rate of 82.70. Kohli has 7 hundreds and 16 half centuries to his name. Comparing with Tendulkar, the average certainly matches up though it would be unfair to compare Tendulkar's 45 average in over 450 matches to Kohli's 66 match average but Tendulkar had a less average at this point of time in his career. Considering Kohli's average currently if he goes on to play the same no. of matches as Tendulkar he will go on to score 20,000 runs which will place him ahead of Tendulkar but it is too early to compare such a short career with Tendulkar's long consistent career. But again Kohli has certainly got the potential to become an all time legend if he continues playing the way he is playing today and is not marred by a severe injury.

Personality-  Kohli has got a dynamic personality and a nice on and off field conduct. Kohli has the right kind of aggression required and at the same time keeps his cool and behaves well socially which make him a good sportsperson. Kohli has got nice looks(no concern with playing ability) and is poised to have a good advertising career like Tendulkar(again no concern with the game). He has also captained the Bangalore Royal Challengers and can be India's future captain. So all in all Kohli has got all qualities to make him the next Tendulkar. But he still has a long way to go particularly in test matches where he performed poorly against a relatively weaker West Indies team and has a little tendency of playing rash shots at important junctures.

Its for time to tell whether Kohli actually goes on to become a player of Tendulkar's level.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New powerplay rule promises run feast!

India have beaten England in the first ODI yesterday in Hyderabad by 126 runs. Yesterday was also the day when the new ICC rule of having the batting and bowling powerplays necessarily between the 15th and 40th overs was applied for the first time. Result- the rule completely favoured the batsmen. India scored 300 runs and half of those runs came in the last 15 overs including the powerplay overs of 35-40. So does the rule tilt the game more and more in batsmen's favour or is it a nice rule to make the captain think even more or is it a mere crowd pulling strategy to save ODI cricket? Lets checkout the implications of the rule.

1. Run Fest rule- This rule does one thing for sure. It favours the batting team and promises sixes and fours in the ending overs. Powerplays are meant to favour batsmen so that runs are scored quickly. But the new rule says that apart from the first 10 mandatory powerplay overs, the rest 2 have to be taken in between the 15th and 40th overs. The bowling team earlier used to get rid of the  bowling powerplay as soon as the mandatory one ended unless too many runs were scored in the first one while the batting team used to take it in the last 10 overs to hit as many runs as possible. But now the new rule means that the bowling team would have to risk the powerplay at times when batsmen are set and raring to go. For the batting team it would be an extension to the overs they virtually have to hit mercilessly. The last 10 overs are always more or less powerplays for the batting team. Add to that the first 10 and the 10 in the middle. So effectively 30 high scoring overs are expected in each match. This was clearly visible in the India-England match. India were 150-4 at 35 overs.India took the powerplay and in the next 15 overs 150 more runs were added. Had the rule not been there India would have taken it after the 40th over most probably and maybe so many runs would not have been scored. So the game has turned more hostile for the bowlers.

2. Think skipper think- This rule has also made captaincy tougher. The skipper's decision has become very important in taking the powerplays. Earlier 9 out of 10 times the bowling skipper took the bowling powerplay immediately after the 10th over and got rid of it. But now he has to think when to take it after the 15th over. He cannot take it straightaway after the 15th over if the batsmen are set. He would have to take it at an appropriate time and also he would have to bowl his best bowlers at that time and maybe that might lead to dearth of good bowlers in the ending overs. So the skipper has to take all that into account. Same holds for the batting team. They can't just simply take it in the last 5-10 overs and hit the ball all around the park. He would have to take it at a time when the batsmen are set while the wickets are in hand and also the best bowlers would be in operation so maybe they might lose wickets and not score much runs in the ending overs. Thus the rule makes the game more strategic and interesting.

3. Crowd puller rule- Well this is the reason why ICC has implemented this rule. ODI's are fast losing popularity to T20 cricket. To make them interesting i.e. to incorporate more sixes and fours and wickets in the game the rule was made so that high scoring games become more frequent than ever. The India-England game showed that even after a slow and sloppy start, a team can get to 300 runs courtesy the new powerplay rule. It surely would pull the crowds but then this is bound to have serious impact on bowlers as the game is turning more and more into a batsman's game.

It is for the fans to decide, which is better? The old powerplay rule or the new one?? 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Can India beat England?

The one day series between India and England is due to start in 2 days time with India as hosts this time. The series is being touted as a "Revenge" series by all the Indian cricket fans. Before this series, India toured England where they lost all the matches they played in all the formats and were humiliated by the English team. Indians lost the no. 1 ranking in tests and were displaced from the no. 2 ranking in ODI's. So this series becomes all the more important to the Indian players and fans alike. The 5 match one day series starts on 14 October at Hyderabad. But can India actually take revenge from the English and beat them? Which factors favor them and which do not?

Venue- This is the biggest favorable factor for the Indian team and the reason why most people believe India can beat England in the series. The Indian team becomes an all-together different team when India is the venue. They have been playing non-stop cricket at home for the past 2 years. They played the ODI world cup in 2011(which they won), the IPL and the Champions league T20. Grounds in India are small and the boundaries even smaller with slow and low pitches. These are conditions tailor-made for Indian batsmen who simply love playing here. Also the bowlers have become habitual in bowling in these conditions and Indian spinners will come into play. On the other hand the English batsmen will find it a little difficult to adjust to these slow pitches from the seaming and lively pitches in England. Their bowlers are expected to struggle in India's "non bowler friendly" pitches.

Team- India's team is still not full strength and as many as 5-6 top choice players are facing injuries. Thus this might prove to be India's undoing in the upcoming series. This was the same reason why India lost the ODI series in England. India will miss Tendulkar, Sehwag, Zaheer, Rohit, Yuvraj and others. The young replacements look good but do not seem to be capable of taking India to victory. They play well in patches but certainly the lack of experience makes them throw the matches at crunch situations which was clearly visible in England. The pitches and conditions might favor the Indians but what can they do when the team itself is not at full strength.

Dhoni- It seems Dhoni has lost the Midas touch he had until a few months ago. Before the disastrous England series, Dhoni won almost every tournament he played in, be it the World cup, no. 1 test ranking, IPL or the champions league. But since 3 months, he has lost the no. 1 test ranking, no. 2 ODI ranking, succumbed to first test series loss and failed to make even the semis in the CLT20 with his dear Chennai Super Kings.. He looks badly fatigued and out of form. His body and mind clearly need rest. He was given rest for just the ODI series in West indies and before and after that he has been playing non-stop cricket. Even the luck seems to be turning its face away from him. Nowadays his keeping skills and his decisions on the field are also being criticized. In such a situation how can a team do well. Dhoni definitely needs rest and in this condition an Indian win looks highly unlikely.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Why Champions League T20 is a flop?

The Champions League T20 2011 is in its final leg with the knockout stage to go. The tournament was no doubt full of nail biting finishes with wickets tumbling at the last moments or batsmen hitting a six off the last delivery to seal the match but what has been shocking is to see the CLT20 still facing empty stands in the most cricket crazy country in the world. So what actually makes Champions League T20 a big flop?

1. Too much of India- This is the prime reason that I believe makes Champions league T20 a flop amongst the global audiences. Almost everything in CLT20 involves India. From sponsors, venue, advertising to teams and players, everything banks on India. Out of the 3 Champions league tournaments held so far, 2 have been in India while the first one in 2009 was in South Africa that too because it was election time in India. I don't know why the T20 competition involving the world is always held in a single country. Also the Indian teams in the tournament have been increasing from 2 to 4 across the 3 seasons. Each season saw an additional Indian team added and the new season proved to be an even bigger flop than the last one. All the focus is on India to bank upon the cricket popularity in India but in this the basic character of the tournament is lost. But CLT20 being a flop in India is mainly due to the second reason.

2. Cricket Overdose- India is continuously playing cricket throughout the year be it International cricket or IPL. Indian fans seem tired of watching the same cricketers playing again and again. There is no dip in viewership of India's international matches against the major teams while IPL is always awaited as March to May is usually a big off season in Indian cricket. In all this Champions League T20 suffers as by this time fans are actually bored of domestic T20 cricket. The reason for poor response to CLT20 is thus India's packed International calendar.

3. Similarity with IPL- Another reason why people are not much interested in Champions league is that there does not seem to be much difference between IPL and CLT20. Even though obviously the basis of the 2 tournaments is completely different with one being India's domestic T20 championship while the other a world domestic T20 championship but with 4 IPL teams in CLT20 and venue being India with Indian sponsors and India centric approach it seems pretty similar to the IPL. Other countries are mostly ignored.. This year's tournament had 4 IPL teams, 2 teams from South Africa and Australia each and 1 each from West indies and England. Where is the world in the world championship of domestic T20 cricket? There is no Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Why is all the focus on just 1 country? 40% of the tournament is IPL and why would an average Indian fan waste his time on "IPL" twice a year.

4. Dominance of Sponsors- The sponsors have made the cricket tournament more like a business where decisions are based more on money than cricket. The venue is India because the sponsors think its only in India mad cricket crazy fans would spend their money on these matches. They are responsible for increasing the no. of IPL teams each year as they think IPL teams will bring in more money and viewership. This year's IPL had the play off system where the 3 teams for CLT20 were clearly decided eliminating the need for a third place match but then a 4th IPL team KKR was suddenly given a chance to feature in the CLT20. Why? Because this year NOKIA was one of the sponsors and also the main sponsor of KKR and thus influencing the tournament authority to incorporate their team too to maximize profit. That is why this tournament is an overdose of India, there is less focus on cricket and the world and the tournament is a big FLOP.