Friday, 23 March 2012

Bangladesh- Minnows No Longer!

Pakistan have won the Asia Cup but it was Bangladesh who won everyone's hearts as they lost a terribly close final match against Pakistan. The Match was testimony to what Bangladesh have done throughout the tournament. They fought hard till the end but could n't just cross the line. They refused to die down even when the odds were against them. In the end you would have to say, Bangladesh has enhanced its reputation after this tournament. So has Bangladesh finally shed its "Minnows" tag? From now on, can we consider them a top team who can beat anybody anytime anywhere?

I think yes the time has come finally.

Bangladesh have surprised the top teams many a times but they did that very inconsistently. But in the Asia cup they showed that they can perform consistently too. In all the 4 matches they ran the opposition close and on 2 occasions they managed to cross the line. When they won against India, many said it was an upset. But they followed it up with a comfortable win against Sri Lanka and suddenly no body was calling it an upset. Winning 2 matches back to back against the world champions and the runner up cannot be a fluke. And they almost won against another former world champion on 2 occasions.

Bangladesh have so far played 262 ODI's and have won 72 out of them losing 188 in the process. They have beaten every test playing nation at least once. They have beaten Australia, Pakistan and South Africa once, England twice, India and Sri Lanka thrice, West Indies 4 times and New Zealand 5 times. And these are the top teams in international cricket. In the last 2 years, Bangladesh have played 41 ODI's winning 17 and losing 24 of them. Out of the 17 wins, 9 wins have come against the top 8 teams mentioned above including a 4-0 whitewash of New Zealand.

Bangladesh have found immense self belief. They now feel they can win against any opposition under any circumstances. Whether they are chasing a big target like the 290 against India or they are restricting the run flow against the world's best batsmen. And much of this has to do with the fearless players in their team. Players like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Murtaza, Mushfiqur Rahim can match with the best in the world. Tamim Iqbal gives them flying starts and takes the attack to the opposition, then there is a terrific all rounder in Shakib who bowls and bats equally well and is Bangladesh's best player. Rahim can hit a few towards the end while Murtaza is another genuine bowler who can also bat a bit. Bangladesh have emerged as a brilliant fielding unit and you rarely see misfields or spilled catches. Their spinners Razzak, Mahamudullah and Shakib strangulate the opposition in the middle overs.

Bangladesh after this performance have definitely sent a clear message all around the world that they no longer are pushovers who cannot beat the top teams. They are now a force to reckon with. But Bangladesh would now have to do this consistently. Their reputation is solely in their hands and their next objective should be to beat a top team in a test match.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sachin Tendulkar- A Hero to Billions

Sachin Tendulkar has finally scored his 100th international hundred. After an year he got to 3 figures against Bangladesh at Mirpur. The great man honestly admitted that it was probably the toughest one for him to get. All the pressure that the fans and the media had put on him did weigh on his mind. And now when he has got the hundred, he is relaxed and feels now he can focus on his game. Well the hundred hundreds do not matter as Tendulkar was and will always be regarded as cricket's greatest batsman. But what makes Tendulkar so special?

In all sports there have been legends who have inspired millions of people. Pele and Maradona in football, Bjorn Borg, MCenroe or Federer in Tennis, Schumacher in F1, Armstrong in cycling and so on but still Tendulkar carries a different aura around him. I feel Tendulkar on a whole epitomizes every Indian's dream life. Everyone wants to be Tendulkar. He has everything that an average Indian would want in his life.

Tendulkar burst on the scene at a time when India was slowly opening up to the world. Indian economy  was opening up and slowly India was becoming prominent on the world map. A legend called Tendulkar forced the cricketing world to notice him, notice Indian cricket at large at around the same time. Tendulkar started creating ripples across the cricketing world. Every Indian rested his hopes on Tendulkar's shoulders. And Tendulkar carried it single handedly for almost a decade. Tendulkar gave joy even when the rest of the Indian batsmen failed. Tendulkar taught them how one man could tame eleven men and rise above all.

Soon Tendulkar had become the youth icon. Fame and money were pouring from all sides. Advertisers lined up with big bucks. Tendulkar drove swanky cars, lived in mansions but had his feet firmly on the ground. And that was what made everyone love Tendulkar. Every man dreams of professional success, fame, money and respect and Tendulkar had it all. But he remained a people's man. He was never seen hurling abuses or showing unnecessary aggression on the field. Even when the opposition players sledged him, he smiled and answered them with the bat. That kind of behavior left an indelible impression on everyone who watched him. Despite all the batting records he remained humble. Add to that the fact that he was serving the nation. It all summed up to make Tendulkar an ideal human for Indians. Tendulkar had fame, money, respect but he was humble, rooted to the ground, was far from superstar tantrums and knew how to handle fame. Many sportsmen get carried away by all the fame and adulation they get but Tendulkar was different. He was beyond all these things. He was a hero for every young Indian child. He became an inspiration for every individual in not only cricket but all spheres of life.

The legend named Tendulkar is now not only a cricketer. He is an idol and an icon for billions of people. Critics might debate whether he indeed is the greatest batsman but one thing is certain, no other cricketer would ever be able to inspire a nation the way Tendulkar did.

Friday, 9 March 2012

5 reasons why we love Rahul Dravid

9th March will always be a sad day for cricket fans all over the world as it is on this day that Rahul Dravid decided to hang his boots and not show his batting prowess in international cricket anymore. Dravid remains India's finest cricketer, gentleman and the best ever servant of Indian cricket. He needs no tribute or justification of his calibre as a batsman. He was, is and will always remain a legend and has his place in the list of top 5 best test batsmen ever in the history of cricket. We love Rahul Dravid for innumerable reasons. Given below are 5 reasons why we love Rahul Dravid and will never ever forget him even after he has retired.

The records and the numbers-  Indians love the big numbers and all the records. And Dravid has plenty of them. Though the numbers alone can't define the great man, but they will certainly continue to give us joy whenever we will remember his playing days. Dravid played 164 tests scoring 13288 runs at an average of 52.31 with 36 hundreds and a best of 270 against Pakistan. Dravid is 2nd in the all time run scorers list in test cricket, behind only Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid has the most catches in test cricket with a tally of 210 catches. Dravid played 94 tests away from home and averages 53.03 in away tests which is higher than his overall average. 21 of his 36 hundreds have come away from home and 3 of his 5 double hundreds have also come away from home. In the 3rd and 4th innings too Dravid has a brilliant average of 41.83 with 6 hundreds to his name. Dravid has been involved in 85 century partnerships which is the most for any batsman. He has the 2nd longest streak of playing consecutive tests. He played 94 tests on the trot. Dravid has faced the highest number of deliveries in test cricket. He was the first batsman to face 30000 balls. Dravid shares the record for the 2nd highest opening stand ever. He shared an opening partnership of 410 with Sehwag against Pakistan. Away from home, this becomes the highest ever opening stand. Dravid was the first batsman to score a hundred against every test playing nation away from home. Dravid has scored the most no. of runs at no. 3 position.

Match winner- Dravid scored runs when the team needed him the most. He has always been a match winner for India.In the 56 tests India won in his career, Dravid scored 5131 runs at a phenomenal average of 65.78 with 15 hundreds. His average goes up even higher when we look at victories away from home. Dravid played in an era where Indian team started winning matches abroad and Dravid was an integral part of these victories. In the 24 away victories in his career, Dravid scored 2293 runs at an average of 69.48 with 7 hundreds. Dravid has scripted many famous victories for India including the one against Australia in Kolkata in 2001 where he along with Laxman took India to victory after being enforced the follow on. Another one was India's most memorable test victory away from home. It was against Australia at Adelaide where India beat Australia even after conceding 556 runs in the 1st innings. Dravid top scored with 233 in the first innings and the 72* in the 2nd innings to see India home. Dravid was a fighter who had the ability to take his team to victory alone. And thats one of the reasons why we are indebted to him.

True servant of Indian Cricket- There has never a been a bigger and better servant of Indian cricket than the great man Dravid. He has selflessly served Indian cricket for 16 years. In 2003 WC, India did not want to field a specialist keeper on the cost of a batsman. Dravid was asked to keep wickets. Dravid, the gentleman he is not only accepted the responsibility gleefully but did not make us feel the need for a specialist keeper. In 2006-07, India did not have a permanent opening partner for Sehwag. The man who all his life had hit tons of runs at no. 3 position was asked to open the innings. Dravid got out of his comfort zone and accepted the responsibility. His opening stint includes a world record opening partnership of 410. In 2005 Ganguly was sacked from captaincy. In this time of turmoil it was Dravid who stepped up to lead the team and took the team out of all the controversies. He captained India to series victories in West Indies and England and a first test victory in South Africa. Dravid throughout his career was regarded as a man who could n't play one day cricket. But Dravid changed his game and was successful in ODI's. In 2008 he was dropped from the ODI team but recalled in 2009 Champions Trophy as India required a top class batsman. Even in 2011 he was again recalled in the one day series against England for similar reasons. Anybody would refuse to play if such kind of a treatment is meted out to him but Dravid was different and showed why he is Dravid. Any other player would have said "Why Me" but then Dravid was not like others.

A Treat to watch- In the last 15 years, if any batsman epitomized perfection then it was The Wall Dravid. He was a treat to watch and no other batsman batted as beautifully as he did. His forward defensive stroke, his cover drive, the cut shot off the back foot, the pull shot whenever it came out of his armory, straight drive down the ground with elbow high up. One can just go on and on. He was the most technically brilliant batsman of his era. Dravid's batting would always be etched in our memories and no other batsman  can give us the kind of joy Dravid used to give while he was batting.

The Gentleman- Whenever someone talks about gentlemen in cricket, Dravid's name comes to the mind immediately. The great man was a true gentleman who made us believe that cricket indeed is a gentleman's game. In an era where spirit of cricket was forgotten many a times, Dravid's on field and off field conduct was always brilliant. Dravid was the epitome of sportsman spirit. Dravid was always seen shaking hands even after an India defeat and was quick to congratulate an opposition player if he reaches a landmark. He was never seen fighting, abusing or losing his temper unnecessarily on the field. His down to Earth nature is admirable and an inspiration to not only cricketers but all human beings. He was very hardworking and a keen student of the game. If young cricketers need to look up to someone on how to carry yourself as a cricketer, Dravid is the one to watch and learn. He is a great ambassador of the game and role model to everyone. That is another reason why he is loved across the globe.

Rahul Dravid would always be missed and as Tendulkar Said- "There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other".

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mahela Jayawardene- Handling Opening and Captaincy with ease

Sri Lanka is on a roll in the CB series. Nobody gave them a chance after returning empty handed from South Africa and England. Dilshan was sacked from captaincy and Sri Lanka cricket looked in deep trouble. But in came Mahela Jayawardene, former Sri Lanka skipper took over the reins once more and has taken Sri Lanka to the 3rd and the deciding final by knocking out India earlier and then winning the 2nd final. Sri Lanka has defeated Australia 4 times in this series and got beaten twice by them. Sri Lankan team is looking an entirely different outfit who have immense confidence and self belief that they can chase any target or defend any score. Add to that the top order success which is largely due to the fact that Jayawardene has promoted himself up the order in the absence of a good opener for the Australian conditions.

Brisk long starts- Much of the Sri Lankan success in the tournament can be attributed to the good starts provided by the Lankan openers Dilshan and Jayawardene. Jayawardene in particular has been phenomenal. He along with Dilshan have been giving quickfire starts where in the first 10 overs, run rate has always been in excess of 6. When Sri Lanka were searching for their first win and had bowled out Australia for just 158 runs, Jayawardene ensured that the target is reached with the bonus point and took the attack to the opposition. As a result Sri Lanka won without any hiccups. Even in the chase in yesterday's final Jayawardene along with Dilshan gave a quick start again ensuring that the required run rate is always low and the opposition is under constant pressure. The starts have not only been brisk but long too. So Jayawardene has been pretty successful in his new found role of being an opener rather than a middle order batsman.

Shrewd Captaincy- Jayawardene was always a clever and an attacking captain. In the CB series he brought these qualities to the fore completely with spot on field settings and innovative bowling changes. Jayawardene puts pressure on the batsman by having close in fielders at every stage even if the batsman is well set. The short extra cover fielder, short mid wicket and gully have been a regular feature in his field settings. And with able support from good fielders, many dismissals are affected in the form of run outs or brilliant catches. His bowling changes have also been spot on. Jayawardene has immense trust on Malinga and thus bowls him in short spells. 3 overs at the start, 2-3 in the middle of the innings and 3-4 in the end. Malinga gives him important breakthroughs in these situations. The rest of the bowlers like Kulasekara, Perera etc bowl out their overs in the middle of the innings.

Self Belief- More than anything else it seems Jayawardene has infused self belief in the team. The players are seen shouting and chit chatting on the field egging the players on. Jayawardene showed trust in the young Chandimal to promote him to no. 4 and himself played at no. 5 or opened the batting. Chandimal responded brilliantly by scoring runs and consolidating the middle order. When Sri Lanka needed to win their last league game against Australia, they could manage only 238 runs in their innings. But they had the confidence and the self belief and were successful in defending the total by fighting tooth and nail until the last over. Even in the 1st final when all looked lost with Sri Lanka tottering at 144-8 chasing a mammoth 321, Kulasekara stood up and played a blinder to bring Sri Lanka back into the game. Sri Lanka fought hard to reach 306 runs but fell short in the end. Jayawardene is frequently seen making a huddle and giving some pep talk to the players which has reaped sweet dividends.

Sri Lanka is looking a dangerous team and going by their performance in the series so far, they look favorites in the 3rd final. But whatever happens in the 3rd final, one thing is clear. Giving back the captaincy to Jayawardene seems to be the best thing that has happened to Sri Lanka cricket off late.