The Victory!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way. ~ Charles Dickens

To say that past year or so has been the year of scams for India would be a gross understatement. From the CWG to the 3G, we watched in a state of suspended belief as scams got unearthed with Sachin’s consistency. The once teflon coated Manmohan Singh is in the center of such a muck that some of it is bound to stick. In fact, so numbed were we with the state of things that a new scam does not surprise anyone any more. India is getting more and more recognition around the world as a super power, both economic and political, and yet there was something missing.

In such a state of disillusionment, this World Cup victory gains a different meaning. Many see the victory as a validation of India’s growing stature, in the game and also outside it [must read], and not without reason. However, to me, this World Cup victory will be symbolic of the fact the something in this damned country works. Some Gods don’t fail us.

I distinctly remember 1996 and how much I cried as a child, along with Kambli on the screen, wishing that the idiots at Eden would at least let them complete the match. 1999 was a farce with the stupid Super 6 rule. 2003 was a heart break. I sat there, front row in the Audi, cheering so hard that I felt that my veins would pop. But after the first 3-4 overs something in me gave up hope and I went and slept. I haven’t still watched that match – not a single ball. It felt like fate had cheated us out of the cup then. 2007 was a blink and miss. And add on this the disillusionment with the politicians, the feeling that we were being cheated out of everything. We needed something to restore our faith in the country. There had to be someone who would make you believe. For the past couple of decades Sachin had been that man who had us believing.

Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. ~ Batman, in The Dark Knight.

You had this distinct feeling that it would be now or never. The one God we have might not win this cup – and its not that we care – its because some idiots would consider him a lesser batsman because he hadn’t won this one.

As the tournament progressed, the team took me on an emotional roller coaster ride, winning and losing at will. I did not know if we would win, or fall apart at the key moment. The quarterfinals restored some calm. India had chased down a decent total against a decent attack. The semifinals saw us defending a decent total (respect for Afridi – you rock! Why you ask? Here.).

And then it was the time for the big one. The final. We begun like never before. Zaheer – you beauty. Sree – you jack ass! Yuvi – you rock! Gambhir and Dhoni – respect!! People throwing themselves around. We conceded a little more than we would have liked in the last 10, and the momentum was with Lanka going in to the break. And then Sachin (did you see the straight drive??) and Sehwag got out cheaply, and I thought we would unravel quickly again. TV was switched off (I am superstitious – when I watched wickets fell), and turned on every now and then and I could see India building a few partnerships.  Maybe we could win. Thanks to Anubhav for making me watch. From then on it was a display of serene batting – except that one run – and we reached home quite comfortably. And the final shot by Dhoni, as Rahul put it, “”Uses it well, his bat he does.. hmmmm” – very Jedi like.

This victory will re-instill the much needed faith in a country bereft of heroes. There are some people we can still look up to. The ’83 World Cup gave us Sachin (and Sourav, Dravid, Laxman, and Kumble). Can’t wait to see what the ’11 World Cup brings us!!

We won!!

PS: In this entire media orgy, please don’t forget the Leander and Bhupati are also again the best in the World! Good going you guys!!

Calling Wisden’s bullshit

Had it been printed in TOI, I would not have bothered to respond. However, when a respected publication like The Wisden Almanack says something as outrageous, I think it warrants a few words. And no, it is not about selecting four Englishmen in the top five cricketers of the last year. The piece I am talking about, appears as “If the ICC move to India, we might as well say ta, ta” in the current edition under “Notes by the Editor“. Some lines and my response below.

Were the ICC to be based in New Delhi or Mumbai, the power-base of their next president Sharad Pawar, the staff would become predominantly Indian as the main current administrators would find it too difficult to relocate their families there, and the organisation would cease to reflect the attitudes and values of all its members.

Where would you, Mr. Berry, have it relocate to? One would think it has to be one of the Test playing nations, given the lack on interest in cricket in the neutral venues like Dubai. If so, would not a city in the sub-continent, with four of nine test playing nations, be more representative of the members? And I would stick my neck out and say that Delhi or Mumbai would a top choice in the region. Also, with a large number of expat population, I see no reason why administrators would find it difficult to relocate here vis-a-vis London or Sydney or Johannesburg.

It is not a business, or an industry like steel, to be taken over.

In case you have missed the memo Sir, the game is a business, and the clout of India is proof enough. Unless Mr. Berry wants to stick his neck in the sand and pretend that we are still in the 50s, he should know that the game needs money to be run efficiently and ensure the further development of the sport.

All said and done, I believe the piece was out of place. While I agree that India wields more than necessary influence on the ICC, one has to be cognizant of the fact that India is where cricket gets most of its audience from. So get over your fears and accept reality.

And for God’s sake, please let Tata and Corus be in peace. It’s not like we have made you slaves.

Does India deserve to be number one!

There has been a lot of nonsense written about why India does not deserve to be the best test team in the ICC Rankings. Example here. There have been a lot of rebuttals as well. Example here. This post is yet another rebuttal of the same.

Let’s look at batting for a while. In the past three years, starting 01 Jan 2007, five of the top ten run scorers in the Test format, excluding runs scored against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and WI, have been from India. SL, SA, Australia, England, and WI have one each in the top 10. Not too bad I would say. Even the great Ricky Ponting is on the 15th step, which really makes you wonder why no one calls him over the hill anymore, but I digress. A team that has the best batsmen of the last three years must have something in it.

Rank Player Country Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
1 V Sehwag India 21 38 2137 319 57.75 91.52 5 7
2 SR Tendulkar India 26 47 2126 160 50.61 54.96 6 12
3 DPMD Jayawardene SL 18 31 2081 275 74.32 52.06 7 6
4 VVS Laxman India 29 50 2053 200* 52.64 49.86 4 15
5 JH Kallis SA 22 39 2009 186 55.80 49.50 8 9
6 MJ Clarke Aus 24 40 1983 145* 55.08 51.33 7 10
7 R Dravid India 29 54 1966 177 40.12 41.07 4 11
8 S Chanderpaul WI 22 37 1933 147* 71.59 42.06 7 13
9 G Gambhir India 14 27 1869 206 71.88 50.91 7 7
10 KP Pietersen Eng 22 40 1830 152 46.92 55.92 7 3
11 KC Sangakkara SL 17 29 1793 192 64.03 56.03 7 7
12 SC Ganguly India 21 41 1761 239 47.59 59.01 3 9
13 AJ Strauss Eng 22 40 1757 177 45.05 45.45 5 8
14 HM Amla SA 22 40 1730 176* 48.05 47.51 5 11
15 RT Ponting Aus 24 41 1699 150 42.47 60.78 4 11

Now for the bowling. The list is much more evenly distributed this this. Three of the top ten bowlers, with same filters as above, are from India, with SA claiming another three, Australia two, and England and SL one each. Though bowling still remains a concern for the Indians, it is no better for the other teams. SA is arguably the strongest in this department, but then with Steyn injured and Ntini fading quickly, they might not enjoy the same status for long.

Rank Player Country Mat Inns Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Ave Econ SR 5 10
1 Harbhajan Singh India 23 41 1209.5 182 3465 105 33 2.86 69.1 4 1
2 MG Johnson Aus 23 44 942.4 168 2937 104 28.24 3.11 54.3 3 1
3 DW Steyn SA 17 32 598.2 107 2119 96 22.07 3.54 37.3 7 3
4 Z Khan India 22 40 821.4 168 2640 83 31.8 3.21 59.3 4 0
5 JM Anderson Eng 22 41 839.4 174 2867 82 34.96 3.41 61.4 4 0
6 M Ntini SA 22 42 724.5 142 2527 76 33.25 3.48 57.2 3 0
7 A Kumble India 18 33 902.3 147 2767 72 38.43 3.06 75.2 2 0
8 PL Harris SA 22 37 828 172 2290 71 32.25 2.76 69.9 3 0
9 B Lee Aus 15 30 612 117 1941 67 28.97 3.17 54.8 2 0
10 M Muralitharan SL 15 25 808.4 123 2381 67 35.53 2.94 72.4 4 1
11 Danish Kaneria Pak 13 25 759.4 124 2278 62 36.74 2.99 73.5 2 0
12 RJ Sidebottom Eng 14 25 582 140 1573 60 26.21 2.7 58.2 4 1
13 FH Edwards WI 18 32 507.3 61 2020 59 34.23 3.98 51.6 4 0
14 MS Panesar Eng 20 33 782 141 2305 58 39.74 2.94 80.8 2 0
15 CS Martin NZ 18 32 652.2 142 2061 57 36.15 3.15 68.6 0 0

The thing to note is that this data is for a three year period, and not for a one off year. So its not really a flash in the pan, but rather some sustained good performances by the Indian team. During this period, India has played an almost equal number of tests home (15) and away (14), so there is no real home advantage for the team.

I know that statistics don’t really tell everything, but they do tell you a few things, and what it does tell here is that India really has been a world’s best team for the past couple of years, even though SA are right on their tails.

All data from Cricinfo’s Statsguru. Batting and Bowling.

The power of observation

By Debasish on Cricinfo:

Given the volume of cricket that BCCI imposes on the Indian cricketers, the cricketers have found a novel way to avoid over exertion. How ? By crashing out in the first rounds of every ICC tournament ( World Cup, 20-20 World Cup and now the Champions Trophy) and thereby gaining some “rest” for the ad endorsements.

Another one from Apoorv:

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The rain saves us the shame of losing two on the run, The port is near, the bells I hear, the Oz horns are blaring, While follow eyes the steady keel, the media grim and daring.