Why I wish India hadn’t won the 2011 Cricket World Cup

Edit: This is a long post, it rambles, but eventually gets to my point. It started out as a post about why the World Cup victory is bitter-sweet to me, so it has a lot of my personal history with cricket. To get to my reasons, skip to the last 2 paragraphs.

In the 2 weeks since the madness of April 2nd there have been countless articles & blog posts written, thousands of tribute vides created, many gifts distributed and god-only-knows-how-many emails circulated about India winning the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Dhoni has been hailed a Midas, Yuvraj as the comeback-kid, and Sachin the saviour of a nation and the person who carried the burden of a billion people until the Cup could be won back after a 28 year gap. Journalists have used the opportunity to write about how the win, the first by a country hosting the World Cup, represents India breaking the shackles of foreign dominance. It is a symbol of the confidence of a country bursting through and taking the bull by the horns.

The night of the victory was special for me (as it was for every Indian). I hugged numerous strangers and a smile was plastered on my face. I’ve been a cricket fan (and sometime cricketer) since I was 10. A vague memory lingers in my head of watching the imposing Imran Khan lift the cup in 1992. 1996 is much clearer to me. My friends and I took to filling out the win/loss brackets in between classes playing hand cricket when teachers weren’t looking. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one embarrassed by Vinod Kambli’s tears after the semi-final in Kolkata. Sri Lanka deserved to win, however. The 1999 edition was perfectly timed – during the summer vacation between my 10th and 11th grades. Sachin’s 140 against Zimbabwe after his father passing away, Rahul Dravid scoring the most runs despite India not reaching the semi-finals and Lance Klusner’s appetite for big sixes are the highs in a tournament that was otherwise largely forgettable for Indian. 2003 was exciting though; I was away from home for the first time and watching and playing cricket with new friends. Trudging through over a foot of snowdrift at 2 am to get to where I’d paid $100, along with 6 others to install a dish so we could receive the broadcast marks the pinnacle in my desperation to see India win. And they almost went all the way. The thrashing they gave England in the group stages, having Zimbabwe and Kenya qualify through to the Super Sixes and finally having to beat Kenya in the semi-final, made me feel like this could be the year. But then Ricky Ponting happened. I wont even go into the 2007 edition, it was that miserable.

In the 19 years since I’ve been watching cricket, I’ve also been one of very few people I know that truly enjoy Test cricket. I watch any game India plays in, all 5 days if possible. And if England, Australia, or South Africa are involved against anyone else I’ll usually watch that game too. I also fancy myself a cricketer of sorts. My first coach believed I’d be a decent seam bowler given my lanky build (at the age of 13). But I quickly found myself more interested in the art of wicket keeping. But given the opportunity I loved having a bat up the order as well. Yes, for a bits and pieces player I didn’t do too badly. I ended the president of the Drexel Cricket Club and even captained the University club team to a memorable tournament victory when the regular captain was unavailable. Tennis ball cricket was a frequent pastime in the American summer as well.

So what is this story about? Yes, I’ve waited a long time for India to win the 50-over Cricket World Cup. Yes, Yuvraj Singh has proved he’s capable of a renaissance, MS Dhoni has appeared out of nowhere to first, be the #1 batsman in ODI cricket, then lead the Indian team to the #1 test rank in the world, and then win both the 20-20 and ODI cricket world cup. But for a fan like me, is it really what should’ve happened for the good of cricket?

I’ve been vocal (when asked, of course) that ODI cricket needs to be put to rest. Despite all its quirks as a sport, I don’t believe that cricket can sustain 3 formats at the international level, especially with only 7 or 8 teams capable of competing at the highest caliber. T20 cricket has been great for the sport. It has lead to innovative stroke play, attacking bowling and cunning captaincy. It has enabled the discovery of players who may never have been given opportunities otherwise (courtesy the IPL). And finally, it has elevated cricket to a truly professional sport. Players who would only ever have played domestic cricket and not earned a sustainable income, now have the opportunity to make a true living just off the T20 format.

Many believe that the success of the 50-over World Cup in India shows that the format is healthy and can survive many more years. The ICC has, in fact, already begun preparations for the 2015 and 2019 editions (to be held in Australia and England, respectively). Sachin will certainly no longer be playing. MS Dhoni & Yuvraj Singh, both 29 years of age, may no longer be playing. That’s not my concern though. My concern is for the longest format of the sport. Will Test cricket still be a viable option in 2019? With our short attention spans, will anyone really care of a game that lasts 5 days? And if fans don’t demand it, broadcasters will now show it. And without broadcasters, there will be no advertisers. And there will be no Test cricket. (When was the last time you saw Table Tennis on TV outside of the Olympics?)

Yes, as much as I enjoyed the 2011 victory (strangers in Trafalgar Square will testify to that), and enjoyed watching every other edition of the cup despite India’s (often lackluster) performances, I believe that it doesn’t bode well for the future of Test cricket. Outside of India, England, Australia and maybe South Africa the sport has become vulnerable. Even in India it is impossible to fill a stadium for a 5 day game unless it is a weekend and there is the possibility of seeing Sachin score a century. And unless Test cricket survives, we will begin to lose what made cricket special in the first place. Maybe the future greats will emerge in the T20 format, but count me amongst the skeptical. The best ODI players have also been the best players in the longer version of the game. No one really remembers Michael Bevan or Ajay Jadeja. They remember Gary Sobers, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh, and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath, Muralitharan, and Anil Kumble are the names that come to mind when one thinks of modern bowling legends. Images of Yusuf Pathan, Mike Hussey, or Paul Valathy will never adorn the dressing room at Lords.

Yes, at the risk of angering 1.2 billion Indians, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it may have been better for the future of cricket as a sport if India has crashed out of the 2011 World Cup early on. We may now never see the next Sachin Tendulkar take guard against the next Shane Warne and that is a loss of immeasurable proportions.

..And a sudden step backwards

After the first game between India and the West-Indies, I was pretty certain that the Boys-in-Blue would win out the series 3-2, if not 4-1.  A 1-4 defeat was certainly not something anyone would have imagined. But that is the way of things.  India’s chance of pulling ahead in their ODI record has been dealt a blow.  They are now 4 games down, having won 296 and lost 300 games.  Admittedly, this is not a major record at all.  I’ve not seen any of the media companies supporting this wondrous occasion.  But then again, they are not as hard core fans that I am.  They just report the news.

Now, the reason for this loss…?  I put it down to inexperience.  Apart from Dravid, the only other member of the ODI squad that had toured the Caribbean before was Harbajhan Singh – not really “senior” material in the team.  Ganguly, Kumble, Tendulkar, and Laxman were all missing in the name of youth.  Breeding youngsters is certainly required, but this time it went too far.  After picking Robin Uthappa for the series, the management decided to open with Dravid for the first 4 games.  This left the middle order looking very weak.  Yuvraj Singh was the only batsman that could be counted on and as usual was his splendid self. Many seasons ago, I game him my vote as the future captain of India and if he continues in this vein, he will certainly be at the helm in 3-4 years.  I was surprised that Kaif came good with 3 fifties, but he played far too slowly and with too much trepidation to be reliable at number 5 or 6.  Venugopal Rao and RP Singh were the other two players who were given only one game.  While it’s obvious that out of a 15 man squad 4 get to sit out every game, a little more experience in the middle order could’ve been used.  Dhoni, Raina, Pathan and Powar were the other middle order batsman who did very little in the series.

The bowling was decent.  Agarkar, the much maligned Mumbai boy who has potential but doesn’t show it often enough, was outstanding.  He had 9 wickets at 18 a piece, with an economy rate of under 4.  Harbhajan bowled well for no wickets.  He did keep the runs at bay, however.  Pathan was surprisingly ineffective while Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and RP Singh did nothing to show that they deserved to be in the national team.  Once again, this bowling side reeks of immaturity.

This lack of experience is what cost us the series, in hindsight.  I’m sure plenty will disagree and I’d be happy to hear other points of view.  I’m just glad that Kumble and Laxman will be joining the team for the test series.  If the ODIs were anything to go by, one can expect plenty of excitement and some tight finishes.

Forging ahead, one game at a time

Few people may realise this, but India’s victory over the West Indies in the first ODI today marks a historic occasion.  It is the first time ever that India has won an equal number of ODIs as they have lost.  This gives them, for the first time ever, a win-loss record of 50%.  The current record is Played 618, Won 296, Lost 296, Tie 3, No Result 24.  It has been a long climb up for the Indian ODI side. This victory also marks Dravid’s 12th ODI century, and the teams 17th consecutive win while batting second.  I have no doubt, that at the current rate, India stand a good chance of topping the rankings going into the next world cup.  From Azhar, to Ganguly, to Dravid, the Indian of the 90s and 2000s has shown marked improvement, from their leaders to the newcommers.  Here is to another 296 wins for India!

This information has been researched from Statsguru on CricInfo.

Great Weather, A Great Weekend

The mad weekend is over, and thanks to Ibuprofen, I’m not in any great pain. 3 Cricket games in under 3 days can certainly take its toll on even the best sculpted bodies. Mine is, ofcourse, no where near that.

On Saturday and Sunday the Drexel Cricket Club played in the Kamran Khan Intercollegiate Invitational Trophy and won. We are currently on the front page of USACA. A slightly longer article also exists here.

We’ve got a really good bunch of players this season, and the finals of the Temple tournament is coming up next week. That ought to be ours too, if we play like we did this weekend.

Here is a picture of the Drexel team with the trophy.

A Field Day……No Really!

So I just got back from the first of three cricket games. It was a night game against the University of Delaware. They won the tournament last year, and before going into this game we knew it would be hard. But we also knew that we were meeting them in the finals of the tournament on the 23rd anyway. We lost a close game by just 10 runs.

I had a pretty decent day, by most standards. My four overs went for 28 runs, so I was just below the average for the team. I didn’t get any wickets though. I took a pretty good catch, which after last weeks debacle felt pretty good. And I went in after the fall of 6 wickets and shared a 60+ run partnership with Usman. He did most of the scoreing though. I made only twelve, but just gave him the strike and ran hard. Which is what was needed.

We will have Mitul and Sameer Bhai back for the finals, so I think we should definitly win with those two in our line up! Looking forward to the 23rd!

Cricket updates

Drexel CC played British Officers CC on Sunday. We lost. But it was a close enough match. Our season, which lasted just a month and a half, ends at 3 wins and 4 losses. Not bad, but I wish we’d played more. Now we seem to have a larger core of interested blokes. Hopefully we can play in a league next season.

Indian cricket has gone back to being a disapointment. India versus Australia was billed as being the next big thing. It’s funny how all the hype leading up to a series is generally bogus once the series gets started. When India toured Australia last year, it was expected that Australia would roll the pitches with us. But it turned out to be surprsingly competitive. The heart of the sub-continent beats in time with every wicket taken by Anil Kumble and every run scored by Rahul Dravid. Right now though, not enough runs are being scored by anyone.

It’s an interesting situation though, with the batsman not clicking. Ganguly seems intent on having Yuvraj Singh open the batting. But after giving him one shot at the top, he is dropped. Funny how the same game he is dropped, Ganguly has to sit out. But with Kaif having scored 2 fifties, who will be dropped with Ganguly is back in? Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid? V(ery) V(ery) S(pecial) Laxman? Sachin Ten(thousand-run)dulkar? Virendar Sehwag is always going to be there at the top. Who will partner him? I think Ganguly should put himself in the line of fire…show some guts and open the innings and actually score runs. That will open up a spot in the middle order, and give force Ganguly to do well or be dropped. Afterall, he is a quality opener in the shorter version. And as far as the wicket-keeper goes: Parthiv Patel has gone from bad to worse. He seems to be able to consistantly score atleast 20 runs an innings, but also drop 4 catches. That is not going to cut it. For as long as I’ve been following Indian cricket, a steady keeper who can contribute with the bat as well and be worthwhile for a few runs has not surfaced. Given a country of 1.2 billion cricket fanatics, this is hard to fathom.

This rant courtsey of currently watching India getting hammered.

Cricket Classics

The weekends cricket games were awesome. It was the first time that I was officially leading the Drexel Cricket Club, and I’m happy to report a winning percentage of 100.

Saturdays game was against UPENN, at Temple. After losing the toss, we bowled pretty well. Gave a few too many runs, but thats normal at Temple where the outfield is incredibly quick. I bowled my entire quota of 6 overs, for 2 wickets. I had two more catches dropped, and one of which was UPENN’s main batsman who was on about 40 at the time. He went on to score 81*. Anyway, we ended up needeing to chase 205 to win, in 30 overs. We managed it in 21, with nine wickets still in hand. With two batsman scoring 80’s in very quick time.

Sunday’s game was at Richard Stockton college, against them. It was a matting wicket, with a grass outfield. I did win the toss this time, and put them into field. We batted well, scoring 172 in our 30 overs. At this ground, that was a good total, seeing as how the outfield was grassy and slow. I did get to the wicket in the last three overs, ran hard, and hit a few to get us to our total. The bowling was a whole differnt story. It seemed almost too easy. We had a new opening bowler and he struck early with 4 wickets. Then our batsman who’d been our mainstay, came in and took 3 wickets in one over (clean bowling all three). He took a fourth soon, and by then the game was more than over.

It was a tiring, and busy weekend. Expensive too, since I spent a lot for the team on my account. But it was fun. And I think being busy like this enables me to forget other things that bother me. Which is what I’m striving to achieve. So looks like I’ll be keeping myself busy as much as possible over the next few weeks.