English County cricket: Is it reserved only for the greats?

+It certainly won’t be an overstatement to say that the Indian test side is at the very peak of its prowess. The Indians have had an emphatic home season, handing comprehensive defeats to the likes of New Zealand, England and Australia. The test side looks solid and stable with the top-order piling on the runs, the middle order adding significantly to the contributions made by the top-order. Of late, the Indian seamers have also been performing reasonably well. ‘What about the spinners?’, you’d be thinking. Ah, Ashwin’s contributions speak louder than words. Have to call him a contemporary great.

But hold on, most of these players have only delivered the goods while playing on home soil. These players haven’t really performed during overseas tours. In 2014, the Indians had gone down like a pack of cards when they toured England. They suffered a 3-1 thrashing at the hands of England. As the ‘red cherry’ swung in England, the Indians found it hard to tackle the swinging ‘red cherry’ on the seamer-friendly tracks of England.

The South Africans are scheduled to tour England in 2017. Of the proteas team, quite a few players have been a part of English county sides. JP Duminy has had a stint with Surrey, Vernon Philander has played for Middlesex, Faf du Plessis has represented Lancashire, Hashim Amla has had a stint with Essex. The list is never-ending.
On the contrary, only a handful of Indian players in the current test side have had the ‘privilege’ of representing English county sides. Cheteshwar Pujara had a stint with Yorkshire in 2015 after having failed to attract bidders during the IPL auction. His return to form can be credited to his time with Yorkshire.

When the Indians toured England back in 2007 and made the Englishmen bite the dust, almost all their squad member had enjoyed a stint in county cricket. Sachin Tendulkar (Yorkshire) Sourav Ganguly (Glamorgan), Rahul Dravid (Kent), VVS Laxman (Lancashire), Yuvraj Singh (Yorkshire), Zaheer Khan (Worcestershire) had spent a considerable amount of time playing for English Counties. All of them had enhanced their skills while sweating it out in England.

Playing in Ranji Trophy doesn’t allow Indian players to go out of their comfort zones and get access to those spicy and lively English batting strips. Another problem with the current generation of cricketers is that they’re too busy playing for their respective franchises. Earlier, the summer used to be reserved for playing county cricket in England. But with lucrative and cash-rich Twenty20 leagues coming into existence, playing for county sides seems to have taken a backseat. The charm and the glamour of the IPL are too formidable to be disrupted.

A stint in English county cricket would allow the likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Murali Vijay to get accustomed to playing the short ball.

Raina, in particular, has struggled against short-pitched deliveries fired at him at steaming pace. It has been one of the foremost reasons behind his absence from international Test Match Cricket. Batting against short-pitch bowling can be a challenging experience at first, but it would allow Raina to learn from the mistakes he has committed is the past. Similar is the case with Rohit Sharma. He’s a formidable force when he bats on the slow Indian and spin-friendly tracks here in India, but turns into an ordinary batsman when it comes to performing overseas. A season or two in English domestic circuit would allow him to eliminate his weakness of getting beaten-up against out-swinging deliveries outside the Off-stump.

Then there is this duo of Jadeja and Ashwin. The moment the ball begins to grip and turn, they’re unplayable, but their prowess with the ball in hand can only be seen on Indian turfs. The variations they produce appear harmless on seaming wicket outside the sub-continent. A county season in England would act as an ideal training ground for them to learn the art of bowling spin in varied conditions.

If Virat Kohli wants a taste of victory outside the sub-continent, a pace bowling unit capable of taking 20 wickets in a match. Ishant has some serious pace but has under-performed for the most part of his career. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar can swing the ball both ways but lacks pace. Umesh Yadav is perhaps the best among them. He bowled with renewed vigour and firepower. India’s pace trio would get to learn quite a few skills if they plan to be a part of English counties.

This is something Zaheer Khan did really well. After hitting a rough patch in 2006, Zaheer Khan flew all the way to England to play white-sweater cricket for Worcestershire on the seaming, bouncing tracks of England. He honed his skills and came back all guns blazing into the Indian side.

Some tough calls are the need of the hour if the Indians want to fare well in seaming conditions. Of late, star Indian batsman Virat Kohli opened up and stated he’s keen to stretch is nerves in county cricket as he aims to prepare for his next outing in England in 2018.

So, to top it all, it won’t be wrong to say that county cricket would act as an ideal training ground for our ‘desi’ batsmen. But again, truth be told, they’re too busy flexing their muscles in cash-rich Twenty20 leagues. We need BCCI’s intervention here. If the overseas records are to be improved, we certainly need our players to swing it around for a season or two in county cricket.

Bangladesh, the game of cricket needs you…

They’ve been taking giant strides on the cricket field. They’ve been playing quality cricket over the past couple of years. The team from Bangladesh showed immense character and promise when it participated in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Successive victories in the bilateral series against the likes of Pakistan, South Africa and India reiterated the fact that the Bangladesh has transformed as a cricketing nation.

Continue reading “Bangladesh, the game of cricket needs you…”

IPL auction 2017: Of English flavours and Afghani spices

Ben Stokes, Bought by Hyderabad For Rs 14.5 Crore, Becomes IPL's Most Expensive Foreign Player Ever

Seeing more than 350 players going under the hammer is exciting. It really thrills me out when I see bids being placed and players from across the globe going under the hammer (the auction hammer, I mean). The auction for the 10th season of the cash-rich Indian Premiere League saw two different flavours.  On one hand, players from England attracted a lot of bids. The auction saw Ben Stokes, England’s star all-rounder in white-ball cricket, being sold for INR 14.5 crore to the Rising Pune Supergiants  (That’s insane). Stokes would certainly be the happiest person on earth right now. Everytime I look at his (Stokes) price tag, it baffles me.

Continue reading “IPL auction 2017: Of English flavours and Afghani spices”

Decoding Ravi Ashwin…

The game of cricket has transformed by leaps and bounds. From cricket to 50 over matches and now, from 50 over matches to the bang-bang Twenty20 matches. Cricketers need to adapt. They need to perform well across different conditions and formats. Pressure of performing consistently has never been this high.Being a good batsman isn’t enough, you need to be an excellent fieldsman and a more than useful bowler as well.

The Indian National cricket team’s so-called ‘never-ending’ search for a genuine test all-rounder seems to have finally ended. The transformation of the tall and lanky lad from Chennai (Ravi Ashwin) has been nothing short of exceptional.  The thing that makes him one of India’s most valuable cricketers is the fact that the bowler in him can think like a batsman,anticipating what the opponent is trying to do. Furthermore,the batsman in him can think like a bowler, avoiding ploys and traps.

Ashwin has been appreciated by cricket pundits all over the world for his exceptional strike-rate of five wicket hauls. He has further gained appreciation for his ability to make valuable contributions down the order, but his inability to replicate this prolific run on foreign soils has been criticized.

ravichandran-ashwin-jamaica-.jpg. You can’t be called a complete cricketer just because you pile of the runs and pick wickets on your home-soil. Don Bradman, one of the hungriest cricketers to ever pick up the piece of willow, isn’t considered by some cricket pundits to be a complete cricketer for having played in only two countries.

Ashwin’s rise as a genuine all-rounder has a variety of reasons. First of all, his ability to stay firm at one end while batting. Secondly, his technique, which is quite okay (remember we are talking about a guy who bats at seven or eight). Thirdly, he is someone who has almost all the orthodox shots in his kitty. While he has the ball in hand, his variations make him a lethal weapon capable of destroying even the world’s best batting line up.

The key to understanding Ashwin’s value lies in unlocking the many successful transformations he has gone through. He started his career as a batsman who could bowl occasional medium pace. Now he has transitioned into one of the finest off-spinners the game of cricket has ever seen. He was the first one to realize that his physique isn’t built for speed. He won’t be able to beat most of his teammates in a sprint. He has spent considerable time ensuring he has a safe pair of hands when it comes to catching.

Ashwin has altered his bowling technique on more than one occasions. From the time he starts from the mark, builds the momentum towards the crease, then loads up, pivots up and releases one of his many deliveries. Ashwin does not merely live cricket, he loves it. And it appears as if the game of cricket is loving him back.

Talking of records, Ashwin is the quickest to reach 200 test wickets.Since January 2015, he has completed  five wicket hauls 14 times in 20 tests. That is sheer greatness.His all round displays are a case in  point. He has thus far won an identical six Man Of The Match and Man Of The Series awards in test match cricket this year. The man who seems to have perfected the art of bowling a ‘carrom ball’ does not believe in going after records. He keeps on dismissing batsmen and the records keep tumbling as well. Presently, Ashwin has 72 test scalps from 12 test matches he has been a part of this year, making him the highest wicket-taker this year.

Ashwin has already had some stellar performances to his credit. Considering his rising stature and the kind of form he’s in,  the best may just be round the corner. A long home season awaits Ashwin as he’ll be seen flexing his muscles against the mighty Aussies in the spring of 2017. We’re surely in for a tour de force or two from this prodigiously gifted and talented all-rounder.

Best of the best: Edge of the seat thrillers (ODIs)

 

Ever since ODI (One Day International) cricket came into existence, the world has seen thousands of ODI matches being played between some of the top cricketing sides in the world. While there have been some ordinary matches, there have been many which have been no less than extra-ordinary. Let us take a look at 5 of the top ODI matches ever played. Continue reading “Best of the best: Edge of the seat thrillers (ODIs)”

Preventing the fall…

Test match cricket is in a spot of bother and we need to bring it out of troubled waters, but before we do that, we need to  accept the fact that test cricket does not suit the modern day generation. Well, I’m a traditionalist who loves the longest format of the game. The reason I love it is that test matches challenge each and every aspect of a player’s technique and character. But, there’s another side to it. As a spectator, I would certainly not go out with my family to watch a long day of test match cricket. A night out at a Twenty20 encounter is where I would perhaps go with my family. Continue reading “Preventing the fall…”

Of medals and mettle…

As far as India’s Olympic journey is concerned, one thing’s for sure, India’s women are doing their country proud ( with the notable exception of Shobha De 🙂 ) Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik and now, PV Sandhu. Women have exceeded expectations and given us something to cheer.

Sakshi Malik won the first medal for India at the Rio Olympics and the entire nation celebrated her achievement on August 18. Malik won the first medal for India (a bronze) and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter in order to congratulate her. Continue reading “Of medals and mettle…”

For the sheer charm of Test Cricket……

I still remember waking up at around 5am in the morning in order to watch the first ever day-night test match between Australia and New Zealand. Test cricket is undoubtedly the true essence of the game of cricket. I remember watching the video footage of a game played during the 1970’s between India and England at Lord’s, the great cathedral of the game of cricket. I remember watching Sunil Gavaskar walking out to open the innings for India. There was a unique sort of charm in Sunny’s batting. The orthodox pulls and hooks along with some expansive cover-drives, Gavaskar’s batting used to be studded by some of the finest textbook strokes. As the red cherry swung there in England, Sunil Gavaskar’s bat was no less effective.  Continue reading “For the sheer charm of Test Cricket……”

Team India: The firm favourites in their backyard…..

As the world Twenty20 dawn on us, the expectations and hopes are soaring yet again. Just a few days to go before the twenty20 extravaganza unfolds in India, speculations have already started erupting on who will be crowned this year’s Twenty20 champion. The twenty20 format, as we all know, is more like a gamble so it is quite difficult to predict a winner. Nevertheless, with the way the Indian team has been performing in the shortest format of the game recently, hopes have been kindled in every Indian fan. Well, there are other teams like Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies who happen to be excellent in this format. But some amount of rationale dictates that team India is the frontrunner to reclaim the title they had won in its inaugural edition. Continue reading “Team India: The firm favourites in their backyard…..”