Sachin Needs a Rest

With repeated failures, Sachin Tendulkar has once again sparked of speculation over the end of his cricketing days. The booing from his home crowd was easily the lowest point in his illustrious career. His glory days are clearly behind him. But the truth is that when he does come good he is still a world beater. The biggest and most valuable accomplishment he can and should focus on is the next World Cup. I think Sachin should stop playing Test cricket until after the next World Cup. Meanwhile, he should play only ODIs. His natural stroke play style is more suited to ODIs than Tests. Besides, he is struggling in Tests while performing quite creditable in ODIs. In ODIs his bowling has also come in very handy.

In short, I think Sachin should pass on Test cricket until the next World Cup and focus entirely on ODIs. This will give VVS, Kaif, Raina, Venugopal Rao, or Badani a good shot at Test cricket.

Movie Review: In Her Shoes

Title: In Her Shoes
Language: English
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Shirley McClaine

Its a story of two sisters, one of whom is a lawyer, career oriented type while the other (played by Cameron Diaz) is quite “vela”. Weaved around this backdrop is a story revolving around these two and their grandmom (played by Shirley McCaline) who lives in Florida in old age home. The Mom is is dead while the Dad and mother-in-law (grandma) don’t get along. The daughters eventually find their way to the grandma and then the family is brought together with a marriage of the elder daughter. The relationship between the sisters is well portrayed and both actresses do a fine job of their respective roles. Overall, its a nice film with a different theme that has been handled well. If you are looking for an action film, this is certainly not it. On the other hand if you are open to a “light” movie with ample humor and “sento”, with the pace and storyline similar to malayalam films, this one is a safe bet. By default, I think this movie is likely to appeal naturally to women more than men.

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom

This a moving true story of the last days of a terminally ill Professor. The Author is a sports writer and a former student of the Professor. Its an easy read that I strongly recommend. The contrast between the author who is leading a fast paced life while constantly interacting with his Professor whose time is limited makes the book that much more interesting and engaging. The writing style is simple yet very effectively captures deeper issues such as relationships, importance of health, friendships, values etc.

Its a must read for anyone who is on a desperate fast-track, professionally focused life. Looking for an easy read that is not very long with deep fundas of life? Certainly, go for this one.

DP World bids US goodbye!

The infamous Dubai ports deal has ended with the company, DP World planning to dump all its US ports. Its a sad end to needless political drama. What is the US going to do next –Stop all Arab Airlines from flying into the US? I agree with President Bush’s concern that we have sent the wrong message by needlessly antogonizing the UAE.

Run fest at the Wandereres: Time to rethink ODI pitches?

The final ODI between SA and Aus was no doubt an exciting one. It was the same pitch on which India succumbed without even a fight at the last World Cup final. It just shows that with proper planning and execution the 368 on the same ground that the Aussies set for India was not an impossible task.

Hats off the Graeme Smith the “outspoken, bragging, get under the opposition’s skin” captain of SA. Gotta hand it to him. He showed some real spunk. He lead from the front with a fine knock when it most mattered and ensured SA’s greatest ever ODI victory. It just shows that Aus can’t expect the next World Cup to be easy. SA, England, Pak and India are all capable of beating Australia. Will be interesting to see if Warne is brought back into the Aus ODI team.

I think its time cricketing countries made a conscious attempt to balance the matches so bowlers have an equal role to play in the ODIs as the batsmen. Why not prepare tracks on which batting is very difficult? Turning tracks, bouncy wickets etc. Why does it always have to be run fest? Why not a low scoring ODI where runs are extremely difficult to score? This might add some challenges to team compositions. Specialist batsmen might actually have more of a role to play as will specialist bowlers. If the current trend continues in a few years time ODIs will be phased out in favor of 20-20s.

India-England Mohali Test: Comfortable victory for India

India wrapped up the second Test quite comfortably. The most encouraging fact of the match for India was the success of Munaf Patel. Finally, India has a bowler who can bowl over 145 km/hr, send in the toe-crushers and even shake up the batsman, something India batsman have been used to for years. As Dravid rightly pointed out, India can return the favor. One can only hope that his pace doesn’t deteriorate with time as in the case of most Indian fast bowlers (Pathan being a prime example).

One can’t help feeling for Piyush Chawla, he was hopelessly under bowled on his debut Test. With Dravid’s, “I won’t swap Anil [Kumble] for anyone in any conditions.” mindset, Chawla can reset his Test hopes for now. His best bet is to break into the ODI team. I was a little surprised that he was sent in after Bhajji despite being a batsman (he top scored in the India U-19 final against Pak).

It was a little disappointing to see England succumb without a fight. I thought India will lose 4-5 wickets before reaching the target. England will be under severe pressure going into the last Test on pitch that has known to aide spinners. But I suspect India will bring back VVS in place of Chawla and go in with four bowlers.

The pressure to retain ones place in the Indian team is evident and a healthy trend. Viru played an uncharacteristic knock to show that he is not completely out of form and can still justify his presence! The pressure is now on Sachin to deliver on his home ground after a string of Test failures.

India-England: Indian team for the Mohali Test

The Indian team management under Dravid and Chappell is by far the best India has ever had. I just read the news about the 12 for the second Test. VVS, Kaif, Sreesanth are out from the playing 11, while Piyush Chawla, RP Singh, Yuvraj and Munaf Patel are in the 12. Notice that all the four replacements are very young and have a bright future ahead provided they perform. While Kaif should consider himself extremely unlucky, Sreesanth’s is a fitness issue.

The third change, VVS, is clearly a “daring” move. Hats off to the team management for this bold step. VVS is easily a top notch Indian test player, but the truth is that he has not performed exceptionally for quite a while now and two youngsters Yuvraj and Kaif have been fighting for a middle order spot for quite sometime. With Ganguly out of the way, the message to VVS must have been loud and clear, “perform or you might find yourself on the chopping block”. If VVS had scored runs in the Nagpur Test one can say with a fair degree of confidence that he might not have been dropped. If Yuvraj scores big in the Mohali Test and with Kaif looking very good, VVS might find himself out of the 15 for the third Test. And this could mean the beginning of the end for his Test career unlss of course this change results in India losing the Mohali Test.

On the bowling front, I suspect India will opt for a three seamer attack and give Bhajji another chance to prove that he is still a force. Alternately, they might experiment with Piyush Chawla in place of Bhajji given the Piyush can bat as well. (I think Bhajji will be given a rest and Piyush a break).

In any case, I think its very likely that Munaf will make the playing 11. A five man bowling attack seems certain unlike the first Test where India went in overly optimistic about its spinners abilities. Full marks to the Indian team management for making these bold moves.

India-England First Test: India blew it!

The target was 360+ in 90 overs. A modest asking rate of four runs an over. Give the Aussie’s such a target and tell me they won’t go after it? I think India lost a golden opportunity to prove that they are a top notch Test team.

There was no need to panic and go after the bowling in desperation but it would certainly have helped to play with the purpose of winning right from the outset. Until tea time India never looked like it was interested in going after the target. After tea it was just a plain and complete sham. It was a joke to attack with an asking rate of 11 an over. It was simply too late in the game.

One excuse I have heard was that it was a slow, low fifth day wicket. What if this were an ODI on the same wicket? India would not chase the target?

Firstly, I think India was simply scared of repeating the Karachi fiasco. Better to be safe than sorry. Fair enough. On the other hand, all the Indian cricket fans have to accept that India is simply not a good enough a Test team to take on a challenge like this. Dravid lost an opportunity to prove that he is different from conventional India captains. With two solid defensive players in him and Kaif he should have had a fair degree of confidence that India can most likely save the Test. While he was at the crease Dravid should have made sure that the score was ticking along at a reasonable pace to set the stage for a gradual acceleration followed by a final charge. Alternately, he should have sent in Sachin at number 3 with clear instructions to play his normal free stroking game. Dravid could thus have saved himself for a crisis if needed. He did neither but instead stuck it out at the crease and increased the asking to a point beyond which there was no hope of winning.

After England dominated the first four days this was a perfect chance to steal a win on the final day and India simply blew it. Winning this Test required some professional planning and seasoned execution. With this draw, the Indian team proved that it is not yet upto the mark on either front, the use of laptops and other latest technology not withstanding. But I think that none of India’s Test teams from the past would have come even close to what this team achieved on the last day. So if you are an ardent Indian cricket fan, savor the draw, this team is the best India has ever had.