Sydney Test: Umpiring and Weather Hold the Key

The last day of the Sydney Cricket Test match between India and Australia is interestingly poised with Australia having slight edge. Given the present state of the game, the three possible results (An Aussie victory, a draw and an Indian victory) will depend significantly on umpiring decisions and the weather n the final day. If the weather intervenes in a big way, a draw is more or less certain. On the other hand, given the performance of the umpires in this Test and Steve Bucknor’s poor track record while umpiring against India, I suspect umpiring could play a significant role on the final day. A couple of bad decisions against India and Australia will have this match in the bag.
Michael Clarke — Disgraceful

On the fourth day, a caught behind (Hayden) and an lbw decision (Hussey) that went against India on day 4, virtually destroyed India’s chances of gaining the upper hand. This is in no way meant to take away credit from both these batsmen who fought it out in the middle to make every run unlike the conventional Aussie attack style of batsmanship. A perfect example of how much umpiring holds the key was reflected in Michael Clarke’s disgraceful decision not to walk after being caught in the slips by Dravid. “If umpires make mistakes so often maybe I can get away” seems to be the mindset of today’s international players.

India Missed Murali Karthik

While India’s two spinners did a fine job, India definitely missed a third spinner in this Test. Murali Karthik would have been a terrific asset in this match. Without Zaheer Khan in the team, Kumble had no where to turn for a wicket taking bowler. Ishant Sharma appears to be a surprise back up fast bowler. His fielding is not the best and he is definitely not quick, for a player so early in his career. There is no question that India is missing Sreesanth’s pace and exuberance on this tour. Taking the second new ball has become such a painful decision. Thankfully RP Singh has done well so far and seems to have great potential for the future.

SCG Highlight: India’s Fight Back

The highlight of this Test thus far has been India’s impressive fight back after the MCG debacle. For the first time in a very long time, Australia were at the receiving end in a Test match. In fact, the Aussies were under pressure and never really dominated this Test match. And if they ever did, I dare say, that it was with ample assistance from the umpires (read decisions in favor of Symonds). The batting failure at the MCG justifies the need for more practice games before a Test match on foreign soil, especially against a formidable opposition like Australia. Unlike at MCG, almost every Indian batsman barring the young turks (Dhoni and Yuvi) put in a great performance. Sachin’s century was brilliant, VVS was sublime, Dravid was determined and Dada was smooth (not to mention the fighting spirit of the tail-enders). It will be a pity if all this good work crumbles on the last day, particularly if it is helped along by Bucknor and co.

Obama Victory Speech At His Headquarters in Iowa

Check out Obama’s cool victory speech. Wonder who is speech writer is?

There is no question that this is a historic moment in American politics where a predominantly white state has voted resoundingly in favor of an African American. It might just be a start, but a start nevertheless.

Book Review: No God in Sight

Title: No God in Sight
Author: Altaf Tyrewala

The author deserves credit for taking an interesting approach — Each chapter is written in the first person for a different character in the story. All characters in the book are based in Mumbai and it is a good reflection of the variety of people in the city and their daily lives.

The book starts promisingly but unfortunately, it does not quite come together in the end. This was rather disappointing. The title of the book is hardly explored anywhere in the book and just receives a passing mention in a couple of places. This is the author’s first book and he seems to have made a decent start despite the shortcomings mentioned earlier.

Movie Review: Taare Zameen Par

Title: Taare Zameen Par
Starring: Amir Khan and a bunch of newcomers
Director: Amir Khan

The movie is about a kid affected by dyslexia and how his family and school deal with it. Amir Khan is a teacher at the school who identifies the problem and ensures that all and sundry work together to transform the kids life. This in short is the story line of the film.

The theme is certainly new and Amir Khan deserves credit for experimenting with a new topic. This is one of those rare Hindi films that you can watch with the kids since it is sans the usual Bollywood masala.

Amir Khan appears to have gone completely low budget. There is not a single familiar face in the film besides himself! The songs in the film are unnecessary and don’t quite fit in. The film tends to get preachy (reminded me of the tone of the film Swades) at times. Parts of the film are really slow and could certainly have been “speeded up”. Amir Khan the teacher confronts parents and lectures them about not pushing kids to excel. It would have made a lot of sense to explore and discuss the issue (like Amitabh and Om Puri discuss communal tensions in Dev) in as much detail as possible because in reality it is easier said than done. Also, it might have been far more powerful if the teacher’s past had been explained in greater detail. How did it work for him? How did he adjust to growing up with dyslexia?

Darsheel Safary, the child actor who plays the lead role as Ishaan Awasthi has put in a fine performance. The Director has done well to capture his emotions even with minimal dialogues. For a directorial debut, Amir Khan has certainly done well despite the weaknesses in the film. While by no means a “must see” film, it is certainly watchable.

Sydney Test: Batting Order Still a Challenge

The decision not to play Virender Sehwag in the second Test is a clear sign that the Indian think tank is not ready to abandon its team combination as yet. This might be a sound decision given Sehwag’s extended poor form. If its a toss up between Dravid’s return to form and the chances of Viru clicking as opener, the choice should be obvious.

Open with Sachin (or Dada)

L. Siva recently suggested that perhaps Sachin should open the innings ahead of Dravid. It might be a worthwhile strategy given that he is clearly in good touch. In fact, Ganguly might not be a bad bet at the top of the order either. Dravid can then swap positions with whoever steps to the top, since VVS appeared to be very comfortable at number three. Its best to lead with the men in form rather than pressurize those who are struggling to deliver.

Pathan for Yuvraj?

The other worrisome factor (that appears to have been overlooked) for India is the failure of Yuvraj Singh in both innings of the first Test. Yuvraj has always had problems facing Hogg (and Muralitharan). He was out to Hogg in the second innings and was lucky not to be given out to a bat-pad catch in the first. Given that he bats low down the order, he is likely to face Hogg very early in his innings. This would be a serious challenge for him to overcome. Given this scenario, Irfan Pathan might be a better bet for Yuvraj’s spot, especially if Zaheer misses out because of injury. This will mean five bowlers, and an equally good batting line up, at least on paper.

My guess however, is that India will play the same team with Dravid as opener for this Test at Sydney. If it fails again the third Test will see significant changes.