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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shit-agone at Mirpur

Requiem to the series that happened

Now that the plaudits have spoken and the pundits have been puzzled as to how on God's own strip of land (that was more caked and parched and scarred than a hapless yeoman skinned by a heartless zamindar in those feudal movies of yore) did India managed to score 610 in under two days and skittle Deshis out twice for a little above half that score, it is time to take a per-chance. Because: what has happened to India is a happened circumstance, a happenstance. Zak's eight wicket haul is sheer happenstance, the record-making top-four batsmen scoring hundreds is sheer happenstance. What were not circumstantial were Tendulkar's 37th Ton and Kumble's 5 wkt test haul as was VVS's ignominy.

Tendulkar at one point did a Sunny Gavaskar. Took a catch without breaking a sweat, looked around impishly, pocketed the ball. Only, he was not standing in the slips as Sunny used to. It showed how relaxed Sachin was. He was enjoying his game after such a loooong time. Not because he had scored a ton in both tests, but he has proved his point: I can continue to **** around with Indian cricket as long as I like, I have the credentials and the claims for I have toiled too long for it. At no point did Sachin look dominating throughout this series. He did not need to. But scratch the surface, he was dominating. What is dominating but being in control of the proceedings? Is it necessary that it must be lethal or vociferous like Lara or Ponting or Gilchrist or Symonds do? Not for a higher mortal such as Sachin. His record of 37 may become 42... or 45... and he may retire as did people before him. His record may be surpassed by Ponting and in turn and in turn... But that is only the law of nature. The point of the post is this: The 7th best team in the world beat the 11th best team in the world. And in the middle of all this, Antonio Salieri's "Mediorcity all over the world, I bow to you" rung clear. Only one man managed to mock and rise above all these - Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. Sad, he had to be on the losing side. One man got lucky for once, justifying all his hardships and as many comebacks as Jimmy Amarnath has done - Zaheer "Zak" Khan.

Let us quickly go backwards to the Chittagong test. See what happened. How frustrating it is to be Zaheer? I do not for a moment claim that he is the fittest cricketer or super fielder. If may I say so from observed newspaper and internet sports site reports, there is no second slouch than Zaheer behind Saurav Ganguly this side of Inzamam (and I still admire all these 3 men). But let's not take the talent and class away. And Dravid all but undid it in the First Test against B-desh at Chittagong.

Dravid may be a dependable bat, but a very non-aggressive and unimaginative captain as well as a post-match speaker. Sometimes he just lets things drift more than necessary. Does he wait for creative spark to alight on him on these occasions? What Ponting or Smith would have done in the situation India found itself while bowling at 149 - 8? (or for that matter at 11-4 that nearly was 11 - 6 but for two greased catches by Dravid and Karthik in the Bangladeshi first innings of the second test). How I missed the presence of Wasim Akram the Captain or Waqar Younis the tail-wiper! Total aggro was the need of the hour.

The first test had already seen bad batting displays, inspite of centuries, by both Sachin and Saurav (the same was also said in the media and we saw it too, during Sachin's second test century. But for Dhoni's pyrotechnics and Mortaza & Ashraful's heroics, the overall batting in the second test was insipid to say the least!); tactless scoring by Indian later order to reduce a healthy 295 - 3 at the end of Day 1 to 387 - 8 by noon of Day 4! But what beats this is the bowling... or perhaps the fielding display.

149 - 8 was Bangladesh. Mashrafe Mortaza - a decent bat with lot of determination, pride, gumption and self-esteem - pushes the score to 170 in the company of Shahadat Hossain, who's not even a decent agrarian cricketer in the first place.

If India did not go on to win a match at a canter and by an innings, the blame for that must squarely be shared between an inept captain and a not-more-than-average Mumbai spinner. I really do not understand why Ramesh Powar must be in the team. Forget the wickets he took in the Bangladeshi second innings. I could have taken wickets on that pitch with more cracks than a discarded piss-pot! He's got one talent. To hold the ball in mid-air, defying gravity. Other than that, nothing else. In comparison, I just loved the way Shakid Al Hasan bowled in both the tests. Here's a man who's gonna grow in stature as he plays more, but more of him elsewhere. Ramesh Powar!

Ramesh Powar: highly inept as a spin bowler (from a land with a huge tradition of spinners behind him) and no better or worse (thankfully) than any other currently playing spinner for India, he's not agile nor is there any remorse in him when he misses a four or greases a catch or is whacked around the ground. I wonder how he's turned those so many Ranji matches for Mumbai. That speaks for the standard of Ranji games. Powar, at the end of First Test at Chittagong against B-desh, has come to symbolise the spineless, gutless, thoughtless, unimaginative and mechanised display Indian cricket has come to represent. Else how do you explain the ineptness of letting Mortaza and Shahadat score that 70+ partnershi to take their team beyond follow-on and past 200 after having been reduced themselves to 149 - 8?

It was disgusting to see Powar not being able to hold on to a regulation dive. Perhaps not as bad as when Dinesh Karthik came witlessly in the way of Dravid in 3rd Slip at 11-4 (2nd Test). But then, Karthik had done his work as a batsman. Poor Zaheer!!! How much harder must he try? How many comebacks has he to make to prove himself? Letting a 9th wicket partnership that is not worth more than a double figure under normal circumstances, to beyond 50 runs is something for which the entire Indian team must be shoot. Even after seeing Mortaza play short balls without though or plan, so predeterminedly, Dravid the Wall did nothing. The Wall's immovability for once was more a liability than an asset.

In a matter of minutes B-desh raced from 170 - 8 to 200 and beyond. Within the space of 10 balls the Indians bowled it had happened. After a mindless R.P.Singh over in which two fours were conceded, that was to become a pointer for things to come, Zak was brought on. His first ball was a regulation dive catch from Mashrafe to Powar. Dropped. Then followed a Shahadat blinder to the slips. Nobody to blame. A typical flailing shot that fetched a reprieve and a four. And still the captain does nothing for the next THREE overs. And then it had to be Sachin "Man Friday" Tendulkar to show how to take breakthrough wickets. And why would Sachin not laugh? Not that it changed history or the fate of the series that was a foregone conclusion before India left its borders to Bangladesh.

The win would not probably have enhanced India's claim to the top of test cricketing world, but it definitely would have made a difference to the Second Test, had things not happened the way they happened after Habibul Bashar made the mistake of reading the pitch wrong. Especially after the weathermen had predicted two out of five days of rain! It was a lucky thing in the end that Habibul Bashar was not in form both with the bat as well as with his cap.

Woe begone. Ravi Shastri was as lucky as an interim coach as he was during that watershed series when Kris Srikant was captain, referred to in an earlier post on Wright, Greg and Whatmore. Let's see how we fare in England. Welcome Dav!

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