Harsha Bhogle clone at Neo Sports

There is this gentleman (the anchor) on Neo Sports who is desperately trying to sound like Harsha Bhogle.

And, he is making a mess of it (like I did there…starting a sentence with “And”) !

… Can someone please tell me if this is just my perception ?

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

Nicely written piece by Harsha Bhogle here…put me on track to write about something that kept running in my mind — why did Misbah get out ?

Sympathy is a word that has often been used with Misbah-ul-Huq, a fine player who twice brought Pakistan to the brink of victory. He even picked a good shot but found Joginder Sharma didn’t have the pace on the ball to take it beyond the edge of the circle. Misbah will know, more than anyone in world sport at the moment, that the ability to finish games separates the great players from the good. A lot of teams can bring a ball to within three yards of the goal but it requires a great striker to put it at the back of the net. Strikers are valued because they finish moves, great golfers are those that play the 18th as well as the previous 17, even the boxer who dominates a bout needs a finishing punch. Misbah didn’t have it.

While I believe that Misbah did seem to lack the killer instinct, I also believe there are things that need to be looked into. There are lessons in this episode for all those batsmen who, in future, will have to finish off games in the final over.

I have seen quite a few last-over finishes and I have a theory about these things: batsmen will try and finish off the match as early as possible when it goes down to the last over. They will risk playing low-percentage shots, they will go for singles (or twos) that seemed impossible only an over ago. They simply cannot bear to wait. Remember Lance Kluesener in the 1999 World Cup Semi-Final against Australia ?

South Africa needed one run to win with three balls to go. He was in terrific form, having just hit Damien Fleming (one of Australia’s top bowlers in that tournament) for consecutive boundaries. He was SA’s star performer in that tournament.

So, with three balls to go and the Australians at his mercy, what did he do? He went for the most impossible single I have ever seen in international cricket !

People have asked why. He could have waited for 2 more balls. He could have hit the ball past the in-field….in the end, he tried to scamper a single…damp squib !

Coming back to the T20 final, to understand Misbah’s cute shot, we need to go back a week to the league encounter between the two sides. Pakistan needed 1 run off two balls with Misbah on strike. He tried to push the first of those two balls to the offside for that single, failed. Last ball, he did not want to take chances. He went at the ball with his eyes closed. Unfortunately for him, he did not connect and, to add salt to his wounds, was late on the single.

So, here is Misbah in the finals in a similar situation against the same adversary. Chance to make amends. 4 balls to go, 6 to get. He could have waited a couple of balls before launching again into the hapless Joginder Sharma. Or, he could have pinched the gaps for a couple of two’s ….he was seeing the ball well. Sharma was not exactly high on confidence and it was only a matter of time before he bowled that “hit-me” ball again.

But Misbah cannot get his mind off the previous encounter. No, he cannot wait this time, he decides. it has to be now.

Where can I get a four and finish this off for good ? Ohh…fine-leg up, deflection ? scoop ? … deflection may not get the ball past fine-leg at Sharma’s pace…scoop it is then… !

The one thing I was thinking before that shot was played was: no matter what, I don’t think he will hit the ball in the air, especially with only one wicket in hand (the Everton Weekes mode of thinking).

Just goes to show what pressure and past failures can do to a fine mind.

In closing, I like to think of Misbah as some kind of “reverse-Miandad”. What Miandad did to India all those years ago with that last-ball six, Misbah is doing to Pakistan with his “semi-finishes” against India !

Related Posts:

Ongoing “India are champs” series:

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights

India are champs … Part 1

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

This was bound to happen:

Irked by the “step-motherly treatment” meted out to the Indian hockey players by the central and four state governments, when compared to the sops given to cricketers after their win in the Twenty20 World Cup, the team members have decided to go on a ‘hunger strike’.

Isn’t it ridiculous that the government decides that it can take the taxpayers’ money and do whatever it wants with it ? Look at this, for example. The state governments think nothing of pouring 5,10, even 21 Lakhs into these players.

It is not a question of whether these players deserve to be rewarded or not. The point is, the taxpayer is not supposed to foot the bill for this largesse from the government. India Uncut makes this argument far more compellingly:

If Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sheila Dikshit wish to use India’s victory to make a statement, they should spend their own money. All poor people in this country, from maids to chaprasis to cycle-rickshaw drivers, pay taxes every time they buy anything. It is ludicrous that their hard-earned money, coercively collected by the state, should be spent on cricketers with endorsements that are worth crores.

Well, that is point number 1.

Point number 2 is that Indian Hockey needs to get a life. You cannot spend the careers of thousands of promising hockey players begging for attention, begging for recognition from the government. It is not because the general public has some aversion to hockey that we are in this state today. The coaches, the players et al have to look at the way the game is run, at the way the players are selected.

If there are no stars in the Indian Hockey team, it is because the IHF treats the players like dirt. “Where is Dhanraj Pillay” is a good question to start the search into why hockey is a forgotten sport in India.

Point number 3: I have written before, on this blog, that the job of the government is to provide infrastructure, to put the framework in place, so to speak. We do not want the government to get into the nitty gritty of everyday life. We do not want the government to manage our lives (read “run our lives”) for us.

The job of the government, here, would have been to put the infrastructure for cricket, hockey, badminton, tennis etc in place (the stadiums, the training facilities, the support staff etc) and get out of the way. Let the market economies decide which sport gets top billing. (If it so turns out that cricket outshines every other sport in India, it is just plain unfortunate. You have to accept it and move on. You cannot force the public to watch such and such a game, just like you cannot force-feed such and such movies to us.)

The unfortunate point is that cricket is the star of the show. The government needs votes. So, it will go after the star…never mind the fact that it has hardly done anything for cricket either. (rewarding players with cash does not help the game. However much you bring in the “incentive” angle, I will not agree to that) . It is vote-bank politics at its best (worst ?)

Asking the government to give cash to achievers in other sports is not the answer. Hockey should ask for better facilities, better administration. In fact, hockey should ask the government to leave them alone so they might improve !

Related Posts:

Ongoing “India are champs” series:

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights

India are champs … Part 1

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

A lot of back-slapping is happening in the Indian camp right now.

Lots of folks (too many links to put here) are asking for the Big 3 to move on from ODIs. Lots and lots of folks think Dhoni should be made captain of the test team too.

I am not knowledgeable enough to credit or dis-credit these calls. However, I do have questions of my own:

1. Will this team me able to carry the intensity of Twenty20 cricket into the 50-over version ?

So often, the primary reason Team India loses ODIs is that they are unable to kill off the game when they are on top. Indian captains are known to let things drift, especially in the middle overs of a 50-over game. Twenty overs seemed just right for this team. The innings was over before they ran out of steam (even though, there were instances against England and Pakistan when the game did drift a bit).How about keeping the intensity in the field for 50 overs ?

2. Will running between the wickets be exposed in the 50-over game ?

Admittedly, the running between wickets in the T20 tournament was pretty good. It was not exhilirating, but you could live with it. However, T20 is not about running between wickets, it is about getting the fours and the sixes (the ocassional 2 or 3 does help immensely, though). Will this weakness come to the fore again in the 50-over version ?

3. Is the batting experienced enough to bat for 50 overs consistently against quality attacks ?

Twenty overs is all a bowling side had in this version (some bowlers are thankful for that !). This means that bowlers like Mohmd Asif, Umer Gul, Stuart Clark, Pollock etc only had 4 overs each. In addition to that, T20 places different kinds of pressure on the bowlers…even the experienced sorts. This will be dramatically different in the 50-over format. Will this young line-up be able to handle that ? More importantly, will they be able to play positively consistently enough ? Do they have the experience to pace their innings ?

There are many such questions…questions that will only partially be answered in the next few months.

Let us wait and see how many Indian “fans” are still felicitating these players after those months… !

Related Posts:

Ongoing “India are champs” series:

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights

India are champs … Part 1

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

After the euphoria over India’s victory in Twenty20 World Cup settles down, folks will start digging into Shoaib Malik’s post match comments.

Mukul Kesavan conducts a preliminary inquiry into this episode with this post:

Then the Pakistan captain said something that was so irrelevant that I couldn’t believe my ears. So I looked at the highlights over and over again to make sure that I’d actually heard him say it. This is what he said to master of ceremonies, Ravi Shastri, who asked him a sympathetic question about the game after Shoaib had collected his loser’s medal:

“First of all I want to say something over here. I want to thank you back home Pakistan and where the Muslim lives all over the world.”

This is what he said word for word because it’s important to quote him correctly. The problem here isn’t the syntax, it is the sentiment. I don’t expect Shoaib Malik to be a politically correct intellectual, but it is reasonable to expect him to know the world of cricket that he inhabits.

Myself, I would take a much more charitable view of things.

Amidst pictures of Indians jumping around the ground, there were shots of a sunken Pakistan team being led out to the ground by what looked like an inconsolable Shoaib Malik.

Much is said about how unfancied the two teams were before this tournament began. What most people do not realize, however, is that of the two, Pakistan had a much more balanced team.

This was the team that simply walked past Sri Lanka and Australia in the league matches. New Zealand were similarly brushed aside in the semi-final.

Contrast this with India’s lead-up to the final. Even the horribly inefficient English middle-order ran them close. South Africa were too timid, but the Aussies came out all guns blazing in the semi-final. If it were not for an Aussie lower-order that had not had much game-time in this tournament, things could have been different for India.

Amidst all that, there was an under-current of speculation running around the cricket fraternity that Pakistan were favourites. This under-current started gushing out in the open once they managed to restrict the Indian score to 157. Add Imran Nazir’s 15 ball 33, and you were on the mark.

When you lose from such a position and after so much promise, you are left with nothing.

None of this is to condone what Shoaib said to Ravi Shastri…but please allow him this small consolation…this small beating of the chest under duress.

As Pakistan mourns the defeat, the rest of the cricketing world can celebrate the birth of Instant Cricket, no ?

Related posts…

Ongoing series “India are champs”

Part 1 here

Highlights here

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights

More reporting to come on the match, the consequences, the star-performances, the nuances…

For the moment, watch the highlights of this electrifying match:

Indian Innings:

Pakistan Innings:

Enjoy…

Related posts…

On-going series: “India are Champs” …

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Part 1

India are champs … Part 1

The excitement is over-whelming. The thoughts are coming thick and fast. So, instead of writing one big post, this will be a series. Essentially because I am incapable of organizing my thoughts decently.

First of all, only India and Pakistan are capable of producing such a final. Not because they are better than the other teams, but because you can never be 100% sure they are going to do the right things at the right moments. (Afridi swinging away happily second ball, Misbah playing a scoop instead of playing a straight shot, Sreeshant bowling short to Sohail Tanvir when he should have fired it in the block-hole…)

Added to all that, of course, is the baggage they carry…the cliche about “millions of supporters back home where cricket is a religion” ! I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be on the players.

My player of the series ? my wife.

It is not easy to keep your cool when there are only two of you in the house and the other person keeps screaming into the TV at 1:00 am for no apparent reason !

More coming….

Shoaib Malik’s post match comments:

“First of all I want to say something over here. I want to thank you back home Pakistan and where the Muslim lives all over the world.”

Why did Misbah play the scoop when he could have terrorized Joginder Sharma ?

….Keep watching this space !

Related Posts:

Ongoing “India are champs” series:

India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights