Follow Your Heart. Lead Your Mind. You'll find a window everywhere.

Friday, December 19, 2014

So many short balls show India is short on cricketing sense.

3rd day's play of the Brisbane Test began with a slight advantage towards India. 

The early departure of Mitchell Marsh being bamboozled by Ishant Sharma also helped the cause of India. The incoming delivery from Ishant though looked ominous but it was actually Mitchell's wrong judgement he paid the price for.

When a fast bowler goes a bit wide of the crease to bowl and keeps the shine of the ball outside, it's commonsense that the ball would come in, more so, as the old Kookaburra ball doesn't reverse much and, early in the morning, any chance of such happenings remains almost zero - even considering miracles.

Brad Haddin came out to bat, and never looked comfortable during his short stint in the middle. His footwork seemed all over the place, as if his nervous system refused to work. Before getting skittled by Varun Aaron's rising delivery at the forward short-leg, offering a chocolate catch to Pujara, Haddin actually kept hopping on the pitch, doing little justice to his reputation as a batsman. In fact, before his dismissal the way he left his all three stumps exposed to nudge the ball to the deep fine-leg fence for a boundary showed his confidence level was wobbly and dwindling. 

However, with his uncharacteristic dismissal, he rather unknowingly laid out a trap for Indians to walk into, so as to squander the advantage to Australia, foolishly, by bowling short and haywire.

The ill-directed and purposeless barrage of 28 short-balls not only helped Mitchell Johnson settle down and score a no time half-century but also did a world of good to Aussies who amassed 130 runs off just 23 overs, losing only 2 wickets in the first session of play.

While Dhoni was clueless, so were Indian pacers, Steven Smith demonstrated why he is considered as one of the most mature cricketers in the world in spite of his age - that's only 25+. 

The moment Johnson pulled twice to the fence with authority, intelligent Smith understood there was nothing to worry. So, he allowed Johnson to take the maximum strike and thereby make Indian bowlers tired and dejected by taking them on with lusty hits all over the ground, as well as playing within the V.

It's ironical that Indian think-tank failed to understand any left-hander naturally plays horizontal shots better, and Johnson was no exception. Whereas, at the start, when feet don't move straightway, it's always wise to pitch the ball up, bowling over the wicket. For that creates two angles for a southpaw thus weaves doubts on his mind while he is forced to come forward and play the ball early. This always increases the chance of getting a new batsman out, especially if he is a lefty. 

If Indians think they can win a Test match by hurting or intimidating batsmen instead of getting them out then they can jolly well keep bowling short, predictably, but to no avail. Because while bowling short Indian bowlers are pitching it almost on their toes, and from that length it's easier for any batsman to pick the ball quite early. 

Even after lunch, when batsmen remain rusty for a short-while, bringing Rohit Sharma in tandem with Ashwin was another mindless move by Dhoni to finish the overs quickly before taking the new ball. 

After a break, it's prudent to let pacers bowl an over or two with the old ball, for that actually warms them up to go for the kill with the new cherry in hand. 

Dhoni's field placing was no strange either. The way he spreads fielders, it is a psychological submission to the fact that tail-enders from an opponent side can hit Indian bowlers anywhere they want, so protections everywhere. 

From 398 for 8, as Australia sailed through to 505, practically, it underlines the ineptness of Indian bowling to wrap things up. Plus, they are also unable to check the run flow to make batsmen impatient to commit mistakes. No logic can justify a fielding side's bowling that concedes a run-rate of 4.60 in a Test match. 

Nevertheless, words are inadequate to laud the knock of Steven Smith under pressure on his debut as a captain. The poise and calmness he showed throughout the innings was of a different class and, if he keeps playing like this, more sedate tons from him are on the cards for sure. 6 Test hundreds in 24 Tests speak volumes of his ability with the bat but with no ado about anything. 

Dhoni & Co. got to realise aggression minus patience and discipline - particularly in bowling - is outrage and anarchy, and neither outrage nor anarchy helps a side win a Test match let alone a Test series. 

Not to forget, everyone does make mistakes, so does a batsman. Therefore, in a Test match, relying on a batsman's weakness is as important as trusting a bowler's strength. So, sticking to the basics is crucial, for without that, variations are nothing but worthless application. 

Finally, one question remains as it is: "What's the role of Indian cricket team's think-tank in Tests overseas?"   

Monday, December 1, 2014

The cricket ball and the T20 killed Phil Hughes.

In a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Sean Abbott bowled a bouncer. The ball rose off the deck and hit Phillip (aka Phil) Hughes on the back of his head, while he wanted to play a hook shot. Immediately after, Phil lost consciousness and fell on the ground on his face. With a thud. He was rushed to St. Vincent's Hospital where he succumbed to the injury and passed away. Two days shy of his 26th birthday to remain on 63* forever.

The incident was quoted as "freaky accident" by almost all that include medical experts, ex and current cricketers, editors, sports journalists, fans, and the people at large.

The media, especially TV channels, and the social media have gone berserk demanding more safety for batsmen on a cricket pitch. And, according to them, that is only possible if protective gears, precisely helmets, are redesigned and bouncers are relinquished. 

Noble thoughts indeed! For such ideas always create more opportunities to debate or argue, and the more the debate or argument, the better the TRP / GRP / Circulation / Readership / Trending. Good business ploys. no doubt.

But the question is, and will ever be, "Do, or can, such gimmicks in news benefit cricket and its stake holders, anyway?" 

To understand that, why not don a thinking hat, instead of a reactive one, and try to analyse what exactly happened to Phillip and what might continue to happen to other cricketers, as well as umpires, on a cricket field? 

Let's begin the analysis with a pecking question: "Did Sean Abbott bowl a bouncer at all in the first place to intimidate or hurt Phil Hughes?" 

From the video analysis, it was clear that the delivery was not a bouncer. It was definitely on the shorter side, but not too short of a length. However, the ball rose off the surface rather stiffly, so, for that, if the bowler needs to be mentioned of, he should rather be credited, not discredited or maligned, for producing such a gem of a delivery.

On the contrary, from batting skills point of view, it was Phil's wrong technique, precisely his flawed footwork and judgement, which put him in a false position to get struck by the cherry and leave the world so early, unfortunately, bringing tears to all of us. Well, to me at least. 

While, just swaying away a little backward could have helped Hughes see the ball flying off safely into the keeper's gloves, his erroneously judged aggression to hit the ball made all the damage, irreversibly. 

In fact, if playing a shot and scoring off the said delivery was so crucial then an upper cut over the slip would have been ideal. But noway a hook, or even a pull-shot, was apt, given the position Phillip got himself into. 

In short, it was not the failure of a cricket helmet but it was the failure of a batsman who, despite being a test player and having loads of talent, failed miserably in 'shot selection' before 'shot execution' owing to his 'aggression'.

Such aggression is actually inevitable thanks to T20, and a tournament like IPL. That turns batting into banging the ball by hook or by crook. Because that's entertainment, often cheap and crazy, which people pay for to help marketeers, and a cricket board like BCCI - out there to sell TV rights even at the cost of a cricketer's life or the game itself.  

Money matters, and as long as it flows in, it hardly matters what young cricketers are learning from the grassroots level.

Besides, it's to be noted with due attention that Phillip was not hit by the ball on the back of his head - media hype notwithstanding. He was rather struck on the neck just above the left collarbone, a vulnerable area, where no helmet in the world can provide a protection to any batsman. 

Given the weight, hardness, seam and speed of a cricket ball, it would be surprising, if a batsman or, for that matter, any cricketer or an umpire, doesn't suffer from or die of VAD: Vertebral Artery Dissection unlike Hughes had to.

Let alone protecting or saving a cricketer from VAD, as the Masuri 'Vision Series' helmets with 'Active Peak Technology' might not even keep one's face secure and intact, if a cricket ball travels at a speed of over 67-mph from front and enters through the gap between the peak and the grille.

This boils down to the consideration - which ICC or any cricket board hardly cares for - that a cricket ball, from time immemorial, has unnecessarily been hard, intimidating and life-threatening - that is of course, and should never be, acknowledged and appreciated in the name of bravado and machismo.

Frankly, equating one's bruises, broken anatomy, blood or death in a sport with guts or gusto is not normal. It's kind of a psychological disorder like sadism. Quite primitive and predatory, totally devoid of human sense, sensibility and sensitivity, and the spirit of sports. Thus neither ethical nor civilised, and doesn't complement the philosophy and essence of cricket called: The Gentleman's Game.

To be precise, the cricket ball not only harms a batsman but also murders a bowler, a fielder, an umpire (even in the square-leg) - practically anyone, everyone, physically or mentally; literally or laterally.

As a result, it affects the mind of children and parents, psychologically, creating an environment of fear, which cannot help any sport to flourish or get developed, as a global sport, due to the negative emotion that is generated and spread in such situations, automatically. 

More so, given the dubious role of the media that fans the fire, as there is hardly any difference between 'Sports Journalism' and 'Page 3 Reporting' at present. 

Therefore, the need of the hour is to look into the cricket ball and use science and technology the best possible way to innovate a new cricket ball that won't frighten anyone but, at the same time, will keep the competitiveness in the game alive without compromising or favouring a batsman at the cost of bouncer, swing, reverse swing, seam, cut or spin. 

In a nutshell, the core of the cricket ball i.e. the cork has to be gotten rid of, which is not at all conducive but dangerous and harmful to the greater interest of the game. 

Last but the least, batsmen should always remember T20 is good; aggression is better; protective gears could be the best, but above all else, it's only the right technique that can save a batsman and help him live longer on the turf and off it.