Dharamshala day 1 Match Report

A dozen playing days in this India-Australia series have produced more fairytales than the combined imaginations of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm managed in their lifetime. The latest in the string of unlikely stories to punctuate this see-saw series came in the unlikely shape of debutant left-arm chinaman/googly bowler Kuldeep Yadav.

Everything about his story flirts with the boundaries of probability, beginning with the very fact of his making it to the playing XI. The most foolhardy punter would have hesitated to put spare change on the possibility that with talismanic captain and number four batsman Virat Kohli pulling out with an injured shoulder, the team management would choose as replacement a tyro spinner — more so in a side that already boasts two spinners who have captured the top two ICC rankings.

That he made the side was surprising enough; that he then produced a series of brilliant deliveries to slice through the Australian batting lineup, after the visitors had taken control of the game in a free-flowing first session that produced 131 runs for one wicket in 31 overs stretched credulity to the limit and beyond.

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India V Australia, Test 4 Day 1

(My preview, written for First Post Friday evening)

C7hHt8wVwAAGBnm“MY GOD” reads a tweet from cricket writer and radio commentator Geoff Lemon, “LOOK AT THIS INDIAN PITCH oh no wait that is just some bread”. Judging by that post and others, Lemon is mildly annoyed with this cricket season’s version of the Great Indian Dope Trick.

There is an art to this. You say the following: It is hard. There is some grass on it but it is dead grass rolled in “as makeup”. There is a bit of moisture beneath the surface (duh!). In the first hour, it will give you some bounce and carry. It will become progressively lower and slower. It will crack up as the sun beats down on it and it will turn sharply. The turn, if any, will only be out of any rough created by the bowlers’ footmarks. The turn will become slower and the ball will keep lower as the game progresses…

You can say the above in whatever order you like, but you have to say all of it, with a suitably portentous expression. (To get the face right, pretend you have to go to the loo urgently).

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India v Australia Day 5

(This was written for FirstPost before start of play on the final day)

677 runs and 22 wickets in 360 overs over four days; eight of the first 20 wickets to those quick bowlers who were at peak levels of skill; control of the game shifting from one team to another at least once every day, often once per session — the first four days of this Test have been a template for what Test cricket at its best is supposed to be about.

If pitches could sue for libel, the JSCA would get millions without the jury leaving the box. “Rolled mud”? “Nothing like we have ever seen before”? Really?

The final day begins with one result — the draw — possible; another — an Indian win — probable. And odd as it may seem, Australia’s fate is entirely in its own hands — not in the pitch, not in the hands of the Indian bowlers and, while we are on the subject, not in the vagaries of DRS reviews that seem to be dominating conversations to an unwarranted degree.

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India vs Australia Day 4

(Before play, as posted to FirstPost’s live blog)

One hundred and eighty.

If you like turning over envelopes and calculating possibilities on the reverse, that is the number you want to put down first. 180 overs remain in this Test and every calculation, by either side, will be predicated on that number.

If you are an Australian point of view, you need to figure out how many overs you reckon you need to bowl India out in the second innings. This is neither Pune nor Bangalore and even in the last innings, you want to budget at least 90, 100 overs for the job.

Sounds like that is rating India too high, or selling the Aussie bowling too short? Their main strike bowler is Pat Cummins who, in just his second first-class game after injuries kept him out for five years, has had to combine the durability of the workhorse and the penetration of a shock bowler. He produced consistent, searing pace and headhunting bouncers; two of those got him wickets that would have been beyond the capabilities of most other quicks — but it’s been hard toil for a player not yet fully grooved into the demands of Test cricket in these conditions.

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Review: Azhar, the movie

“Who are you?” Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogan) asks Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in the midst of an incandescent argument in the Danny Boyle-helmed biopic on the Apple founder. “What do you do?”

The questions are equally central to any exploration, fictional or otherwise, of the life and times of Mohammad Azharuddin.

Who was he? More crucially, *what* was he?

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ROFL Lodha

Acerbic. Sweeping. Comprehensive. All apt words to describe the Report on Cricket Reforms released January 4, 2016, by the Supreme Court-mandated Justice Lodha Committee. But “funny”? Yeah, that too — if you like your humor to wear a very thin veil. Some samplers:

From the outset, the Committee has reached out to the administration of the BCCI to offer its comments and interventions on the issues that were being considered. Meetings were arranged with all the office-bearers, and from the first week of April, the Questionnaire was sent to all of them. The then President Mr.Jagmohan Dalmiya and Secretary Mr.Anurag Thakur even sent identical responses to it.

That is to say, the late Mr Dalmiya (before he became late, of course) and Mr Thakur had their responses written by the same hand, didn’t bother to make even cosmetic alterations to the words, and submitted them independently, not allowing for the possibility that the committee would pick up on similarity of response. Then there is this:

We are glad to note that having obtained a broad picture from the Questionnaire about how the Committee intended to proceed, BCCI started taking some action, or at least made some announcements touching upon the contents of the questions. These include statements concerning committees to represent States where associations were in dispute or not formed [Qn.1.6], agent accreditation [Qns.6.10 & 6.13] and conflict of interest [Qns.7.1 – 7.3]. Unfortunately, a closer examination shows that these measures came without any structural modifications, and were done more in an effort to assuage the public.

Translated into undiplomatic English: We sent out a questionnaire, the BCCI honchos figured out from the questions what our areas of concern were, and promptly made some cosmetic announcements to convey the impression that our concerns were already being addressed, even before we had begun our sittings. Unfortunately, all of it was an eyewash.

Immediately following, is this bit about Shashank Manohar, and this is where the humor really bites:

On the 30th of September 2015, the Committee interacted in New Delhi with Mr.Shashank Manohar, who had been the President of the BCCI when amendments were carried out to permit a conflict of interest, which action was eventually quashed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. On the day of the meeting, Mr.Manohar was widely tipped to be the consensus candidate to again be the President of the BCCI in elections to be held on the weekend. During the extensive discussions, the Committee put to Mr.Manohar the various concerns highlighted in the Questionnaire, particularly regarding the wide-ranging powers of the President, the lack of financial oversight over State bodies, the lack of transparency as far as BCCI regulations and processes were concerned, the lack of a Conflict of Interest policy and the need for an Ombudsman. Mr.Manohar fairly conceded that these needed to be addressed. We are again happy to note that that on being elected as President of BCCI within 4 days thereafter, Mr.Manohar, even without waiting for the Committee’s report, adopted and projected the Committee’s views as his roadmap for improving the functioning of the BCCI. He also implemented some of them, i.e. uploading of the Constitution and Bye-Laws on the BCCI website, creating a policy for Conflicts of Interest and appointment of an Ombudsman. While we believe that these proposals are in the right direction, we find that they are not comprehensive and substantive.

Check out the underlined bits.

Shorn of politeness, this bit translates thus: We met Manohar and told him of our chief areas of concern. Within a week of that meeting, Manohar — on whose watch the most egregious case of conflict of interest was rubber-stamped — trotted out a set of “reforms” as coming from himself, but which in reality were attempts to undercut the work of the committee. “He also implemented some of them,” the report says, leaving unsaid the corollary, that much more remained in the realm of ‘statements’.

“We are happy to note…”, the judges say, their expression of delight yielding to disappointment a couple of sentences later as the judges note that Manohar’s reforms were neither comprehensive nor substantive.

And so it goes.

The judges must have been seriously pissed, to call out — repeatedly — the BCCI’s attempts at preempting their report.

FWIW, I had scribbled random thoughts down while reading the report in full. Here is the “annotated” version.

PS: Did you read the full report? What thoughts struck you? What do you like? What do you dislike? Why? Comments in the box, please? Let’s start a dialogue — will be back tomorrow morning to look for your thoughts.

Twit wit…

An occasional series starts here, now: