India v SA: Test 2

“It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks, or just about five days,” Kohli said on the eve of the second Test. “Before the first Test, no one thought that he should be in the XI, and now suddenly people are looking at the other option. For us as a team, it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in in the kind of balance we want to go with as a side, then they will fit in. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and ‘talk of the town’, and all those sort of things.”

That’s Virat Kohli speaking, ahead of the second Test starting today at Supersport Park. Which makes you wonder who he has been listening to — pretty much every member of the commentariat, and large sections of the fans, were sure in their minds that Rahane would be playing; Rohit’s inclusion came as a rude shock. So yeah, not sure who those “people” are that Virat heard.

Continue reading

That thing Jasprit does

The most jaw-dropping pick in India’s playing XI in the ongoing first Test against South Africa is Jasprit Bumrah, ahead of the likes of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. The two latter are both tall, have pace and bounce and movement — all suited for South African tracks; Jasprit, on the other hand, has none of those attributes.

Continue reading

India-SA day 2

Writing in Cricinfo, Siddharth Monga puts the focus where it belongs: on the personnel choices India made, and its negative impact on the course of the first day’s play.

Despite the start provided by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the answer lay in the run rate at which South Africa went in difficult batting conditions, which has left India an immeasurably long way back from a stutter with the bat. Mohammed Shami began with the same problems he had in Australia in 2014-15: bowling the Asia line, on the stumps. He was also too short too often, which is the length that hits the stumps in Asia.

A bigger culprit was Jasprit Bumrah, a shocking selection in the squad – forget the XI – given he has not played first-class cricket in a year. Bumrah is an intelligent young bowler. He has a hyper-flexible arm, which makes his variations difficult to pick. He is the best quick going around in limited-overs cricket. His coaches, his mentors, his team-mates all talk about how quick a learner he is. He is, however, not that quick a learner that he will rock up in South Africa, having not bowled more than 10 overs a day in more than a year, not having had to work out a batsman not under pressure of scoring a run a ball, and five net sessions later become the messiah to save India.

Hard to disagree with the above, and with the rest of Monga’s analysis. Arising from which, a few random thoughts after watching day one:

Continue reading

India versus South Africa: Test 1, day 1

And that is that for the day, play ending with three overs of the allotted quota unbowled. Rohit Sharma and Che Pujara walking off, with India on a perilous 28/3. The biggest problem for the side now is the fact that it is a batsman light — Saha in next, then Pandya, and Ashwin.

The situation India is in reinforces the point about the need for openers to settle in, not try and get too far ahead of themselves. Vijay played at one he normally leaves alone; Dhawan played a pull at one that no batsman in the world could have pulled successfully, and Virat Kohli got a brute of a delivery from Morkel to wreck the innings.

It lets the team in now for a back to the wall fightback, made all the harder by the lack of batting depth. But then, the side has been talking of its new-found character, of its never say die spirit and ability to fight back from any position. No better time to find out just what that spirit is all about.

Continue reading

How money changed cricket

My friend Amit Varma, who you should follow for informed libertarian commentary on contemporary affairs, blogs at India Uncut and edits Pragati magazine.

Amit is a two-time winner of the Bastiat Prize for libertarian writing. And, happily, in less than a year of its revamped launch, Pragati has two writers (by a happy coincidence, both good friends) in the shortlist for this year’s Bastiat awards (the only Indian media house of any type to make the shortlist): Devangshu Datta for his series on victimless crimes and Shruti Rajagopalan for an astonishing eight-part series on the right to property.

A brief segue: Besides her writing skills, Shruti is an excellent teacher. The two of us once met up for a pub crawl through New York City. The hours passed, we hopped from pub to pub and finally, well past midnight, came to roost at an Irish pub in midtown Manhattan. That is when I said something incredibly ill-informed about the economy. Shruti went on a tear. She grabbed up a heap of napkins from the bar, borrowed the bar-bloke’s pen, and with sketches and charts, began explaining macro-economic concepts oblivious to the fact that she was collecting something of a crowd around her. It was a magical moment; I ended it stone cold sober and considerably more well-informed, proving the point that you have to lose something to gain something else.

Anyway. Amit also hosts a podcast, The Seen and the Unseen — an always insightful, occasionally quirky series of conversations between Amit and various guests on matters to do with the economy, with polity, and with society. Here are the archives. And here is the latest: a three-way cricket conversation featuring Gideon Haigh, among the best cricket writers of this or any generation, Amit, and me.

And oh yes, apologies for the radio silence. After reading your various inputs  — for which I cannot thank you enough — and also reading what seemed like a rainforest’s worth of commentary on demonetization across websites, I finally managed to figure out what I want to say and how to say it. The finished piece, as of a few moments ago, is with the BuzzFeed editors, and should go up at some point tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I’ll get to my shamefully delayed responses to your inputs and questions, and ease back into daily blogging. Apologies again for the silence, stay well, keep in touch.

Adios, Ashish, and thanks for the memories

A Twitter mention of Ashish Nehra, who is set to end an 18-year career in international cricket this week at the Firozeshah Kotla, Delhi, produced this gem from a fan:

Continue reading