Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Cricket – 3 different formats, or 3 different games? Will ‘ODI’ format survive?

Posted in Cricket by Amit Paranjape on October 30, 2013

Seriously amazing batting by Virat Kohli today at Nagpur…. However, this ODI format is getting way too batsmen friendly. We already have T20 format which is heavily loaded against bowlers… ODI shouldn’t go that way..should at least maintain some balance. If ODIs continue this way with routine 350+ scores, we are heading to another different format of cricket (like T20).

May be we are heading to 3 different games: Cricket-1 (Tests, Traditional 1st Class), Cricket-2 (ODI), Cricket-3 (T20).

I enjoy all three formats, but would prefer some changes in ‘Cricket-2’.

The ‘Cricket-2’ format, to survive and be viable needs to be different from ‘Cricket-1’ and ‘Cricket-3’. It is already quite different from ‘Cricket-1’, but that is not the problem. The issue is that it is increasingly moving nearer towards ‘Cricket-3’. ‘Cricket-2’ cannot be two back-to-back T20 games! It needs to go back to the way it was a few years back.

May be we are headed to a scenario where ‘Cricket-2’ will just disappear amidst competition from ‘Cricket-1’ and ‘Cricket-3’. What do you think?

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The Ranji Trophy Final – One Of The Greatest Matches In Recent Times

Posted in Cricket by Amit Paranjape on January 14, 2010

Great news for the ‘original’ cricket fans! The longer version of the game and Indian Domestic Cricket are both alive and well! We had one of the most spectacular matches in recent memory, over the past 4 days – the Ranji Trophy Final. Fortunes changed every hour and Mumbai barely scrapped through, winning by just 6 runs against Karnataka on Day 4 of this 5 day Match, which was played at Mysore.

This match had everything – great bowling, tenacious batting, terrific catching and excellent crowd support. The Mysore Pitch curators did a splendid job by providing a greenish bowler friendly wicket. For too long, domestic cricket has become a bowler’s graveyard, resulting in very high scoring games that get decided based on first innings lead. This game was a clear exception…in fact at times it felt like the match might get over in just 3 days!

Mumbai won the toss and elected to bat first. Some were skeptical of this decision looking at the fresh green wicket, but Mumbai’s strategy was to bat first and put the pressure on the opposition, especially in such a big game. Karnataka bowlers struck immediately and reduced Mumbai to 20/3. The ball was swinging and doing crazy things – definitely not something you are used to seeing in Indian conditions. Like many times before this season the middle and lower-middle order bailed out Mumbai and got them to a fighting first innings total of 233. Vinay Kumar was quite impressive with 4 wickets. Karnataka fared much worse while batting. From 53/3, they literally collapsed like a deck of cards to 130 all-out, giving Mumbai a very important 103 run first innings lead. For Mumbai, Salvi chipped-in with 5 wickets.

Mumbai’s 2nd innings started with a lot of expectations from their batsmen – they were in a strong position in the match and were expected to consolidate their position further. For a few minutes, it did feel that way, when the normally sedate Wasim Jaffer (Mumbai Captain) struck a couple of quick boundaries. But the Karnataka pace attack was also all charged up and reduced Mumbai to 18/3. Mithun who bowled beautifully throughout, was on a hat-trick.  2 more wickets fell later that session, and at 51/5, Karnataka was back in the match. Again Mumbai’s middle order – Nayar and Dhaval Kulkarni (who was a surprise promotion in the batting line-up), did the rescue act. Nayar fell to what can be described as one of the most spectacular all-time catches, by Manish Pandey! (See attached YouTube clip). Kulkarni carried on and by the time Mumbai innings folded at 234, they had an impressive 337 run lead.

Chasing 337 in the last innings is tough under any conditions, and on this bowling paradise, it seemed like Mumbai had pretty much won the trophy! But the swings in fortune were to continue. There were a few more twists in the tale, yet to come. Karnataka again lost Robin Utthapa (their Captain) and the top two cheaply and at 46/3, it felt like the game could be wrapped up soon. But Pandey and Satish had other ideas. They defended solidly and as the partnership progressed, turned aggressive (especially Pandey). A mammoth 200 run partnership evolved and from a losing position – they were well insight of a comfortable win! This change happened in just 3 hours! Pandey scored an attacking run-a-ball 140. He is clearly an exciting prospect for Team India (for many, the memory of his spectacular century he scored for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL is still fresh…).

But Pandey’s wicket again turned the tide and the big game pressure got to Karnataka. The senior, talented (but often unreliable!) Mumbai pacer Ajit Agarkar took charge, with good support from Kulkarni at the other end. In just over an hour after lunch, Karnataka were down to 322/9 with 15 runs still remaining. The last pair was batting reasonably comfortably until Agarkar got Aravind Caught & Bowled…with just 6 runs remaining!

The scenes of jubilation in the Mumbai camp were amazing. Karnataka players were utterly disappointed – especially Manish Pandey, whose heroic 140 still fell short.  The passion and intensity of the game were visible on the faces of both teams.

As Wasim Jaffer lifted the Ranji Trophy for the 39th time, it was not Mumbai alone who was celebrating. It was a terrific victory for Domestic Cricket! I cannot remember anytime before when there was so much excitement for a domestic game – and this when an international India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh ODI series was in progress!

Why I Love Test Cricket

Posted in Cricket by Amit Paranjape on December 21, 2009

In this era of instant gratification and short attention spans, it’s no wonder that the quicker forms of the cricket game: T20 and ODIs are gaining more popularity over Test Cricket. In fact, T20 seems to be doing to ODIs, what ODIs did to Test Cricket a couple of decades back.

At the outset let me be clear that I love all forms of the game. Cricket is such a wonderful sport that each format has its unique flavors. Each version places its own unique sets of demands and challenges on the players. It’s like having to make a choice between great fast-food snacks vs. a gastronomic filling multi-course meal. You want both!

Still, I think the younger generation is increasingly being pulled away from the mothership – Test Cricket. Hence I am going to ‘bat’ for this classic version in this blog. Cricket purists have used various attributes to compare Test Cricket: ‘Fine Wine’, ‘Classical Music’, etc. While I agree with most of these comparisons, I will use more direct factors to highlight why I love Test Cricket so much. Note – many of these factors discussed below are applicable to varying degrees to the other versions of the game as well.

1. Mental Game

Test Cricket is as much played in the mind, as it is played on the field. From subtle field placement changes, to more direct bowling changes…from resisting the temptation of going after a wide ball to playing a few attacking shots to send a message. And body language also plays a big role as well. Each team is trying to guess what the other team is thinking about and planning. Verbal chatter is also an important part of these mind games, though it is being increasingly ‘policed’ by the authorities.

These subtle mind games are very interesting. And when two traditional rivals are playing like India-Pakistan or England-Australia, these mind games reach a new level. The crowd joins in as well. One of my favorite books on cricket is Sunil Gavaskar’s ‘Sunny Days’. Chronicling his early career through 1976 (when all International Cricket was pretty much Test Cricket), this book provides great insights into the mind games and planning & strategy associated with classic Test Matches.

2. Planning And Strategy

Test Cricket is a lot about Planning and Strategy. Literally like chess moves, decisions are thought through and made many steps in advance. Strategies are created by the team think tank at the beginning of each series/match/day and then revised as things progress. Often individual strategies are made to tackle individual bowlers and batsmen. These strategies and their implementations are like following chess grandmasters or battlefield generals in action!

Probably the most infamous of this pre-series strategy planning process dates back to the 1932 England tour of Australia – the famed ‘Bodyline Tour’. England Captain Douglas Jardine came up with his this new ‘strategy’ to curb the Australian run-machine, the great Donald Bradman.

3. Batting Defense

To a casual follower of the game, a dull defensive batting display is often very boring. On the other hand, if you understand the pitch conditions, the match situation and other factors – this defensive battle can also get very engrossing. Good defense is as skillful as playing a good attacking game. And remember, for a batsman, one mistake and you are out!

Rahul Dravid epitomizes this batting defense display and has numerous amazing innings to his credit. It’s unfortunate that these innings don’t get the mass appeal of a Sehwag or a Tendulkar innings. 

4. Battle Of Attrition

Whether in bowling or in batting, as well as in fielding, Test Cricket is often a game of attrition. Its all about who has more staying power – mentally and physically. Who has the ability to maintain their quality and standards of performance after many hours in the game? It’s all about who blinks first, and commits that initial mistake. It could be lazy shot…could be bad over…or a dropped catch.

5. Physical Staying Power

Ultimately, cricket like any physical sport, requires good athletes. However, the athletic attributes of a Test Player are often more akin to a Marathon Runner, as opposed to a 100 Meter sprinter. Dean Jones battling extreme dehydration and cramps in the oppressive Chennai Heat and Humidity in the 1987 Historic Tie Test, and going on to score a Double-Hundred is just amazing. He was rushed to the hospital from the cricket game and came back!

6. The ‘Old’ Ball Dynamics

In the shorter versions of the game, the variations in the ball don’t make a big difference. Comparatively, this adds a whole new twist to a Test Match innings. Once the ball is 10-15 overs old, it stops swinging and spinners can utilize it better. But post 40-50 overs, the ‘reverse swing’ comes into picture.  And post 80 overs, the new ball is an option, which brings in another strategic decision element.

7. The Pitch Factor

The cricket pitch (along with the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) is probably the most important external variable in the game. And it is dynamic! In the shorter version – the changes are not drastic. But in a 5 day game, often times the pitch characteristics are drastically different from day 1 to day 5. This adds a very interesting new twist to the game. Winning the toss is very important. As the Pitch evolves, different batting and bowling skills become important and relevant. Just think of the variability that Test Pitches bring to the table – whether they are the bouncy wickets of Australia or South Africa, the batsman and spinners friendly wickets in the Indian Sub-Continent, or the Greenish wickets in England or New Zealand. There are so many games where winning the toss and deciding the right upfront use of the pitch (for bowling or batting) have been the primary deciding factor on who comes out at the top.

8.  Bowler Advantages

The shorter versions of the games are increasingly becoming more and more batsman friendly. The poor bowlers are primarily reduced to containing the batsman. The rules are also going against them. However in a Test Match, the bowlers can dominate – especially when you have bowler friendly pitches. The sight of a Dennis Lillee/Jeff Thompson bowling with 9 Slips in the 1970s(click link for the image), is probably gone for ever now!

9. Intense Concentration

As mentioned earlier, test Cricket is a game of attrition. As a fielder, a batsman or a bowler, you have to often wait for hours for the other party to make a mistake. Conversely you could concentrate all day, and that one lapse can lead to a dropped catch, or a clean-bowled! The concentration power exhibited by the Test Stalwarts is just amazing.

10. Television Commentary

Last, but not the least – the Test Cricket TV Commentary when done by good commentators can be extremely engrossing. Even when the game is moving slowly, the discussions, the statistics, the anecdotes, and the humor – can all be quite entertaining.

Sachin Tendulkar: Off-The-Field

Posted in Cricket by Amit Paranjape on November 15, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar completes 20 years of his career this week. A myriad of adjectives have been used to describe his greatness, and I don’t want to add to that huge list. After a while, words like ‘genius’, ‘legend’ and ‘master’ stop doing true justice. 

Sometimes pictures and videos speak much more than words. Here are a few interesting videos that I was able to find on the web.

Sachin has played innumerable great innings. Picking even a few would be next to impossible. A performer often reveals his true nature only when he is not on the stage. Hence my primary search focus was to find Sachin’s (often not so common) off-the-field clips. Here are five that caught my attention –

1. Tom Alter interviewing a 16 year old, shy Sachin.  Still, you can sense the underlying self-confidence in him.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oez4TSdZvJI

2. Sachin recounts his 1st Test and facing Wasim Akram, and how Test Cricket is a completely different game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiwLKaP5moc

3. Harsha Bhogle unplugged on Sachin – a great 9 min clip where Harsha informally chats about Sachin’s ability   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-7jL7o8kYs

4. Sachin Tendulkar talks (in Marathi) about his coach Ramakant Achrekar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4d-6hBkDFQ

5. An emotional Sachin reacts at the unveiling of his wax statue for the Madame Tussauds Museum. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i3fNpmBWMQ

Hope you enjoy these five clips on you-tube.  Here’s one on-field innings I will leave you with.

Sachin’s first Test Century  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngaeaKkWjdE

I know it might be a stretch even for Sachin, but I hope that he plays for another 5 years, and gets to 50 Centuries in Tests and ODIs! And yes, after that great 175 against Australia…wouldn’t it be nice to see him become the first batsman to score a double hundred in an ODI?

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