Month: August 2011

Defeat at Trent Bridge

Indians hoped that India will do well in Trent Bridge Test. India will win and it will be 1-1.

On Day 1 England were all out 221. At one time they were 124/8. India were 24/1. On Day 2 India were all out 288, a lead of 67 runs. At one time they were 267/4. England were 24/1. On Day 3 India’s bowling was not successful. England dominated. The day began with Vaseline controversy. Till tea break India had the chance of winning or drawing the Test. After Ian Bell run-out controversy it was downhill for India. England finished the day 441/6, a lead of 374 runs. On that day England scored 417 runs on a single day, highest since 1954. After tea break India did not have the will to fight. Something was seriously wrong. It seems there was a split in the team and many players were demoralised. On day 4 England were all out 544. India were all out 158 in 47.4 overs and lost the Test by 319 runs. Sachin Tendulkar was the top scorer with 56. Harbhajan Singh scored 46, Rahul Dravid 6, V. V. S. Laxman 4, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 0. The match was over within four days.

Ian Bell had a reprieve during World Cup some months back. That time he and everyone else knew he was out but he continued as umpire had not given him out. That time it was question of rules and there was no question of spirit of the game. After that incident UDRS rule changed for World Cup.

What went wrong? Batting was supposed to become more difficult every day. How is that even English tail enders batted well and Indians failed? India went into the series as No. 1 team. After two consecutive Test defeats that ranking is in doubt. Dhoni said our bowlers were tired and our batsmen were unable to live up to the challenge. His own form is a concern. Kapil Dev said out bowlers don’t play Ranji or three day matches. They play one day or T20 matches. Hence they are unable to bowl long spells.

India have to win the remaining two Tests to draw the series and retain No. 1 ranking. No team can remain No. 1 for ever but India lost the Lord’s Test and performed badly in Trent Bridge Test. Excuses will not do. Players get injured and their absence should not be the reason as others take their place. Some say missing the West Indies tour was the reason for poor performance of some players. Sunil Gavaskar had said that those who want rest and do not want to go to West Indies should be given permanent rest. Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan had missed the tour. Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan got injured at Lord’s and were out of Trent Bridge Test. Yuvraj Singh who replaced Gautam Gambhir could have been sent to open batting. Some blame BCCI’s refusal to have UDRS for LBW decisions as reason for India’s defeat as Harbhajan Singh was wrongly given out and some English batsmen were not given out LBW.

After the Test when asked about Ian Bell’s return Dhoni said it was not about rule or spirit of the game but about feeling good. They did not feel good about the way he was out. Really? In that case the players who did not feel good should not be in the team. If all players did not feel good the whole team should be back in India and another team should be sent. In 2004 BJP campaigned on feel good factor and it lost the election.

The series had a sideshow of one ad featuring Dhoni making fun of an ad featuring Harbhajan Singh. Then another ad featuring Gautam Gambhir endorsing the product Harbhajan Singh endorsed.

Before the Test there was also a controversy about Indian cricketers not attending the reception by Indian High Commissioner and attending Dhoni’s charity auction. BCCI said there was communication gap. When Mohinder Singh Gill was sports minister he had derecognised BCCI as a national sports organisation. It was not proper for Indian High Commissioner to invite a team that is not sent by a recognised national sports organisation. Once the players did not attend the reception there was no need to go public about it and the matter should have been closed. There is supposed to be another reception once the players return to London. Now that the players have done badly there may not be much enthusiasm to meet them.

It is possible for India to win the remaining two Tests and level the series. I hope they will.

Records are broken once

Once a record is broken it does not remain a record. Once Sunil Gavaskar hit 30th Test century he broke Don Bradman’s record of highest or most Test centuries. Afterwards it was Sunil Gavaskar’s record and not Don Bradman’s record. Sunil Gavaskar ended his career with 34 centuries. When Sachin Tendulkar hit 35th Test century he broke Sunil Gavaskar’s record and continues to hold the record with 51 centuries. After Sunil Gavaskar whenever someone hit 30th century he did not break Don Bradman’s record because there was no record. It is wrong to speak of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Jaques Kallis and Rahul Dravid breaking Don Bradman’s record. When Rahul Dravid hit 34th Test century he equalled the number of Sunil Gavaskar’s centuries but did not equal his record because there was no record.

In bowling Muthaiah Muralitharan holds the record of 800 Test wickets. If someone surpasses the tally of Frederick Trueman, Lancelot Gibbs, Dennis Lille, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev, Courtney Walsh or Share Warne he does not break the record of highest Test wickets.

The record for highest wickets in a Test, 19, is held by Jim Laker. The record for highest wickets in a Test Innings, 10, is held by Jim Laker and Anil Kumble.

In fielding someone had the record of six Test catches by a fielder other than wicketkeeper. Over the years 11 others equalled the record. Then Greg Chappell broke that record with seven catches.

A record may be equalled many times but can be broken only once.

Ian Bell out and in

On 31/7/2011 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, it was the last ball before tea break. Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan had completed three runs. Ian Bell thought the ball had cleared the boundary and he left his place and walked towards Eoin Morgan. The umpire had not signalled boundary. Praveen Kumar had stopped the ball. He threw it to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. From Dhoni it went to Abhinav Mukund who dislodged the bails. Indians appealed. The field umpires referred it to third umpire who ruled Ian Bell out.

The matter should have rested there. But English players were aghast. The crowd was angry. As per reports English captain Andrew Strauss and English coach Andy Flower came to India’s dressing room and asked Dhoni to withdraw the appeal. Dhoni held a meeting with players and some were for withdrawal and some were against withdrawal. Ultimately Dhoni decided to withdraw the appeal and India’s coach Duncan Fletcher went to umpire Billy Bowden and informed India was withdrawing the appeal.

Much has been said by some that the appeal was “against the spirit of the game”. What is the spirit of the game? Ian Bell made a mistake in assuming the ball was dead. He should have checked whether the umpire had signalled four runs. The ball was not dead. As he later said “According to the rules, I should have been out. But both teams played a massive role towards the spirit of the game.” Spirit of the game requires that you accept umpire’s decisions, more so when you know according to rules you are out. England did not play any role towards the spirit of the game. Asking Indians to withdraw the appeal was against the spirit of the game. Ian Bell was on 137 at the time and finally out on 159 bowled Yuvraj Singh. If the crowd created problem it is for the host country to control it.

Rahul Dravid said “We thought what if it was one of our batsmen in Bell’s position. We wouldn’t have liked it if V. V. S. Laxman or Sachin Tendulkar was out in such a way.” In 1999 Sachin Tendulkar was run out in Calcutta when Shoaib Akhtar had blocked his way. The crowd was angry. Sachin Tendulkar appealed to the people to remain calm. That did not pacify the people. The Test concluded without the crowd to watch. India lost the Test.

Dhoni should not have withdrawn the appeal. As captain he is responsible. Those who play Test cricket should know the rules and accept the verdicts. Ian Bell has played Test cricket for many years. Withdrawing appeal is not generosity but foolishness. In 1980 in Golden Jubilee Test in Bombay an English player was given out. He appealed to India’s captain G. R. Vishwanath to allow him to continue. Vishwanath allowed him to continue. The batsman hit a century. India lost the Test. Vishwanath lost his captaincy.

In 1987 World Cup in a group match Courtney Walsh was bowling the last ball of the match. Abdul Qadir was ahead of the crease and Courtney Walsh had the chance to run him out and West Indies would have won by one run. He did not do it. Pakistan scored two runs off the ball and won. West Indies were out of World Cup.

The Ian Bell incident is similar to Alvin Kallicharan incident that took place in West Indies in 1974. It was the last ball of the day. Alvin Kallicharan was the non-striker. He was on 142. Bernard Julien was the striker. He had played the last ball. The players had begun to return. Umpires had not said “Over”. Tony Greig was fielding at silly point. He collected the ball and dislodged the bails of Kallicharan’s stumps and appealed. The umpire ruled Kallicharan out. The crowd was angry. West Indian and English officials had a meeting. At that time there were rest days during Tests. Rest day was advanced to next day. For the first time in Test cricket, umpire’s decision was reversed and Alvin Kallicharan was allowed to play. He was out on 158.

Where was the spirit of the game when V. V. S. Laxman was not given out when a Hot Spot decision went in his favour and Stuart Broad went to check his bat? Michael Vaughan tweeted that there was Vaseline on Laxman’s bat though he put the tweet as a question. When Gavaskar suggested Laxman should sue Vaughan he backtracked and said sense of humour required and did not accuse Laxman of using Vaseline. Ravi Shastri asked how did Vaughan know if Vaseline is used Hot Spot is not effective. He should have done it. Anyway, this controversy put a question mark over Hot Spot.

Shane Warne put it rightly “What a last delivery before tea – huge controversy. Much as we don’t like to see dismissals like that, no doubt – out!”