Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open Letter to the BCCI regarding empty stadiums

To: The BCCI,

Dear Sirs,

I am an avid cricket watcher, both on television as well as live. I enjoy test matches as well, in fact, i prefer watching test cricket to the other formats available at hand. However, that does not mean that i did not avidly follow the Indian cricket team during it's landmark world cup win this year, in fact i saw every match possible on television, and went for the one in my city as well. And i do feel you didn't get enough credit for hosting a very well organised world cup, and your selectors also did a good job in selecting an excellent team.

I do feel however, of the need to inform you of a certain problem which has crept into test cricket in India, which may well be the death of the longer format of the game in itself, and merely saying that enough people watch it on television, is a simply a method of dodging the problem. Stands are completely empty, people don't want to come to watch test matches live anymore. Some people disagree with this position, and so do you sometimes when one of you decides to actually address the issue, "that look the world cup was this year, off course there will be viewer fatigue for a while, but wait people will start watching cricket in stadiums again". I truly hope that what you say is true for all formats, but i do feel that for T20's and ODI's (till the next world cup at least), you will fill stadiums. However, in the coming seasons of test cricket, after these stalwarts retire, filling up stands for test cricket will become even more difficult.

The problem in my view, with regard to the live viewing experience is two fold: (1) in the administration of the sale of tickets for test matches and (2) the lack of regard for any sort of spectator comfort. Take for example, the first test match of the series between India and the West Indies at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi, which has a capacity of approximately 48,000 and saw a crowd of around 12,000 per day on the two holidays which coincided with the test, the rest of the days, the crowds were visibly lesser. This is despite the fact that Sachin was nearing his 100th test centiry on the final day of the test. The two sections of the crowd which were the most populated were the West and East Stands. Now people who know the Delhi Stadium, know that these are the cheapest tickets available for tests, costing Rs. 100 per day or Rs. 500 for the entire test, the rest of the tickets were either unavailable or substantially more expensive. However, the least costly stands were the only ones which were full, the corporate seats were empty, the more expensive tickets went unsold, the obligatory tickets went waste and those seats were empty as well. The "free jugaad tickets" that every delhi-ite knows about were not even in demand, as they are when there is a T20 match or an ODI, and so the stands went empty. This is despite the fact that many people were trying to figure out where to buy tickets, and were unable to do so. In today's information age, the fact that the BCCI and the state cricket associations, which in this case is the DDCA can't even provide information to the general public where tickets are available to be purchased is bordering on ludicrous. This can only be attributed to administrative lethargy, which you as a powerful cricket board can rectify quickly.

The lack of spectator comfort is a slightly more problematic issue which would require further cooperation of the state cricket associations. Take for example once again the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi, where both the heavily populated East and West Stands were the ones which were in the worst condition and had the worst viewing experience. The metal grill is so high, that if you want to sit close to the action, you have to watch the entire match through the grill, and if you go far back enough to watch the match above the girll, you've reached the part of the stand covered by the upper storey and all the seats have bird-shit on them. The food provided is ridiculous, not that you would feel like eating with bird shit around you, and they don't even sell you water bottles, it's water by the plastic glass for Rs. 15. This is the kind of thing which completely ruins the entire "event" and the idea of a great time spent with friends and family at a test match.

Unless these problems, both with ticket sale and with the grounds itself, are solved, people like me who saw their first test match when Nayan Mongia smashed 152 against Mark Taylor's Australians, or when Kumble took 10 wickets and Gadar'd the entire Pakistani Batting Line Up, or when even as recently as 2008, where Laxman and Gambhir both scored double centuries in a tame draw which wound up being Kumble's last test, will stop coming to cricket stadiums because after a point, when all your heroes are gone, getting tickets is inconvenient, getting through the security is an Airport-esque experience but with police armed with a lesser understanding of your electronics or your need for coins to buy things, and staying and watching with salmonella for company, why would you bother.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are we witnessing the rise of the New No. 1 Test Team?

I recently wrote a post about whether India deserved to be ranked number one in the world about Test Cricket. Also Star Cricket HD has been re-telecasting the 2011 Ashes Series down under, which reminded me that, at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, which is not that long ago if you think about it, England toured Australia, defended the Ashes, for the first time since god knows when, and thulped Australia, in their back-yard, 3-1.

When they last defended their Ashes Crown in 2007, the were white-washed 5-0 by a rampaging Australian outfit. Granted, the 2007 Aussies were great, and the 2011 Aussies a shadow of their predecessors, but it is still something the Indian team has not done. Not only did they beat Australia in Australia, all 3 test matches England won, they won by an Innings and 50 plus runs. It isn't like the Aussie's rolled over, during the first test match at Gabba, Peter Siddle produced a Hat-Trick and destroyed the English middle order. There were Heroics for Micheal Hussey who had been foefully out of form just prior to the Ashes, hit two centuries and score 570 runs at an average of 63.33. His effort seems to be eerily similar to what Rahul Dravid is doing for India in the ongoing series, and for the sake of my sanity in the month of August, i hope his team does not suffer a similar fate to Hussey's team.

Therefore, taking the performance of this England team into context, it is they who are building on momentum, sustained over the same period India was building their momentum. We beat Australia at Home, then Australia went home and got beaten by England. India and England have both been on the path to the top of the rankings, India managed to get there slightly earlier. Are we just a stop-gap between two era's in test cricket, one a brutal period of Australian dominance, and the other an equally unbearable period of English supremacy. I hope once again, that such is not the case. But if India do not manage to take even one test off the Englishmen, even the most ardent of Indian supporters will have a hard time being optimistic, knowing that their number one team, though a tenuous and dispute number one team,  went down without a fight. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Number 1 Ranking: Deserved or Not?

There was a great amount of hoopla and jingoistic fervour around the time the Indian test team achieved the No. 1 ranking, which seems likely to now be conceded to the English team. However, we need to take a step back and see how we reached the supposed zenith of test cricket.

India is playing its 14th test series since their infamous tour to Australia in 2007-2008. A tabular representation of their results is as follows:

South Africa
Drawn (1-1)
Sri Lanka
Lost (1-2)
Won (2-0)
Won (1-0)
New Zealand
Won (1-0)
Sri Lanka
Won (2-0)
Won (2-0)
South Africa
Drawn (1-1)
Sri Lanka
Drawn (1-1)
Won (2-0)
New Zealand
Won (1-0)
South Africa
Drawn (1-1)
West Indies
Won (1-0)

What jumps out at you from this table is that, India has not lost an away series since mid-2008, for a period of 3 years, India has not been defeated on its travels, which is in itself is no mean achievement. However, they have not comprehensively beaten any of the major test playing nations in their backyard. This current series against England is now reduced to a fight for the number one spot, being 2-0 down in the 4 match series, Indian cannot win, but they can salvage pride. This they may end up doing, but their claim to the number one ranking has weakened considerably.

Despite all the jingoistic rhetoric you get to see regarding the test rankings, there are some things which are quite clear. Previous dominant test teams, have built their dominance upon a world beating bowling line up. The West Indies in the 80’s and early 90’s, and thereafter the Australians, till very recently, produced bowlers of the highest quality. And not just one or two, they produced these bowlers with alarming regularity. This is the point at which I start looking at my Indian team, and realise that the cupboard is pretty bare.

Despite all the negative coverage about the Indian batting in the trent bridge test match, I still maintain that if your bowlers concede 400 runs in one day, there is precious little the batsmen can do to remedy the situation. Our fast bowlers, aren’t really fast, Zaheer is possibly the most skilful quickie India has produced, but beyond him there is really no one else. Praveen has skill, and a big heart and gives it his all, but his lack of pace will ensure that his utility will continue to diminish with time, as high class batsmen will eventually sort him out. Ishant and Sreesanth though brimming with talent, are too erratic and inconsistent in the longer form of the game.

Coming to Bhajji, I have always believed that he is a different bowler when there is a second spinner in the team. When he is the lone spinner, he just cannot pull out the performances required of him. He has had basically 2-3 good years, and many more average ones over his career, and his average of over 32 runs per wicket does not signify a world beater such as the likes of Shane Warne, Muralitharan or Anil Kumble. On parity, after looking at the contributions over a period of the last 2 years to his side, I would not rate Harbhajan Singh as even one of the top 3 spinners in the world currently, those would be Graeme Swann, Daniel Vettori and Shakib Al Hassan.

Coming to the fast bowling reserves, we have Munaf Patel, Jaidev Unadkat, Abhimanyu Mithun etc. none of whom inspire any confidence in a brighter tomorrow for our pace attack. In the spin department, there is Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha on the fringes, and neither has had much of an impact whenever given the opportunity.

Considering the state of our bowling department, no amount of strength in batting can compensate for it. Unless the Indian selectors come up with some young guns in the bowling department and pretty soon at that, the upcoming tour of Australia and other fixtures as well, could be equally disastrous as the current India-England series. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

To Walk or not to Walk

Tendulkar walking after edging a ball through to the keeper in the West Indies game, has generated a large amount of media interest, and a large amount of rhetoric centered around the walking issue. This in my view, is a whole lot of nonsense. You have had Sidhu and Gavaskar giving Sachin immense praise and using the act to demonstrate why he is above all other players etc. etc. Sachin is above all players because he has been at the pinnacle of his sport for a period of 21 years. He is above all others because he has carried his team on those tiny, but immensely strong shoulders for two whole decades. He has been playing for such a long period, because he is still a little boy, playing the game he loves. He has played the game with class and dignity, and has not one black mark against his record. He does not need to walk to show that he is the best, and him walking is not a reason or even evidence of his greatness.

Sachin above all else is a very practical man, his walking was probably based on the fact that, there is a good chance for a review and in the review it may reveal that he has nicked the ball. In the end, the replays were inconclusive, and one would tend to believe that had the West Indies reviewed the decision, the on-field umpire was not going to reverse his decision on the basis of the evidence on display. However, we can say that, sitting and watching the replays, and in hindsight. At that point of time, Sachin could not have been sure that the nick would be that hard to spot, and that is probably why he walked. He has hardly ever walked in the past 21 years, and no one can blame him for that. The number of times Sachin has been given out to wrong decisions, at crucial junctures, is many, then why would you expect him to walk when he the umpire wrongly rules in his favor. The same would apply for any batsmen for that matter. That is the exact reason why the UDRS has been put in place, so that, crucial match changing, incorrect decisions do not affect the outcome of the game.

Now coming to the debate over whether all batsmen should walk or not, there is really no need to go into the moral debate of whether one should walk or not, I think this issue is going to be resolved reasonably quickly and with the improvement in UDRS technology and use of Hotspot the following trends will start appearing wherever UDRS is used (and I sincerely believe it should be used uniformly across all tournaments and series). Batsmen who nick the ball, and are caught cleanly will start walking, because the UDRS (with hotspot off course) will be able to show reasonably conclusively that they have nicked the ball, so there would be very little point in standing around and looking foolish, ala Ricky Ponting in the group game against Pakistan. Unless the technology to judge close-to-ground catches improves (and I don’t see that happening any time soon), batsmen are going to stand their ground in such situations despite what the fielders claim, because there is a very high chance that the camera angles will not show conclusively that the catch was clean. The LBW portion of the UDRS system needs certain minor tweaks, but in all, is a very useful tool for removing really bad umpiring decisions and will soon come to be accepted by most people, if not all. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And so it begins

As a build up to this world cup, ESPNSTAR through all three of its channels, have been showing day and night previous world cup matches. There has been a similar overload of world cup history and the exploits winning 1983 team lead by Kapil Dev. All this nostalgia may be well and good, but it rings hollow with me to a large extent. As a kid, watching the 1983 Indian team defeat the mighty West Indies at Lord’s used to give me Goosebumps, but disappointment, time after time has even soured the memory of enjoying Kapil Dev running back a mile and taking a tough catch to dismiss Sir Vivian Richards at a crucial point. If you think about it, even if a person gets interested in cricket at a really young age, say 5-7, no one born after 1977-1978 really remembers or knows the feeling of India winning a World Cup. This leaves you with all Indian cricket fans below the age of approximately 33-34 who don’t know what it feels to see their team victorious at this tournament. In fact, it is this very age group of cricket lovers, who can’t really imagine any team but Australia winning the darn thing. They were champions in 1987, finalists in 1996, winners 1999, 2003 and 2007. So barring the 1992 tournament, ironically in Australia itself, the Australian team have all but once kicked everyone’s teeth in. I for one, fear not Pakistan or South Africa in a World Cup, I fear only Australia. So all this talk of the decline of the Australian team since 2007 doesn’t really give much comfort, the memory of the trouncing in the 2003 final is still fresh. The image of Ricky Ponting smashing the ball for a six time and time again into the stands at the Wanderers, has been burnt into every Indian cricket fans mind.

Ricky Ponting is still around, and so are a couple of the bowlers who he smashed to all corners on March 23, 2003. Zaheer Khan who has since become one of the finest fast bowlers in the world, went for 67 runs in 7 overs at an economy rate of 9.57 without a wicket. Ashish Nehra, who has made a comeback and made a good enough one to merit a world cup selection also bowled that day, he was the most economical bowler in the Indian side that day, giving away 57 runs in ten overs without a wicket. Harbhajan Singh, who took both Australian wickets that fell, went for 49 runs from his eight overs at an economy rate of 6.12. Granted Ricky Ponting’s prowess has waned since that fateful day, and the Indian Survivors from that final are now the stalwarts of a fantastic ODI side, yet will they be able to shrug off the ghosts of the past and exact revenge if presented with an opportunity.

Another nemesis of India in World Cups since 1996, Sri Lanka, is one team whom no one should be taking lightly. If both Sri Lanka and India finish at the top of their respective groups, which is likely, they will not have to face each other till the final of the tournament if both manage to get that far. The last time the world cup was played in the Sub Continent it was won by Sri Lanka, defeating the Australians in the final. They were finalists in 2007 as well, where they were thoroughly outplayed just as India was in 2003, however, the core of that team survives in this edition as well, and a follow up performance at home is something I would not be betting against.

There is one thing the all the critics agree upon, that this is the most open world cup since 1999. In 2003 and 2007 it was a foregone conclusion that Australia were going to win, it was just a question of against whom and by how much. This time around, you would have a hard time picking the semi-finalists with a large degree of confidence or certainty. The cynic would say that the quality of cricket will be lower than in 2003 or 1999 due to the nature of the pitches, or the quality of cricket having gone down since then. However it is certain that this World Cup will display many more matches which go down to the last few balls, as there is precious little to choose between the top 5-6 teams. Let the cynic crib about the quality of cricket, but there can be no doubt that there will be high quality entertainment and drama on the world’s largest stage, and that has to be good for the health of the game. Here’s to hoping that the World Cup re-energizes the ODI format which has been taking a severe beating from entertaining T20 cricket and high quality test cricket and ends the debate as to whether all three formats of the game can co-exist side by side.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Place your Advertisement here

There is something fundamentally wrong with cricket telecast in India. The world's largest cricket consuming audience is being given a sub-standard product. Switch over to Star Cricket's telecast of Channel Nine's coverage of the Ashes and the current Australia-England one-day tournament if you don't believe me. In the way cricket is telecast in India we are only seeing one aspect of the game and that is ball by ball action. What we don't see anymore, is the bowlers reaction to a wicket, or a batsman raising his bat on the way out after a fantastic knock. All these moments of the game, which are very much a part and parcel of the game, are cruelly snatched away from us by a LG or Asian Paints advertisement. It has become so bad now, that when the telecast comes back after an advertisement, the bowler is in mid run-up, and when it cuts to advertisement, the fielder has barely gathered the ball before throwing it to the keeper.


As a cricket consumer myself I can frankly say that I am pissed off at Ten Cricket and Asian Paints, I wouldn't want to use Royale Play to paint my wall, because you buggers spoilt my match. But what choice do I have, unlike with Royale Play, where I can chose to go with Berger instead, I don't really have that option when it comes to cricket. If ten cricket is broadcasting the match, I have no choice but to pay an extra thirty bucks to Airtel, and ask them to give me ten cricket. And after doing so, what do I get, another advertisement fest, which cuts out at least 20% of the viewable action in each game. It's getting to the point where it seems more ads and less cricket, with the pop up ads jumping onto the screen and destroying the cricket field, leaving me aghast at the tastelessness and the intrusion.


Who is to blame for this situation, some would say that it's the corporates who buy these advertisement spots, who want ads in every corner of the television screens, or is it the telecasters for being unscrupulous in creating advertisement spots and robbing the viewing public of a holistic cricketing experience, some would blame the BCCI or other cricketing boards, for selling rights at such astronomical figures leaving telecasters with no other viable revenue option. In my opinion it is the cricketing public in India which is to blame.


As a consumer we Indians, are extremely price, rather than quality driven. If the price is right, we usually buy it, quality is not a determining factor. Why Sky Sports in England and Channel Nine in Australia can still provide excellent top quality coverage and keep advertisements down to nothing is due to the fact that their business model is a subscriber driven one. With the advent of DTH and CAS, India is moving towards a subscriber driven revenue model, but this is more of an urban phenomena in India and has not yet penetrated the majority of the cricket viewing audience. Without a subscriber driven model and at the current rates at which cricket boards sell rights, there is no way for telecasters to make money without copious amounts of advertising. This is displayed by the fact that during the IPL, you could get an ad free HD coverage of the action, at an extra cost. This is going to be available from ESPNSTAR even during the upcoming world cup.


Some may call this point of view a bit pedantic, in the fact, that how does it matter if we miss a little bit of the reactions of players, celebration of bowlers etc., as long as we are getting a match at a cheap price. Well I would just like to say that, would the enormity of what happened at the Eden Gardens in 1996 against Sri Lanka been the same in our minds, had we not seen Kambli walk off the pitch crying, and instead had gone straight to an advertisement of Lays. The beauty, poetry and artistry of the game, of any game, lies in the human reaction, which at that moment of pure joy or anguish, is as genuine a moment as any of us will witness in our increasingly artificial and mechanical world. The joy and anguish of victory and defeat is something which cannot be divorced from any sport, which is sadly being done with cricket in India, and it's about time that the people, who are supposed to be the guardians of the game, do something about it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Team India – The World Cup, It’s here

On the 17th of January 2011, the BCCI announced the final 15, representing India in the tournament of all tournaments in the game of cricket, the ODI World Cup. This Cup seems to have been in Aussie possession for too long and now that the little urn has gone away for a while it seems, the World Cup is the only other Cricket Memorabilia which the Aussie's seem to care about, and it's about time someone took that away as well. But who, is the question, everyone is asking themselves. Australia are chased closely by India, Sri Lanka and South Africa in the ODI Rankings (if that is any indication) and it's not inconceivable to imagine that England and maybe even Pakistan can pose tough questions of the current champions.

The team announced did not surprise too many, barring maybe the omission of Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha and the inclusion of Piyush Chawla out of the blue, the team consists of:

M.S. Dhoni
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Ghambir
Yuvraj Singh
Suresh Raina
Virat Kohli
Yusuf Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
Praveen Kumar
Zaheer Khan
Ashish Nehra
Munaf Patel
Piyush Chawla
R. Ashwin

There are a large number of spinners in this team, both specialist and part time, and considering that the matches are going to be played in the Indian Sub-continent, the performance of the spinners could be one of the deciding factors during the course of the tournament. In one day internationals, the Indian spinners, especially the part time spinners, like Yuvraj, Raina and Pathan do exceedingly well, especially within Indian conditions. A problem which may occur in team selection, would be whether to pick 3 specialist seamers along with Harbhajan Singh because we have enough variety in the part time spin department, in which case R. Ashwin and Piyush Chawla may never see the inside of a cricket field, other than to bring a bottle of water across, or would they pick 2 specialist seamers as well as 2 specialist spinners.

Another interesting factor this time around, is that the current Indian team set-up, has only 4 slots available within the squad of 15. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer walk into this team without any issues. The selection variables come up in the form of, whether to play 2 specialist batsmen like Raina and Kohli or to play Pathan as a bowling all-rounder at No. 7. If the selectors decide to go with Pathan, it then becomes the question of whether to pick Raina or Kohli. Raina has played well in the past few years for India, but has been found wanting against the short ball, in tests as well as ODI's. Virat Kohli on the other hand seems to be in a rich vein of form, and seems to have shed some of his earlier bad habits and turned his game around. It will be a tough call for the selectors considering Raina is a perennial favorite of MS Dhoni and is a handy part time off-spinner apart from being a fantastic fielder. His potential to contribute in a game is beyond question and would take an extremely bullish and courageous selector or captain for that matter, to drop him from the playing 11. I guess the answer to this question only lies with Dhoni's astrologist.

The question of which seamers to play along with Zaheer Khan may be an issue as none of the other three seamers have really overshadowed the other, whether they pick Munaf, Nehra or Kumar to accompany Zaheer could be dependent on the nature of the wicket as well as how well either of them is bowling in the warm-up matches just before the tournament begins. Whether Zaheer and the other seamers can reverse swing the old ball will be crucial as well and could pose many a problem to batsmen during the tournament.

Another problem which India face is that they do not have an all-rounder, in the mould of Kallis or Shane Watson, but that may not have too much of a role to play in a sub-continental world cup. All this being said, this Indian team in my view, has an excellent mix of experienced cricketers and young cricketers, last seen maybe in the team of 2003. Can they go one better than that team, hopefully in April and not before that, we will know. I for one, can't wait to find out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Whatta Choke!!!!

It was 12:15 am, South Africa were on their way to an easy victory. At the end of the 31st over, the score read South Africa 145/4 with Smith batting on 75, they needed 49 runs from the remaining 19 overs at a required run rate of 2.42 per over and Dhoni seemed in no mood to attack and force the issue. It was getting boring, I was just about to switch of the television and start watching an episode of Breaking Bad, but then, South Africa took the batting power-play. Quickly, the field went from a 4-5 field, to a 6-3 field, suddenly the singles didn't seem all that easy, MS Dhoni brought back Munaf, and with his first ball, he knocked over Graeme Smith, it was game on, Breaking Bad could wait.

That was the turning point, from that point on, the Indian team seemed suddenly on top. Granted that they had the rub of the green with the decision against Johan Botha, where he was given out LBW to Zaheer for outside edging the ball in-front of the stumps, but all in all, the wind went out of the sails of the South African ship, the moment they lost Smith. That's when the choking began, there were merely 18 power-play deliveries left, they needed 35 runs from a 102 deliveries, surely they could afford to play out 18 deliveries. But instead they didn't, they went for crazy singles, which led to the run out of Dale Steyn and play extravagant cuts against a attacking off-side field. It was in-explicable, they could take as many deliveries as they wanted, block as many balls, the wicket really wasn't doing much, the bowlers were sharp, but they weren't really bowling wicket taking deliveries, the only thing they were doing better, was holding there nerve.

MS Dhoni once again kept a cool head under pressure, and this is the greatest value he brings to the team. I am still not convinced of MS Dhoni's field placings, which in my view are usually too defensive, especially in test cricket, and neither am I too convinced in regards the team selection, though I am sure he is not the only person who has a say in that. However, the one thing I am convinced about, is that notwithstanding all the above reservations, he is a very capable captain. Nothing seems to faze him, he takes victory and defeat equally in his stride. This is his hallmark and seems to have become the hallmark of this Indian team, they have very rightly earned the title of the bounce-back kings and I hope this trend continues in the future, especially with the World Cup around the corner.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

We’re No.1 – Well Whoopty doo

The last ten overs of Day 4 and Day 5 of the final test match of the 3 match series between India and South Africa confused me slightly. This was a contest between the 1st and 2nd rank test team in the world, then why why in the world were they playing the way they were. Now I understand a lot has been said and written about this already, saying it was a "fair result" and so on and so forth. Well, yeah 1-1 is fair if you didn't want to win, if you wanted to win and you wanted to win badly, then 1-1 is a smack in the nuts. This is something which stood out about the Australian test team and the Australian Cricket team in general during the 1990's and and till around 2008, they hated losing. Yes, sometimes they went too far, as they did in the Sydney Test against India in order to secure a win, but in general the Australian team for a good part of 20 years made a habit out of winning, and it was born out of an extreme distaste for losing or even drawing a game.

The South African strategy was a bit puzzling for me in the last 1 hour of day 4, when they were already 300 plus runs ahead. An aggressive team with two of the best bowlers in the world may have been inclined to declare after Kallis's hundred and give themselves an 8-10 over burst at the batsmen before stumps, these 10 overs may have produced a couple of wickets and then day 5 would have taken on a completely different tone. However, they didn't declare, instead they got all out on the last ball of the day and set India a chase  of 340 on the last day.

The Indian strategy for Day 5 was quite apparent. It was apparent from Harbhajan Singh's press conference post Day 4. He was asked to comment on India's chances to chase down the South African total and all he could say was that we need some "fire crackers" (whatever that means) from Viru. There was a sense, that if Virender Sehwag comes off, we can make a fight of it, otherwise let's just draw this and go home with a smile on our face. Well, depending on Virender Sehwag to get away to a flier in a test match second innings aborad against the most potent opening new ball pair in the world, was like depending on the MET department to forecast the weather. Now don't get me wrong, I am not going after Viru because of one bad series. I'm simply saying that he has done it once before in tests, albeit in a memorable fashion, but it was done in Indian conditions and that to only once. In all his tests, Virender Sehwag has been a 1st innings player, his second innings average is quite poor also he has not been the most reliable of our batsmen in the situation which the team found itself facing on day 5, and to therefore rely on him alone was slightly ambitious and foolhardy to say the least.

There seemed to be no belief that this Indian team which has pulled of two improbable chases in 2010 and one very difficult one, could make a match of this. There was no quiet confidence that, "hey we've done this before, maybe we'll do it again". It was not that naïve to think that, we have Sachin in the best form of his life, Gambhir rediscovering his touch, and that man VVS who has been there and done it and done it again, may be we could fashion something more memorable than a draw. Watching test cricket all these years, I assumed that, that's what No. 1 teams do. That's what Australia did time and time again, they did it with such alarming regularity that it became near inevitable for a while. So when team India became No. 1 and then went to South Africa and beat South Africa in Durban, yanking the rug from under their feet, along with the momentum in the series, I expected on Day 5 that they would have the confidence to go for it. It was improbable to win at the PCA Stadium in Mohali with Laxman having back spasms and only Ishant and Ojha for company, but we did, so was it so improbable to expect them to give it a shot here.

MS Dhoni in his post-match press conference said that he was disappointed that they couldn't break the partnership between Kallis and Boucher quickly and that they gave away too many runs to the tail hence taking the match beyond India's reach. Well no one asked him, why didn't you give it a shot anyway. Was it so improbable a target for an Indian team which aspires to greatness? In the chase during the 2nd Border Gavaskar test at Bangalore, Sehwag failed in the second innings chase, he fell for a single digit score, so Dhoni sent in Pujara who was in his debut test, at No. 3., Rahul Dravid had been struggling so Dhoni thought that maybe Pujara could give the innings the impetus needed to get the chase going, it worked, Pujara scored 72 runs of 89 balls in the second innings of his debut test in a run chase. Was it then such a stretch of the imagination, to send in VVS Laxman at No. 3 at Cape Town, the man who has done it time and again for India, a man who is no doubt, the form of his life, who in Durban once again proved that he can bat fluently in conditions where other batsmen can't even survive.

I don't purport to be an expert in cricket strategy and I can't really predict what was going on in Dhoni's mind when it came to this run chase. But I can say this much, that while giving his post-match press conference, it came through that as a captain Dhoni preferred to draw the series than entertaining even the slightest chance of losing it. It is quite sad though, as this series and especially this test match, which produced so many memorable moments, definitely deserved a more fitting finale than an anticlimactic draw. And if India does wish to maintain its number 1 ranking and continue improving and touring better, I hope that this 1-1 felt like a smack in the nuts, and not a "fair result".

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another HairBrained Scheme

Eureka, I have found it, the key to success in cricket, it's the hair weave. Whether it is Virender Sehwag, Harsha Bhogle or most recently Jacques Kallis, hair weaves have invariably led to success. Ricky Ponting made it famous and got runs, Shane got his and got wickets, though I'll bet he still claims that those wickets were thanks to painfully petrified English batsmen and pure talent on his part.

Hair weaves and cricket go hand in hand these days, recently some Indians have joined the bandwagon as well, Virender Sehwag for instance, who embraced a question regarding the brand new mop with a brilliant sehwagesque on liner "accha dikhoge to acha bikoge". Basically as per Sehwag it was merely a strategic investment as shampoo ads only go to people with hair. Well no one can really argue with that kind of logic, except with a, "well bra ads only go to people with breasts, just because you don't have them, doesn't mean you have to go get them", but the point would be lost on him anyway. Well one can't argue with the form he has displayed since the weave, barring the current South Africa series, he has decimated bowling line ups while claiming "I hit only bad balls".

I love the smell of Shampoos, that's why


Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri are two cricket commentators who have had their hair woven at various points of time, Harsha being the most recent of the two. Why a TV personality like Harsha, who has spent the better part of the last two decades appearing on Indian television without a single hair on the top of his head, suddenly go all Sreesanth on us.


Jacques Kallis's current form is giving more force to this theory especially in the third test match at Cape Town. Kallis has been on a different trip completely since his new hair arrived in the mail, and has been making the Indian bowlers think longingly of the good old bald days. So completely horrible he has been to the Indian bowlers in this series that people seem to have forgotten that he had a fantastic record against India to begin with, this performance has been nothing short of a legendary performance by an old pro. Well his herculean effort on Day 4 has ensured that this series has one more fantastic day left in store, with hopefully enough suspense to leave us tearing out the little left of our hair.

I shan't be bowling there young man!!!

However, the true litmus test for this theory, the only way to prove its validity beyond a shadow of a doubt, would be to wait for Ishant Sharma or Sreesanth (pick your favourite) to lose all that hair, get some woven back and realize their true potential as cricketers.


And I would request Bhajji to stop telling Sreesanth that he looks good in that headband, the joke has gone on long enough, please tell him to take it off now.





















Monday, January 3, 2011

The potential of Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma is 6 feet 4 inches tall, almost the same height as Morne Morkel. He used to bowl in a similar manner, a nagging back of the length delivery which would jag back off the seam at an uncomfortable and awkward height. That is the same style of bowling which famously had Ricky Ponting hopping around like a bunny back in 2008 on Ishant's maiden tour down under. He somewhere down the line lost that style of bowling, maybe it was due to frequent injury, maybe it was a drop in pace, maybe it was t20 cricket, who knows. But one thing is for sure, his bowling for the last year and some change, hasn't been looking particularly pleasing. The potential is immense, as was on full display where he took out Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in an inspired bowling spell at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, but he has been erratic at best.


The reason why MS Dhoni and Co. seem to be committed to Ishant and seem to be giving him an extended run in the Indian side, where many a bowler may have been dropped by now, is the claim that Ishant is one of the most hard working and earnest players in the team. His down to earth attitude and earnestness seems to have endeared him to many members in the Indian squad, and was on display in the one chance encounter I have had with him.


Sometime back in March 2008, I was going back to college in Bangalore after completing an internship in Delhi, I had just been cleared through security check at the domestic departure terminal of the Delhi airport, when I spotted this tall gangly fellow sitting in a corner listening to music on his i-pod. People were pointing at him, and a few went up and asked him to pose for a picture. Well I decided to do so as well:

Anyhow, after obliging me and posing for yet another photo, he politely tried to put his earphones back in, so that he could listen to music in peace for a while before the next cricket crazy loon comes and asks for an autograph and/or a snap. But no, I wasn't going to let him that moment of peace, and would go on to say "Dude, you really bowled well in Australia, really nailed Ponting, killer". He sheepishly muttered thanks, and I could tell he was hoping that I would now go away and leave him be, but I wasn't having any of that. I then went on to say, "but dude I heard you injured your finger and you won't be playing for a while, can you show me". Now please understand, I wasn't being obnoxious, neither was I giving him the impression that I was a sports doctor, I was plain and simple curious, I always imagined that a cricket injury would have to be monstrous to prevent a guy from playing cricket. Also you don't get such an opportunity to ask a cricketer to show you an injury which is preventing them from playing a match, sometimes they pull their groins, you can't then say "show me" and don't even get me started on Shoaibh Akhtar's unmentionable injuries. Anyway, I think I got sidetracked somewhere, yes back to Ishant. He then proceeded to show me his finger (index only), after a quick look and not being too impressed I was on the verge off saying "man, that's nothing, you guys are such babies"; when better sense prevailed and I simply said, "dude that's nasty, you take care of that" and happily walked away.


The purpose of the above ramble was to prove that if Ishant can show the utmost patience in dealing with a cricket nut like me, making the most bizarre requests like show me your finger, he should display some of that earnestness and patience on the field, where he definitely has the talent and the potential to bowl well, he just has to be patient, maintain his line, length, pace and his belief. If he does so, I have no doubt that he will emerge as the perfect foil for Zaheer Khan and India will finally have something that will aid them, especially on foreign tours, in maintaining their No. 1 ranking, a potent opening pace attack. All No. 1 teams have had it, and India desperately need it. He has displayed some form during the latter part of the second test and now on the first day of the third test. Here's to hoping that 2011 is a good year for him, and if it is, India will have taken a small but crucial step in their consolidation of the No. 1 test spot.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Test Year in Review: My Test Team for 2010

As I bid adieu to the year 2010, one of my fondest memories of the year will be my memories of cricket, be it Sachin's Double Century against South Africa in an ODI match, creating yet another record and scaling yet another unscaled peak, or be it VVS's brutal yet sublime destruction of the Australians at the PCA Stadium Mohali, winning once again against Kangaroo's where victory seemed improbable.

At the outset, I would like to point out that with respect to the batsmen, the test team I am about to describe, is one based on the position that the particular batsman bats in the batting order, whether he is an opener or a number 6 batsman. I am not listing out the 6 best batsmen of the year, but the best batsman at their designated position. As a consequence of this exercise I may miss out on some of the best performers overall, who were not necessarily the best batsmen at their number in the batting order.


  1. Virender Sehwag (India)


    The man has become one of the most destructive forces in test cricket. These days every team has not one but many plans to dismiss him, and not too many succeed in doing so, without first hemorrhaging runs. He scored 1422 runs in 14 test matches (25 innings) at an average of 61.82. The stats at this point are quite impressive, as is for any test player who scores more than a 1000 runs in a calendar year. However, the fact that he got those 1422 runs in 25 innings at a strike rate of 90.80 is what makes the statistics all the more stunning. The sheer destructive aura that he now exudes, defeats the faint of heart even before they bowl their first delivery. Add to that another stat that, out of those 25 test innings he managed to maintain a 100.00 strike rate or more 10 times, and only one of those 10 times was in a test innings versus Bangladesh tells you that, he has at least once, pummeled each of his test opponents (Bangladesh, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand). He is by many a yard the best test opening batsman for the year 2010

  2. Alistair Cook (England)

    This left handed batsman has finally had his breakthrough year, which the English selectors have been waiting for since his debut in 2006. The most English of the current crop of English players, Alistair Cook seems to have come off age in the Australian conditions and has been eating the Australian bowling attack for breakfast, lunch and tea. In the current ashes series in particular, he has completely lost his habit of wafting outside the off-stump early on his innings, which led to his many low scores in the earlier part of his career. He seems to have passed his bug to Gautam Gambhir who is being now dismissed (whenever he manages to play more than 1 test match in a row) in a very similar fashion to how Cook was being dismissed a year ago when Gambhir was being called 'the indian run machine' by Sehwag. The purist's always believed that Cook has the temperament to succeed at the test level and that he just needed minor technical adjustments but a lot more belief. After this ashes series, technical issues aside, I do not think belief will be a problem. This may be the first of many bumper years from a man who is seen by many as the natural successor to Andrew Strauss.

  3. Jonathon Trott (England)

    The number three spot was pretty hard to decide, the three main contenders were Jonathon Trott, Kumar Sangakarra and Hashim Amla. On pure averages, at 99.28 Kumar Sangakarra was miles ahead of Hashim Amla's 78.06 and Trott's 66.25, even though both those averages are indications of a monster run scoring year for the other two contenders as well. However, the problem with Sangakarra's average lies in the fact that all 9 innings were played in Sri Lanka and granted that 5 of those 9 innings were against India, it was still in Sri Lanka, where batsmen are just not tested, unless they are (i) not Sri-Lankan; and (ii) facing Murali.

    Hashim Amla has had a fantastic year, one in which he scored 490 runs in India, being dismissed only once, however his complete loss of form in the West Indies for the duration of the three test match series and the fact that barring his 140 at Centurion in mid-December all his runs came on batsman friendly surfaces, does not allow him to overshadow the achievements of one who is much newer to the game than him, but already gives the dependable feeling of an established campaigner, one Jonathon Trott.

    Trott by any standards has had a fantastic year, his first full year in test cricket, he scored 1325 runs, at an average of 66.25 in 24 innings, with a high score of 226. He was a brief though vital component of the ashes success in 2009, however post the euphoria of one of the most brilliant debut centuries ever, he has continued the good work in 2010 and regained his top form for the Australians and his success against Australia in the current ashes series has cemented his place at No. 3 for England's foreseeable future.

  4. Sachin Tendulkar (India)

    Sachin Tendulkar has had an outstanding 2010 even by his own lofty standards. I would be amiss in referring to him in 2010 without mentioning the 200 not out against South Africa in an ODI, considering such an astonishing feat, if he hadn't achieved his 50th Test Century this year, the year 2010 would still have gone down has one of his most memorable years. However, the 1562 test runs he managed to accumulate in 23 innings at an average of 78.10 has made this year, his 21st full year playing test cricket, his finest year yet. He has never before in his 21 years of playing cricket, managed to accumulate over 1500 runs in a calendar year. To top it all, this has been a fantastically consistent year, where in his 23 test innings, 7 were centuries (2 double centuries), 5 were half centuries (one of them a 98 against Australia), only thrice in the entire 23 innings he batted was he dismissed on a single digit score and not a single duck all year long. What this basically means, not only did he pile on the runs this year, he did it all year long and against each of his opponents. None were spared, not the Australians at home and not the South Africans at home and away.

    To put into perspective as to why 2010 has to be ranked as Sachin's best year in test cricket, you would have to look at his previous stats, which are at first glance tough to top. His best year prior to this one was in 2002 where he scored 1392 runs at an average of 55.68 scoring 4 centuries and 5 half centuries in 26 test innings. The only year which can arguably top his 2010 performances was in 2004 when he scored 915 runs at an average of 91.50 scoring 3 centuries and 2 half centuries in only 15 test innings.

    The only other serious contender for this spot was Jacques Kallis, who scored 1198 runs at an average of 79.86 scoring 6 centuries and 2 half centuries, however, Sachin's consistency and complete domination of the bowling attacks, with riskless cricket, was beyond compare this year. Which is why, even though Kallis may have had his best year in test cricket, he would, the way Sachin has been playing, lose out as the best 2 down batsman in the year 2010.

  5. VVS Laxman (India)

    There were only two other batsmen I had considered for this spot before I decided on Laxman and they were Mike Hussey and AB de Villiers. Hussey had an extremely good start to the year where he scored a 134 not out against Pakistan, in a second innings when Australia were dismissed for 127 in their first innings. Aided by the 134 not out and an inspired spell of bowling from Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz as well as an implosion from the Pakistani batting line up, Australia managed to come away victorious from the game. However, everything went south from here on in and Mike Hussey did not score another test century till the first Ashes test over 10 months later. So even though Mike Hussey scored 967 runs at an average of 50.89 he could not make the cut as the best number three batsman. Neither could AB de Villiers, even though a snapshot of his performance this year can been seen from the fact that he scored 996 runs at an average of 76.61 with 3 centuries (including a mammoth 278 not out against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi), but could not be as much of an impact player as either Michael Hussey or our very own VVS Laxman.

    VVS Laxman, is indeed a very special batsman, anyone who has ever seen him bat would say the same. Laxman has also had a very very special year, where he has amassed 939 runs, at an average of 67.07, scoring 2 centuries and 7 half centuries. However it is not just the number of runs that makes this year special for this batsman, it is the circumstances under which 70% of his runs were scored. If ever any batsman can be said to have had an impact year, this is one of those years for Laxman. His 103 not out at the P Sara Oval in Colombo guided India home in a 257 run chase on a day 5 pitch, in Sri Lanka where the home side are notoriously difficult to defeat, with a bad back and a troublesome Ajantha Mendis who he had fallen prey to consistently in the previous series. His 73 not out in 79 deliveries at the PCA Stadium in Mohali guiding India home with one wicket to spare, battling back spasms and a resurgent Australian unit, is going to be the stuff of legends, spoken off immediately after speaking off his second innings 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens following on. Finally his 96 in Durban against an incisive and fast paced bowling attack consisting of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, where the rest of the batsmen in both innings seemed completely at sea, will go down as one of the finest exhibitions of batting against good pace bowling seen over the past few years. A year such as this goes down easily as a memorable and special one.

  6. Ian Bell (England)

    This position was easily the toughest to decide. There was not one player who consistently played at this position and claimed it as his own, as Laxman did till 2008, when Saurav was still in the team. Suresh Raina had a wonderful start to his test career in Colombo where he flayed the Sri Lankan attack on a placid SSC pitch and thereby notching up a century and a half century on debut. However, after a well-made 86 against Australia at Mohali, Suresh Raina has faded away in his performances and has found to be wanting once again, against quality short pitched bowling and had currently been dropped in favour of Cheteshwar Pujara. Marcus North maintained his position in the Australian batting line-up at number 6 and had an average year where he scored two centuries, however he has been unbearably inconsistent and has since been dropped in favour of Steven Smith.

    The choice was made in favour of Ian Bell on the basis of the fact that a team would want its number 6 batsman, to be an impact player, someone who can bat for long periods with the top order or quicken up the pace when batting with the tail enders. Ian Bell, a former top order batsman, has all these qualities. His position has been consistently between 5 and 6 during the year 2010, where he has scored 786 test runs in 14 innings at an average of 65.50. His impact has been felt throughout the current Ashes series where he has consistently counter attacked the Australian bowlers and managed to throw them of their game. He has batted well in trying circumstances and deserves to be called the best number 6 batsman in 2010.

  7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India)

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a had a fantastic start as the Indian test captain, his batting on the other hand as per me, has taken a hit in the past one year in all forms of the game. His captaincy, though now copping a little criticism for being too defensive with respect to field placings, has been getting the job done and he seems to be able to lift the team when required while still staying in control of the situation. As a wicketkeeper he effected 48 dismissals with 41 catches and 7 stumpings, he has seldom made too many glaring mistakes behind the wicket and a well-known saying in test cricket is that, "if you're not noticing the wicket-keeper, he's doing a good job" rings true for Dhoni's glove work. Matt Prior gave Dhoni good competition with more dismissals and a similar batting average, but where Dhoni scores over Matt Prior is that he seems to be a little more consistent than prior behind the stumps, as Prior is vulnerable to some shocking drops and misses especially when it comes to stumpings. With the bat as well, Dhoni seems a little less prone to single digit scores as Prior is and therefore, beats Matt Prior to the slot of Wicket-Keeper Batsman at No. 7.

  8. Graeme Swann (England)

    Graeme Swann walks into the best team for 2010, because on the basis of current form he is by leaps and bounds the best spinner in the world. Swann has an inherent advantage of not taking the game and life too seriously. As is displayed from the Swanny's Ashes Diary, he is a complete prankster with no regard for anyone's sensitivities including his own. His confidence that he will succeed at anything he does, as long as he does it his way, is refreshing and the exact burst of life that this English team needed. His record in 2010 speaks for itself; he was the highest wicket taker in 2010 taking 64 wickets at an average of 25.96 and a strike rate of 54.0. He took 5 wickets in an innings 6 times and 10 wickets in a match once. The next closest spinner to him was Harbhajan Singh of India, who took 43 wickets at 40.69 and a strike rate of 80.3. Such a large difference in the two spinners can be attributed to one simple character trait and that is aggression. Graeme Swann is an aggressive spinner, and not aggressive in the manner of snarling at the batsmen or mouthing off for no apparent reason, which Harbhajan is prone to do from time to time. Swann is aggressive in his outlook to the game, he loops the ball a lot more than the spinners around these days, this greater loop allows the ball the chance the grip, turn and bounce, which is more likely to pick up a wicket. He is forever attacking the batsmen and trying to get them out, which does not seem apparent from Harbhajan's bowling in 2010 (with maybe the exception of the Durban test). His never say die attitude and his successful wicket taking knack make him easily the best spin bowler in test cricket at the moment.

  9. Dale Steyn (South Africa)

    Dale Steyn is fast, he is unrelenting and is extremely aggressive. These are the required character traits of a wicket-taking strike bowler, and Dale Steyn does the job perfectly. It is quite an intimidating sight to see Dale Steyn charging in, off his long run-up, with a brand new red cricket ball in his hand and a lively pitch to support the back bending effort he is ready to put in. Neither is he a one dimensional bowler who can only bowl a certain kind of length with skill. His short ball, is as deadly as the one that dips in at pace, and it is usually the short ball which puts the fear of the front foot in the batsmen, which allows the full length in-dipper to do the job of getting the LBW or bowled. He is a seasoned operator who spearheads the South African bowling attack and with Morne Morkel forms one of the most intimidating opening bowling line-ups in world cricket today. His record in 2010 is exemplary; he took 60 wickets (with a best of 7/51 against India at Nagpur) at an average of 21.41 and a strike rate of 39. With his success in India at the start of the year, he displayed that he can be deadly on non-responsive pitches as well.

  10. Zaheer Khan (India)

    Zaheer has easily had the best year off his career, it may not be in terms of number of wickets, but considering the fact that he has been plagued with injuries which have made him miss many a match, he has maintained his form without looking rusty even after a lay-off due to injury. Zaheer hasn't played an injury free year since 2003, so as fans we should stop expecting him to do so. It is a well-known fact, that since his coming of age tour in 2007 to England, Zaheer has been a different bowler. He now gets in the face of batsmen, and not unnecessarily or after getting hit for a four like Sreesanth does from time to time, he gets in their face after he bounces them, or beats them with an away swinger. He gets in their face to let them know that life is not going to easy for the next 4-5 overs while he bowls, and he more often than not gets his man. In 2010 Zaheer took 47 wickets from 17 innings at an astonishing average of 21.97 which is second only to Dale Steyn. He is one of the few bowlers in the world who has mastered the SG, Kookaburra and the Duke ball. He has proven time and time again that you don't need pace alone to be a good fast bowler. What you need is a plan, the skill to execute the plan, and most importantly the heart to keep trying if the plan does not succeed at first, and heart Zaheer has displayed in ample amounts while toiling away on unresponsive Indian pitches.

  11. James Anderson (England)

    James Anderson took lots of wickets this year, and he took them cheaply and at important junctures. He has emerged as the English attack leader and has proven a further point by getting wickets down in Australia, where people felt that on the basis of his 2007 ashes performance he did not possess the skill to swing the Kookaburra ball. Well he proved them wrong and did so in emphatic style. He has been consistent all year round, without a single below par series. He took 57 wickets at an average of 22.96 and a strike rate of 48.7. He has taken wickets in heaps against both the South Africans and Australians and was near unplayable when he bowled against the Pakistani's. His ability to pull out a special delivery when needed, puts him ahead of the others and has finally become a world class bowler, who will go down, I am sure, as one of England's modern day great fast bowlers.


So 2010 was a memorable year in test cricket. It was a year where we said goodbye to one of the most loved personalities of the game, Muttiah Muralitharan. Muttiah had decided to retire after the first test of the home series against India in July, he was on 792 wickets. He produced a memorable swan song, where he bowled Sri Lanka to victory and picked up his required eight wickets and retired at exactly 800 wickets against his name. He was a bowler with exemplary skill and a fierce competitive nature. Murali loved bowling, you could tell from his delivery stride, the eyes wide upon release of the ball, in complete concentration. He was a bowler par excellence, some may so he was not better than Shane Warne, but who cares, he was Murali and everyone loved him, well maybe not Darrel Hair. He was the last great spinner to retire and with the exit of Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and now Murali, three spin bowlers who I have grown up watching and at different times, have attempted to copy their bowling actions (attempting to copy Murali's action resulted in disaster where a neighbors window was sacrificed and my friends didn't let me bowl for a week and I had to keep instead), there seems to be a lacunae in the quality of spin bowling in test cricket presently. Spin is an essential aspect of test cricket, which in my opinion seems to be diminishing. Whether it is limited overs cricket which is killing spin as a weapon of choice or other factors, your guess is as good as mine.


Another aspect which has come to light over the past one year is that, with the decline of the Australian Cricket team, there seems to have been a certain restoration of parity in the world of test cricket. Where earlier the difference between the best team and the second best team was miles and sometimes contests became boring and one-sided, there are currently 4 teams which on their best day could beat any of the other three teams. Between Australia, England, South Africa and India, we have a healthy four horse race, where predicting a winner amongst the four could be fraught with peril. Some may say the quality of cricket has gone down from the 80's and 90's. I tend to agree, but it does make for better viewing. Further, it is inevitable that if these teams continue competing against each other at their best, the quality is bound to rise as each team is going to attempt to find new ways of getting the edge over the other, as there is little to separate the two. These are all good signs for the game of test cricket and as a consequence of close competitive test cricket I feel that the game per se will be healthier over the coming few years.