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The CSK-RCB Qualifier, the CSK-MI IPL 8 final

May 23, 2015
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Michael Hussey walks off after killing it in Qualifier 2 against RCB

John Arlott wrote about it in 1948 at the end of a successful tour of England by Don Bradman’s men. “”Australianism,” wrote Arlott, “means single-minded determination to win – to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them. It means where the ‘impossible’ is within the realm of what the human body can do, there are Australians who believe that they can do it – and who have succeeded often enough to make us wonder if anything is impossible to them. It means they have never lost a match – particularly a Test match – until the last run is scored or their last wicket down.”

It would be too much of a stretch to compare Mike Hussey’s innings at Ranchi last night to his Gros Islet heist against Pakistan in the 2010 World Twenty20 semifinal but its easy to see the kind of belief that drives him to play such knocks even when all else around him is turning to shit.

Watching Hussey in the Qualifier, working the field against a disciplined RCB attack (albeit backed by butterfingered fielding) and then finding the release to change gears when it was time was a masterclass in pacing a chase. Against MI and Mitchell McClenaghan, he felt beaten for pace but he bounced back well enough to play against Mitchell Starc and company, on a dicey pitch that few batsmen from either line up could comfortably get the measure of. Earlier when RCB were batting, he had run in a distance from deep square leg and dived full length to send back Mandeep Singh, RCB’s hero from the previous game. Pushing 40 and still fighting, driven by Australianism of course. Hope he makes amends on Sunday for the final he had against Mumbai in 2013.

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Sticking to appreciating all that is old, Nehraji is gold. The set up to get Kohli after getting sick of taking stick, the luck against AB and getting Karthik went a long way in deciding an ultimately close game. The goofy jog to attempt a flying Jonty to run out Harshal, deciding midway to throw the ball at the stumps and then completely missing them from so close made it more special. Classic hopeless Nehra temporarily surfacing from under the skillful operator hauling wickets for CSK this season. He couldn’t play the 2011 World Cup final after playing an important role in winning us the semi. Here’s hoping he shines in the biggest final he gets to play in a while.

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You have to wonder if having played Chennai earlier in the tournament would have helped Chris Gayle. Figuring out the pitch was a task in itself, let alone figuring out the variants of CSK’s bowling attack. Dhoni anyway denied him any chances by holding back Jadeja and Negi. Gayle eventually made 41 off 43b; would having faced Nehra, Ashwin, Mohit, Bravo and Raina earlier have helped him bat quicker and get those 15-20 runs Kohli said RCB fell short by? RCB and Kohli have a whole year to wonder (lesser if the rumoured mini IPL in October goes ahead).

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RCB will rue the fielding lapses considering how close they came despite them. Gayle nullified his runs by dropping du Plessis and Harshal Patel might have dreams in which he takes that leap to grab Hussey’s chance microseconds earlier, pouching it successfully. The shoddiness undermined yet another good show by an attack in the tournament, the lesser heralded force behind the team’s first playoff finish since 2011.

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Pollard and Bhajji may be absolute tools but both have done well against CSK and in big games for Mumbai and their records deserve some due preparation. Playing on the Ranchi pitch should help in preparing to face the latter at Eden Gardens while Jadeja and Negi will have to bowl out of their skins to keep the former quiet, there’s no guarantee Dhoni can hide them long enough in the final.

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Ashwin found a responsive surface at the JSCA and immediately was unplayable, finishing with 1/13. The final, on another spin-friendly pitch at the Eden Gardens will pit him against Harbhajan, with whom he will be bowling in the lone Test against Bangladesh next month. If he needs any motivation, this competition with Harbhajan should help him, on Sunday and beyond.

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In fantasy cricket, I still suck.

Current ranking with One match to go.

Current ranking with ONE match to go.

Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings, Eliminator Preview, IPL 2012

May 23, 2012

The six that took CSK into the 2010 semi final

Through fate, incompetence (on the parts of others) and some scattered hard work, Chennai Super Kings have reached the playoffs of yet another edition of the Indian Premier League.

I shouldn’t talk about incompetence though, CSK needed massive amounts of luck to make it through including 3 crucial results in a row that involved RR, KXIP and RCB all losing to teams like DC.

CSK meet Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator tonight, a team we’ve never beaten since 2010. We’ve lost 5 games since then to them including one CLT20 fixture. CSK never lost a game when I was watching at the stadium (happened twice) but they lost off the last ball earlier in May when I was in the Wankhede, wondering why Dhoni couldn’t set a straight mid on/long on, why Hilfenhaus couldn’t bowl a short pitch delivery to Dwayne Smith. Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma found form, Harbhajan Singh bowled well and even Smith connected with three consecutive deliveries. Can things get worse?

Yes they can. Mumbai have NEVER lost a game at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue of the Eliminator. Not even when they were 51/5 in 8.5 overs chasing 171. Instead they sealed the chase with 2 balls to spare, hitting 122 off just 65 fucking balls. And this was just over a week ago.

In Plaha, Munaf, RP, Rohit and Dinesh Karthik, MI have players who have their issues with/feel let down by MS Dhoni, by the K Srikkanth led selection panel and even Murali Vijay. That’s a lot of personal motivation to be up against.

Mumbai have experimented with about 10 different opening pairs but all of them have had one great stand. Not the same case with CSK where the questions of playing Hussey ahead of du Plessis, of playing Srikkanth, of where to slot Badrinath/Bravo in the batting order and Jakati’s wildly fluctuating form have added their share of white hairs to MS Dhoni’s head. Add to that his and Suresh Raina’s weakest form in years and you can understand why CSK aren’t the favourites tonight.

However, they weren’t the favourites earlier in 2010. They weren’t favourites for a point in 2011. Heck, they weren’t favourites on Sunday afternoon. But they’re still here. That takes some doing, gives me some hope.

After a very bad campaign I had resigned myself to our first exit without making the playoffs since the IPL began. When we finally put a run that made us look like contenders we got the worst show of the season at Dharamsala. But we still made it through. Every win from here therefore is a bonus and three wins in a row against MI, DD and KKR respectively is a lot to ask for even the most optimistic fans.  But we’re used to asking and used to getting. So good luck, do your best and whistle podu!

Adjust for width

April 30, 2012
CSK vs KXIP, Chepauk, IPL 2012

Ashwin does his Stuart Broad impression in case PK wonders what he's missing.

Chasing 157, CSK were neck deep in shit at 146/8 in 19.4 overs against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday evening. 11 needed off 2 balls but with two bowlers who can hit a bit at the crease, a distant possibility.

The next ball, this happened:

19.5

Azhar Mahmood to Kulasekara, 1 bye, Kulasekara moved right out side his off stump to play behind square, Mahmood bowled a full ball just outside leg stump, the batsman missed and then ran as the ball went to the keeper. It’s not been given wide and rightly so. He had moved so far outside off stump. Ashwin does not like it, and he exchanges words with Praveen Kumar. Chennai have lost this.

Ashwin has become petulant of late but that’s for another post. CI adding a ‘rightly so’, I won’t even go there.

Umpires are humans and they have their inconsistencies but this decision was by no means an objective one. Had this come earlier in the game I’d bet on it being called a wide. Coming off the penultimate ball of a chase, Umpire Tarapore chose to call it a legal delivery and signalled a bye.

Why this particular delivery? What if Mahmood had followed up by firing another one down leg, a fraction wider than the previous one clear enough to be signalled a wide?

Going down leg is generally a good rule of thumb to identify a wide, why not call everything that goes down leg a wide? 11 needed off two balls could’ve easily turned into a still possible 9 off two, instead it became an impossible 10 off 1, ending the game for CSK.

Umpires aren’t there to appreciate skill, they have to make decisions based on what they see. Kissed the leg stump on it’s way to the keeper? Legal, maybe, if you saw it. Missed it? Wide. Hit a stump and disturbed the bails? Bowled, unless you’re Johan Cloete/Anil Chaudhury, the batsman is Sangakkara and you’re up for a scrap with Munaf and Harbhajan.

Didn’t watch the RR vs DD game today but heard about this incident:

18.4 Morkel to Hodge, no run, down the leg-side, was it? And not called a wide! Everyone is smiling there, including the batsman and the fielders…!

A Morne Morkel delivery down the leg-side wasn’t given a wide and DD ultimately won by 1 run. Two opinion calls in two days. I’ll admit CSK was mostly a lost cause before the wide that wasn’t but surely RR aren’t amused.

The leg side wide rule in limited over formats is quite harsh on the bowlers but I’m not sure how inconsistent decisions like this can fix that imbalance. It’s one of the few rules you can could expect umpires to not screw up completely.

Image via Cricinfo

2011 Champions League T20 – The Group Stage

October 6, 2011

It’s been great but this is what I felt two weeks ago.

There is no change in the stance.

Beloved CSK went out in the first round, ending at the bottom of Group A, bucking trends like only N Srinivasan’s team can by screwing up two chases horribly. This was after losing to Mumbai Indians (now with 9.09% less Indians) from a position of certain victory and beating the Cape Cobras after looking down and out. Stephen Fleming attributed it to ‘no gas in the tank’, saying the England tour had drained the big players. It was like hearing Gary Kirsten attribute the lackluster Twenty20 World Championships performances of India in 2009 and 2010 to the IPL seasons that preceded them. True words, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it. This exit doesn’t rankle much, considering it’s the only break MSD and Raina will get in some time.

It could get worse, Mumbuy-lots-of-foreigners-and-play-them-only-as-much-as-possible Indians could still win this tournament.

PS: I have been writing match previews and reports for select games, you can read them here.

Chennai Super Kings sleepwalk past Rajasthan Royals

May 6, 2011

It was mostly a boring match. Rahul Dravid’s T20 innings was the highlight of it. He adapted well but the grace traded for rushed effectiveness only spoilt the memories. Maybe because it was a slogfest the last time these two played on this pitch, no doubt that was on CSK’s mind when they had the ropes at the MAC pushed according to this Scott Styris tweet:

No such excitement this time though. Rahul Dravid’s knock was exactly the kind of innings that used to be written off as a freak innings even if one came every 5-6 ODIs. RR powered through to 86 for no loss in their first 10 overs helped by some very poor fielding by CSK. At which point Shadab Jakati began the fightback by plucking a screamer from Shane Watson right above his head. The Chennai choke was then applied.

The rest of the batsmen didn’t learn from Dravid and kept holing out. Dravid himself got out trying to go over the top when he could’ve easily reaped runs with his conventional shot making. In an amusing strategy #win, Taylor was out caught inches from the long on ropes.

Mid innings, when the Royals looked on course for at least 170, Stephen Fleming was asked how much he would be comfortable chasing, he replied 148. Rajasthan Royals ended their innings without a single six, at 147/6.

Vijay couldn’t repeat the innings that established his T20 cred but the Mike Hussey bot and Raina settled down. The two grafted runs in a busy boring partnership till the eleventh over. The eleventh over thankfully for all the audiences watching across the world saw two sixes as the two took on Nayan Doshi. That over also got the CSK run rate past the asking rate.

With 3 required for a win, Raina tried to win with a big shot and lost his wicket. Morkel walked in at the non striker’s end, watched as Hussey smashed a four, blew his smoking bat and walked off, CSK won by 8 wickets.

Paul Valthaty Update

At the end of the CSK vs RR match, Hussey briefly shared the most runs this IPL tag with Sachin (327 runs) although with a higher average, one lesser not out innings, in fewer innings, two fewer matches, higher strike rate etc. Sachin got it back half an hour later and ended the night 24 runs ahead. Kallis also pushed past Valthaty this afternoon but tonight the cap rests on the bald pate of Sehwag who dropped a mega ton on DC to move up past Sachin and Hussey to the top spot.

Valthaty needs 122 runs just to overtake Sehwag as the leading run scorer. He’s scored that many in a single innings already this season. Encore?

Chennai Super Kings overcome Deccan Chargers

May 4, 2011

Chennai Super Kings fought back after a huge scare from the Deccan Chargers to win their home game by 19 runs on Sunday, May 1st.

I don’t know what it is about DC that brings out the slapstick in CSK, this happened in 2009 and this happened two nights ago. Sample this:

1.6

Bollinger to Dhawan, 1 run, you can’t pack more action in one ball, this one was cut away towards point, non-striker wanted the single and ran all the way to the striker who hadn’t budged much, the throw comes to the striker’s end, and misses, if it had hit both batsmen would have been short of the crease, fielder backs up, not very cleanly, but manages to throw it back to Bollinger, who still had ages to take off the bails, but he missed the stumps on the first attempt, he tried to throw the ball on the stumps on the second attempt, but missed again, all these men collectively wouldn’t have hit a wall from a foot away

That’s not to say DC didn’t have a shtick of their own called Sunny Sohal. The shots he played to the pacers Morkel and Bollinger were ridiculous. He didn’t have a bucket of luck as much as a torrent that he rode to get to his 50. Sohal repeatedly backed off to the leg to make room for hitting on the off, found the ball following him, closed his eyes,  even fell over and swung. Each time he got lucky, edging it AND getting boundaries. Only when he was facing Randiv did he play ‘shots’, slogs over midwicket and long on added to the misery for CSK. Then like most lucky fools who don’t acknowledge the luck they had, he tried one reverse sweep too many and was bowled.

But he left DC at a very comfortable position, requiring just 95 off 13.1 overs to overhaul CSK’s score of 165.

That CSK score didn’t look like it would happen at one point in time. Steyn wasn’t playing but DC’s bowlers did a great job to restrict CSK to a sedate start. Ojha removed Murali Vijay and the part timers were rushing through rather tight overs. Mike Hussey bot was grafting runs at one end when Raina decided to break free. A little success but he got out just when he got CSK to a 18th over par score. Thankfully Morkel the batsman turned up and tonked the ball over the ropes for one medium and two humongous sixes in the 19th over. That last flourish pushed the total from a tricky 140-ish score to a certainly defendable 165/5.

Sohal’s periscope shots studded innings though looked good to push all that aside. It was irritating to watch good bowling from Morkel and Bollinger not just rendered ineffective but costly. 94 from 13.1 should be cakewalk ideally but the rest of the DC batsmen couldn’t do it. Dhawan had been rotating strike earlier but lost his wicket when he tried to take charge. Jakati, already having dismissed the openers, took a brilliant catch to dismiss Chipli, White struggled and that led to Sanga going for the big hits and being bowled. Bollinger and Morkel returned to finish their quota and this time got the rewards they deserved, snagging White, Christian, JPD helped along by tighter fielding.

The margin of victory may not say it but the match was as good as lost for CSK for a long period of time. It seemed for a while that they just waited for Sohal’s luck to run out before thinking out a fresh plan. That luck running out bit didn’t happen against Punjab and we know how that ended. MSD needs to work out his set pieces and contingency plans for his set pieces to avoid being blown away by upstarts again. The table’s pretty even at the moment and these little things will matter if CSK are to make it to the top two.

Paul Valthaty Update:
First Virat Kohli overtook both Paul Valthaty and Master Performer Sachin Tendulkar. Then Sachin overtook them again, then Virender Sehwag overtook  everybody but Sachin and Valthaty overtook just Kohli to get behind Sehwag and Sachin. Paul Valthaty also had a disappointing game at his IRL home ground, scratching his way to 33 off 38 in the same game that Sachin reclaimed the Orange cap with a 51 as MI surged to a 33 run win with the help of some good ole cheating . How many more obstacles must this man face? How many more twists will his story of eventual triumph take?

Chennai Super Kings constrict Pune Warriors India Part II

April 28, 2011

Yes, again.

They’re playing games faster than I can write crappy reviews.

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