Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CRICKET IS AT ITS BEST WHEN THE HOT SEAT KEEPS BURNING

The cricket during this English Summer was totally enthralling and the top two test playing nations never disappointed as the test series lived up to its billing, great expectations and most importantly the hype. England had to have a bitter taste of their first home series defeat after quite some time but the scorecard 0-2 does not present the full picture. South Africa seized the opportunity of their lifetime and finally grabbed it with both hands and still remain undefeated in an away series for the past six years.

It would be unfair to say England did not play their hearts out. Sometimes the results might throw up such doubts and with today’s buzzing media and hypocrites such biased criticism can gloom over the public very easily. England were outplayed in the first test but still proved why they are the number 1 side and the last two tests could have gone either way. Bits and pieces here and there in the favor of England could have displayed a totally different looking scorecard, maybe even surprising for some.

But a top side only thrives in believing such lucky grabs are occasional and winning more sessions should be permanent. England failed deeply there. The occasional drops and restless fielding was a total surprise. Unfortunately, the top order lacked resistance to the new ball attack. Both Strauss and Cook failed miserably and gave openings for the middle order rather too soon in the innings. The middle order tried to sustain only leaving the side in another mess. Finally it would take an individual to stand at one end and see the rest of his side fall apart. Big partnerships never looked in sight. The bowling unit was strong and delivered more often than not but still the aggressive mindset and attacking field placement was completely missing. It looked like as if the coordination between bowlers and Strauss was getting nowhere.

THE KP SAGA added spice but maybe a little too much than required. The entire episode was a very sad story. KP grabbed the spotlight and was making news for the wrong reasons once again. His attitude was completely out of sorts and a YouTube video could do less repair work. His cat on the wall business was a pity picture. But again here the public came to know about the text messages controversy only after he was not picked for the 3rd test. Everyone were blind sighted and believed his aggression and refusal towards ECB was the reason until that day the squad was announced.

His behavior was unacceptable but his reasons of worry cannot be ignored. You cannot have a jam packed cricketing calendar with hardly two weeks for spending some time with your family. IPL should not be the prerogative and at the same time it is not always about the money too. It is always a risky business to open up sensitive and commercial issues with the board. When things turn out in your favor the cricketing fraternity pays laurels otherwise no one cares a damn. KP was the right person to open up such issues and it could possibly be only KP who could land in such dubious arm twists with his board (But it is a different story with the BCCI. KP dictates terms and voices his worry, ECB bosses are charged up and wait for the perfect opportunity to drop him and eventually succeed but when Sachin chooses which series he wants to play, BCCI listens carefully and obliges.).

The Proteas had their task cut out and implemented their plans to perfection. But the highlight of their success story was outstanding team work both from the batting as well as bowling ends. You expect your big guns to fire in such high voltage battles but what South Africa accomplished was something beyond the expectations. Young fresh legs made work even more simple. The side is in grave danger and out of nowhere Alviro Peterson comes up with a sparkling century to carry his team for a commendable total. Duminy and Rudolph heats up the steam in the lower middle order to compensate for a middle order collapse. Tahir twirled, tossed and spun the ball again and again. Loose balls were smashed but he too produced a rare magic and cleaning up Bairstow to end a crucial partnership was his highlight performance. Philander never looked like a tail-ender batting. Surprises kept sweeping the English side off the bay. But due credit must go to Greame Smith for excellent captaincy and of course the coach Gary Kirsten. They expected their stalwarts Kallis, Amla, AB, Steyn, Morkel to fire and believed in their younger boys to rise up to the occasion (Perhaps they would have liked to test their bench strength too but why spoil a winning combo). Both of those things happened and it takes such extraordinary team work to dethrone the #1 ranked test team. After all, there is nothing as sweet as defeating the top team at its own backyard to kick start your own journey as #1.

England couldn’t survive a year at the throne but it is clear they will be pushing as hard as possible to clinch back their throne which was once theirs. So was it for India and even Australia too. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been close but never have had the taste of it. The #1 spot is at the balance and is up for the grabs.
Cricket is at its very best not when #1 is dominated by a single team but rather when it keeps switching from one team to other. South Africa look set now but for how long not only depends on their form but also on how other teams perform.

This series was an intense battle between the top two sides and the better team won and it was a hard fought battle to gain the hot seat. But the question that has been raised after this series is are we going to see an era of dominance or will the #1 ranking still keep changing hands?

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