Monday, February 14, 2011

The 'I'-factor

Longer the format,classier it gets.Shorter the format,innovative it gets.Here are some of the innovative cricket shots that have evolved over a period of time in limited overs game which all though risky at times but effective nevertheless.Watch out for these in the upcoming world cup as the subcontinental conditions, best suited for batting provides an ideal opportunity to use them.Presenting the 'I" factor or the Innovation factor:

Reverse Sweep:

Innovated by Pakistani batsman Musthaq Mohammad and subsequently followed by his brother Hanif Mohammad,a reverse sweep is a cross-batted sweep shot played in the opposite direction to the more orthodox sweep.This flip side sweep thus sends the ball in the opposite direction mainly towards backward point or third man making it highly effective in the middle overs when the field is conventional.
There are a lot of followers in the present day game who employ this shot often.Prominent among them are Andy Flower and Damien Martyn who is said to have the 'most brutal reverse sweep'.Though the risk factor of a an LBW always looms,the late coach Bob Woolmer is said to have encouraged the players to play this just to unnerve the bowlers at times.An infamous example of how risky this shot is was in 1987 world cup final when England's Mike Gatting attempting a reverse sweep of the very first ball of Allan Border top-edged it and was caught by the keeper.The British lost the momentum and eventually the match by five runs !

                                   Andy Flower in full bloom with a reverse sweep

Helicopter shot:

The first thing a coach tells a fast bowler bowling at depth is-Bowl straight and full,If he misses you hit.This counter attacking shot by MS Dhoni sure gives jitters.With a not-so-high-back lift snap of the arms and with incredible bat speed in full circle sends the ball past the bowler rocketing back to the fence.This shot effectively nullifies the yorker and block hole and prompts the bowler to shorten his length.True to coach's word if the batsmen misses he safely make a walk back to the dressing room.

                                                    MS Dhoni digs out a yorker

Paddle sweep:

Invented by Colin Cowdrey and perhaps immortalized by Sachin Tendulkar,the paddle sweep is one of the risk free shots innovated.Employed in full effect by Sachin Tendulakar against Shane Warne in the 1999 home series at Chennai,the paddle sweep involves a big stride forward,getting to the pitch of the ball and tapping it cross batted wrist fully.Used to collect fours and also to rotate the strike,this shot is common among all the uncommon shots played on a cricket field.
                              Sachin Tendulkar effrortlessly executing a paddle sweep

Nataraja Shot:

The one legged hook copyrighted by Kapil Dev,popularised by Brian Lara,The Nataraja shot is so named rightly after the Indian God of dance ! Mainly used to handle shot pitched deliveries in the power plays to clear the infield,this shot is now employed regularly by Jacques Kallis and Yuvraj Singh.The top edge risk again plays the spoil sport but this shot is most stylish of them all !
                There are only a  few shots more stylish in cricket than this one from Lara

Marillier Shot:

Ever wondered how a bat can be used as a ramp ?? Well Zimbabwean lower order batsman Douglas Marillier of showed us how when he dispatched two good line balls of Glenn McGrath to consecutive fours.This shot involves flick of the ball backwards over batsman's shoulder and the wicket keeper at large !
The interesting part is that the batsman will be of back foot.Though risky in execution this shot has an advantage of aimed at playing at that part of the field where fielders are very rarely placed in limited overs.In 2002,Zaheer Khan was again "marilliered" by Douglas Marillier.Misbah Ul Haq might have been a hero had he he timed this shot of Joginder Sharma in the final over of 2009 T-20 finals !!

                           Douglas Marillier in full flow against Zaheer Khan in 2002

Walking shot:

Johny Walker's tag line reads "Keep Walking".This next shot is a clear inspiration from that.Popularized by Mathew Hayden of Australia,this shot involves a casual 3 pace walk down the track and a heavy spank.Its different from the two step traditional down the track shots because as in the case of the former normally used against spinners but the walking shot now is mainly employed against the fast and medium pacers.
Effective most in the power plays to pierce the gaps and not let the opposition dictate terms.Robin Uthappa and Brendon McCullum are the other players who have added this shot in their artillery.
              Brendon Mccullum dispatches one through one of his many unorthodox shots


When Tilakaratne Dilshan reacted to a ball from James Anderson by crouching as though he was taking an evasive action,there were few surprised faces even in the Srilankan dressing room.The next moment they had beaming smiles when they saw the ball sailing over the boundary rope for a six ! To describe this shot is simply complicated-Get down the knees on one leg-wait till the ball reaches the desired height-crouch-scoop.
Often described as the improvised Marillier scoop,this shot in bluntly called "star fish" by Srilankan players as they explain "star fish has no brain" Brain or no brain,Dilscoop though certainly not the aesthetic of the shots gets valuable runs during power plays and slog overs.

                              Dilshan executes the Dilscoop aptly named after him

Switch hit:

Kevin Pietersen and controversies are more like the hutch network-Wherever you go,it follows.Barely legal and unethical were terms used when KP defied the law books and stealthily changed his stance and mauled Jiten Patel of New Zealand in june 2008.The world had seen the latest addition to the innovative shots-The Switch Hit.Basically the whole stance is reversed even as the bowler delivers the ball and more often than not the ball lands up in the upper tiers of the stadium in the cover region ! The good news came when Marlyborne Cricket Club,the guardians of the cricketing laws confirmed that they will not legislate the switch hit and said the shot was perfectly legal and was in accordance with cricketing laws.
The duel between the smiling assassin Muttiah Muralidharan and swiching assassin Kevin Pietersen became exciting as the latter used this shot effectively sending Murali out of the park.Muralidharan was all but smiling.
India's Robin Uthappa essayed two swich hits in the 2010 IPL when he launched Ajanta Mendis to two sixes of the same over.The switch hit which till that time had only admirers had a follower !
                                  KP displaying the world's first swich hit

Monday, January 31, 2011

World cup cricket-India's unforgettable moments

Here are my top ten unforgettable moments of Indian cricket from the world cup

10.Forget to remember or Remember to forget
The 2007 debacle,the Caribbean Islands.

Arguably India's worst World cup outing so far as they were knocked out at the group stages.Plummeted in controversies and negative energy it was pretty evident that all was not well with the team as an unit.Bad blood between the former captain Sourav Ganguly and the coach Greg Chappell for starters,Sachin's batting position ambiguity for the main course and Indian media had a field day following the team's every movement like never before.
As evident as it was India lost to minnows Bangladesh,failed to cross the Srilankan hurdle,returned home with lots of questions to answer and lots of unanswerable questions.One of the endearing images of the tournament was a crest fallen  Dravid covering his face.To say the least the 2007 world cup will be remembered more for its controversies off the field than for the sport on the field.

9.Partners in sublime
1999,Group A match,Taunton,England

Buoyed by thier win against Kenya,India went in to this group match with oodles of confidence.What followed was record breaking performances by two players who made their debuts in the same match.Sourav Ganguly was at his divine best-Cutting,driving and lofting at will.Not to forget his step out-high back lift-see the sky-fetch the ball trademark shot which he employed on almost all bowlers.At the other end Rahul Dravid was unlike Dravid that day.He played a sheet hanker role for about 15 overs and just when the commentators thought he would go like that till the end,the Wall broke the shackles,cut loose and unleashed his wide variety of shots.The poor Srilankan bowling attack was left to ponder where to bowl as there were two devils at each end striking the ball to all parts.The 318 run partnership is the highest at a World cup till date and the 183 by Dada was the highest individual score at that time by an Indian.Rahul Dravid also got his career best score of 145 which remains his highest.The military medium of Robin Singh (5/31) polished Lanka handling them a 157 run defeat.

8.Venkatesh's Prasada
1996,Quarter finals,M Chinnaswamy Stadium,Bangalore

Aamir Sohail had his head at the right place for the first 15 overs of the run chase when he counter attacked India point blank.Had he continued like that for some more overs or even till the end,he would have immortalized himself.The fifth ball of the 15th over was dispatched through the covers by Aamir Sohail who had danced down the track and wheeled his bat.For reasons only he can explain,he wheeled the bat again-this time at the bowler and pointed at the direction at which the ball had gone.The lanky Indian went back to his run up without a reply as the 37,846 strong crowd unleashed their outrage at Aamir's indecency.
They went berserk a minute later when Venkatesh Prasad clean bowled Aamir Sohail who gave himself so much room that a Bangalore metro could have traveled.It was Prasad's turn to show the directions now as the half stump had traveled half a mile.Pakistan had lost a crucial wicket at a crucial time and eventually lost the match as their run rate dipped from 7.5 to 3.4 in the next 20 overs.It was Venkatesh's Prasada as India had the last laugh.

7.Aashish Nehra's LOC-Line of Control  
2003,Group A match,Sahara stadium,Kingsmead,Durban

There are some performances that define your career and become the highlight in your resume.On the night of february 26th 2003 at Kingsmead,Durban Aashish Nehra produced such a performance.Chasing 250 for a much needed victory,England met head on a player who was bowling as though the bowling god had set on him.Nehra was more like a bowling machine set in the mid 130's lent over a mean line of in and around half stump.The England's batsmen failed to move thier feet were caught at crease and the the edges from their willow never stopped coming.With a career best figures of 6/23,Aashish Nehra was nore than a man of the match,to put it mildly-He had no match !

6.Operation-Love you Dad
1999,Group A match,County Ground,Bristol,England

There was a stir in Indian media on 21st May 1999 when Ramesh Tendulkar,a Marathi novelist passed away.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar flew from England,performed his father's last rights with a heavy heart.The question in every one's  mind was would he travel back to join the Indian squad at the world cup.The BCCI had made it clear it was Sachin's chioce.As a true patriot Sachin flew back to Bristol 19 hours before the match against Kenya,Scored a sublime 140 of 101 balls.
To loose a loved one in your twenties and come out and deliver that kind of an innings-the media dubbed only Sachin could have done that.As Sachin  received the man of the match award,he dedicated his knock to his late father.The journey of a phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar being a legend to a God started there.

5.Ajay Jadeja-Bang Bang Bangalore
1999,Quarterfinals,M Chinnaswamy Stadium,Bangalore

After Sixer Sidhu's heroics of 93,India were cruising along nicely all set for a good total.To make that "good" better,In came Ajay Jadeja.Waqar Younis known for his in swingers and depth bowling skills came on to bowl the 47th over,Jadeja who had set himself up for big hitting gave one of the nightmarish mauling to Waqar.When Waqar bowled in the block hole,Jadeja gave himself room and bludgeoned him for a square boundary.When Waqar bowled a short one,he lofted effortlessly and when Waqar lost his line and bowled rubbish,Jadeja gleefully and helped himself to collect priceless sixes.Though the cameo from Jadeja came to an end in the final over,he had done the damage to ruin Javed Miandad's last ODI.

4.Kapil's Classic
1983,Group B match,Trentbridge Wells,England.

If this match was covered by the BBC,It would have made a lot of money later selling its copyrights.Rated by alomost all cricket experts as one of the best ODI innings of all time,this 175 from the captain courageous Kapil Dev not only saved a humiliating defeat against Zimbabwe but also eventually helped India go all the way and win the world cup.From 5 down to 54,India looked down the barrel only to rise up and fire back at the opposition.They recovered to make 268/8 and Zimbabwe were bundled out for 235.
The footage of this match is unavailable as the BBC had boycotted this match.For the 8000 odd lucky spectators at the stadium that day,They had witnessed one of the epic innings of a life time by a true champion cricketer which had 16 belligerent boundaries and six stunning sixes.

3.Bombay Bomber's Best
2003,Group A match,Centurion Park,Centurion.

What will you do when the best batsman in the world is at his best ? Well,you do not have much choices than simply watch and applaud.Barring a chance when Abdul Razzaq at mid off dropped the catch and got admonished by his captain Wasim Akram,when he said "Tujhe patha hain toone kiska catch choda hain" Sachin Tendulkar showed the world why he is the best in business.The hype surrounding the arch rivalry between India and Pakistan coupled by Sachin and Shoaib Akhtar encounter provided the media much more than it had asked for.
Chasing 275 for victory and more so to continue the legacy of not loosing to Pakistan in a world cup match,Sachin took upon himself to showcase some of the stunning shots ever essayed on a cricket field.The highlight of them all being the upper cut that left the Rawalpindi Express out of the park.His 75 ball 98 rated by himself as one of his best no doubt had in abundance the flair class and elegance which we associate with the master.An unbeaten partnership between Dravid and Yuvraj meant that India had not only won the battle but also the war.

2.Hands of God

There was a colossal joke that by the time Madan Lal's ball came to Vivian Richards,he could have played two shots in the interim.Madan Lal did bowl a slower ball,but this time he shortened his length.Vivian Richards though early in to the shot pulled it well.What followed was one of the unforgettable images of every Indian Cricket fan.Kapil Dev ran about 18-20 yards backwards to take a game-changing catch in India's cricketing history.A dejected Viv went back having scored 28 from 33 balls and the hopes of an entire nation started to soar high.The rest as they say is history.India's  most famous win came at Lords-The home of cricket to the utter jubilation of a surprised cricketing world.India successfully defended a meager total of 183 by bowling out the best and the most feared batting line up at that era.This win would eventually put India on the World map not just in sports.The 1983 Indian World cup campaign will forever be written in golden letters in India's sporting history as it was a story of guts glory and undaunted courage.As Kapil Dev and his team lifted the trophy on the balcony of Lords,Cricket in India had transformed from being just a sport to being a religion.

1.The cup of Joy2011,Finals,Wankhade Stadium,Mumbai

 Cricket as the adage goes is a religion in India and for most of its followers post 1983 attaining Nirvana was to say "I was alive when we won the world cup"More importantly for someone who is deemed God to himself attain Nirvana is icing in the cake.
The 2011 world cup will always be remembered for the grit and panache performances and a tale of culminating joy.Aptly enough the music played at the Stadium when India on home soil might win a World cup after 28 long years went "Tonight's gonna be a good good night"
Yuvraj Singh battling leukemia to produce a man of the series effort.MS Dhoni promoting himself to produce one of the pressure enduring performances of any era.Gautam Gambhir coming up with an hard earned 97.Virat Kohli when asked about Sachin exclaiming "He has been carrying the burden of Nation for 21 years,Its time we carried him" and the God himself shedding few tears of Joy whilst most of our eyes were themselves moist.The 2011 World Cup winning campaign will remain in every Indian cricket follower memory as The cup of Joy