Category Archives: Anil Kumble

All Hail, Chennai Super Kings

Unlike Samir Chopra, who recently posted his IPL loyalties, I didn’t have a dog in this season’s fight. I don’t know why; each time I think I could back a team as a reasonable fan, I found reasons to dislike it.

But each season, I’ve been relatively happy with the winners: the Rajasthan Royals were just too darn cute not to root for (what, with their knack of winning each game in the last over); the Deccan Chargers never hurt nobody (except V.V.S. Laxman) — and this year, the Chennai Super Kings proved themselves competent enough for the title (granted, the Mumbai Indians should have won given their performance in the round robins, but so what — it helps when you have a certain Sachin Tendulkar pushing the scales). In a perfect world, the Royal Challengers Bangalore would have taken the, uh, bottle, if only because Anil Kumble deserves all the limelight in the world.

As for player reviews: you have to be very, very happy with Suresh Raina, whom I think has clearly settled any dispute about whether or not he’s the leader of the next generation. Rohit Sharma didn’t do awfully (he finished in the top 10 batsmen with 400-odd runs), but Raina did spectacularly (461 at 46, a full 13 ahead of Sharma). No player review post of mine would be complete without a whoop-dee for Irfan Pathan, my one true love. One day, the cosmos will realign and do justice by this man; until then, I have to be satisfied with top 5 bowling statistics and not too bad with the ball either. If this guy played with a better team, he would be heading to the Caribbean (okay, okay, I exaggerate).

Speaking of which! Let’s move on to the real thing, the Twenty20 World Cup; the thing that got all of us interested in the format to begin with. I’m rooting for Bangladesh and Afghanistan. No, really!

The Fake Anil Kumble IPL Player

Cricket Minded has a few stern words for Anil Kumble’s Twitter account, which  recently featured disparaging remarks on Jacques Kallis, Sreesanth, Malayalis and even the color orange. Purna writes:

His job is on the line, so he takes it out on others. Way to handle the pressure old man! Hey Anil, if you can’t deal with the captaincy, don’t take it. This: the tweeting, the public speaking, keeping it together when your job is on the line…all of this shit is part of being a captain.

OK — Twitter has already gotten Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor in trouble, so it’s not beyond the realm that Kumble would lose his usual reservations online. But even a cursory glance at the posts confirms that Anil Kumble isn’t Anil Kumble; some joker no doubt had the foresight to land the account and use it to his own benefit.

You have to look for the “Verified Account” sign on Twitter pages, Purna. And, really, so what if the “old man” wants to mouth off about Kallis? I think he’s earned it, no?

Anil Kumble And Rahul Dravid Make It Work For The IPL

Have a look at these highlights from Match 14 between the Bangalore and Mumbai. Watch for Anil Kumble bowling a hapless batsman with a slower ball (and a modified delivery action), as well as Rahul Dravid’s unbelievable one-handed catch. Like I said: retirement is obsolete.

Anil Kumble’s Commentary

Anil Kumble has joined the Star Cricket team’s commentary team for the Twenty20 World Cup. Thoughts?

I always found the ex-Indian spinner surprisingly articulate during his international career, though his deep, deep voice made him sound like a mumbler (albeit a smart one). That’s part of my problem with Kumble’s stuff so far: he’s not nearly as emotional as he needs to be and his voice doesn’t display much range. As a beginner, he’s also understandably too cautious; he should realize that TV commentators aren’t radio commentators. They can have some fun outside describing onfield play. Continue reading

Is Retirement Obsolete?

Given how well Anil Kumble, Matthew Hayden, Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and so on did in the 2009 IPL, should we put aside the ritual of retirement altogether?

Obviously at some point, it’s necessary, since a 50-year-old Kumble may not be as good as a 30-something one (though I recall the 1996 World Cup featuring one 47-year-old from Holland, I think). But, still, Jayasuriya’s pressing 40 and I’d hate to see the Sri Lankan team without him, and even though the Australian team claims to have moved on, wouldn’t it be so much more menacing with Matthew Hayden at its head? (And wouldn’t the English team look so much better with Mark Ramprakash in it?) Continue reading

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and Indian Cricket

I haven’t been to India recently, so I’ve had to rely almost exclusively on Western accounts of anger in some Indian sectors about the now-Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Apparently, some were angry about the word ‘dog,’ which they found particularly offensive. Note, again, how culturally specific insults can be: ‘monkey’ is not at all registered in India, whereas ‘dog’ — I know this from personal experience — goes too far (‘bastard’, as well, as Anil Kumble pointed out to Brad Hogg, also goes beyond the pale). 

Others, however, were angry that the film’s central characters and plot came out of Dharavi, the massive slum in Bombay. I’m not sure I understand their logic, because, as ‘slum’ films go, this one was far better a portrayal than City of Joy, a Patrick Swayze movie from the 1990s that relied on the savior-Westerner prototype as its main protagonist, and focused much less on Indian wealth. That film, of course, also attracted protests, but Slumdog is simply different, since it is not meant to be a “realist” portrayal; it is a fantastic romp through a series of bigger-than-life characters (see Anil Kapoor’s role especially). Continue reading

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Captaincy Changes in the Cricketing World

In the last year or so, we’ve seen the ends of Anil Kumble, Mahela Jayawardene, Michael Vaughan (and Kevin Pietersen), and Shoaib Malik. Only South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand (kind of, considering that Vettori only took charge recently) have not made any changes at the top.

It’s quite a trend. We’re going to see younger captains (generally) lead the teams, and with most early in their tenures, we’re also likely to see some changes in line-ups and strategies. The climax of this all should be the 2011 World Cup, when the new captains will all face off against each other. Which of the young ‘uns will win? (Or will the older crew — Graeme Smith and Ricky Ponting still pull it off?

The Fall of Monty Panesar

As a viewer, it’s not always easy to understand why some balls take wickets, and others don’t. Sure, there are some magical deliveries where the “swing works the oracle again,” but especially in sub-continental cricket, whole stretches of almost boring, steady batting will suddenly give way to a wicket, and for no discernible reason. 

Of course, that’s not the case: good bowlers try to take wickets with every ball, or at least set one up. You bowl three outswingers, then bring one back in; you bowl two bouncers, then send a “sucker” ball outside the off-stump; you bowl four flighted leg-spinners, then throw in a quick flipper. 

Monty Panesar, alas, understands none of these things. During the England’s tour of India, you could see how personality determines sporting character. Shane Warne, flamboyant and ridiculously confident and theatrical, beguiled batsmen into giving up wickets (see: “Adelaide, 2006“). Panesar, on the other hand, is mechanical and boring; commentators made fun of his constant mantra of “bowling in the right areas,” while even Michael Vaughan said that Panesar left all the fielding tactics to him (“He would only set university fields.”) Other than his arm ball, he refused to vary anything; each ball was as flighted as the last and at the same speed. No adventure, no out-of-the-ordinary. Just Plain Boring. 

There is another view, which came out a bit in his autobiography ( ruthlessly panned by one Cricinfo critic). Witness this exchange with then-skipper Andrew Flintoff:

When I knocked on Flintoff’s door and handed over the results he seemed a bit bemused. 
“This is what I’m thinking of doing,” I said.
“Ah, okay,” he replied, sounding as puzzled as he looked. “No worries at all, mate. I’ll take it all on board and you have a good night’s sleep.”
I decided I ought to leave quickly because I wasn’t sure whether he wanted me in his room.

Poor guy. Andrew Miller takes this passage as evidence that Panesar needs self-confidence and constant assurance, though it’s also possible that this guy can’t handle himself around greatness. There are some — like Kevin Pietersen, for instance, or even Harbhajan Singh — who relish the thought of establishing themselves. There are others — like Anil Kumble — who are happy to grind out their wickets, establish a reputation slowly, and become absolutely necessary.

Panesar, however, is neither: he is decidedly not great, but he also lacks that gritty determination that the latter category demands. Once he feels adrift, he just goes back to What He Knows, that “right areas” nonsense. And in the process, he becomes Ashley Giles: mildly useful, but thoroughly inconsequential.

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The Decline and Rise of Cricket Nations

Rather grand title, no? But as I was on another interminable subway ride, I started to wonder: why do some cricketing nations dominate, and others do not? And — given Australia’s recent fall — why do some decline? 

The simplest, and possibly best, answer has something to do with the quality of players. Modern cricket has known only two great teams: the West Indies, which had the reins for a frightfully long time, and Australia. Both these teams had unmatchable players, and kept producing them. The West Indies had Viv Richards, Rohan Kanhai, Malcolm Marshall, all the way down to Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and lastly, Brian Lara; the Australians — well, you know who they had. 

Once that long supply was exhausted, the team suffered, and Lara was not enough to carry it. The West Indies also missed a trick with the rise of spin, which the Indians consitently relied on, but the Australians — with one Shane Warne — took to a match-winning quality. Pace alone, and spin alone, cannot do the task; one needs both, even if Paul Harris is your one spinner (as in South Africa’s case). Australia, however, now find themselves in the same position the West Indies did in the early 1990s: gone are McGrath and Warne, and Langer and Hayden, and Lehmann and Martyn, and the Waugh brothers and Gilchrist. 

There are underlying factors behind this sudden lack of resources: Continue reading

Australian Cricket Writings

It’s a genre of its own, steadily expanding: first, there was Adam Gilchrist, and all the revelations of an un-sportsmanlike Tendulkar. Then, there was Ricky Ponting, offering another account of the Sydney crisis. And now, the main man himself, Andrew Symonds, picks up the plume and begins to write himself. Where does this all leave us?

First: Gilchrist, I think, is an idiot. Continue reading

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