The Nervous Hour – Test Cricket at its Best

Couldn’t Eat ! Couldn’t Talk ! Couldn’t Move and certainly Couldn’t Work ! That was the situation with most of us. This was during the final agonizing hour of the Cricket Test Match between India and Australia at Mohali.

For those who do not know what happened today here is the brief overview. India was set a moderate target of 216 runs to witn the first test and had lost 4 important wickets with just 55 on board at end of day yesterday and thus needed 161 more runs to win on a crumbling uneven pitch with Aussies determined to win. With Sachin in the middle we all had hopes that some miracle would happen. Sachin and Zaheer Khan continued the fight with Zaheer falling early. VVS Laxman came on the crease and he and Sachin started playing shots and showing positive intent. They took the target below 100 and the hopes were rising and then the inevitable happened. Sachin fell quickly followed by Dhoni and Harbhajan leaving India tottering at 122 with 8 wickets down and unfit VVS Laxman at the crease with another unfit player Ishant Sharma for support and with just Pragyan Ojha to come, it was all over. People had written the match off, started blaming various people, recalling how India always failed to chase modest 4th Innings target and how once again Sachin couldn’t guide India to a famous victory. It was just a matter of time and people were not even hoping for any miracle now.

But VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma didn’t give up, slowly and steadily they started scoring runs, one run at a time with an occasional boundary to boost some hopes but in their heart everybody knew this was just a futile effort. The target was way too high for this pair. Till the time the target reduced to about 50 at Lunch I think even the players didn’t believe that they could do it. And suddenly the target reduced to 30 and everybody started having hopesand dreams of snatching victory. Fingers were crossed, toes were curled, no one moved, anyone saying even a word was considered to be jinxing it and was cursed upon by. Flow of messages on Twitter reduced to minimal as everybody was busy concentrating on what was happening in the match.  Every run was then  cheered and the players too started beleiving that they could win.

Australians were getting frustrated and the target reduced to barely 15 and then Ishant Sharma fell to a dubious decision by Umpire Ian Gould. Loud curses blaming everybody from the umpire to  Laxman for giving too much strike to Ishant to BCCI for not getting UDRS system in place were heard. Could it be a case of ‘close but not enough’. Will it be another heartburn? Will Aussies do what they did few years back at Sydney? Will India collapse at the final hurdle? Ghosts of Chennai 2001 against Pakistan were refreshed.

Pragyan Ojha joined Laxman and the next 10 minutes the Channel Neo Sports would have got the highest TRP ever in their entire career. Everybody was glued on to the TV set and those with no access to television were all logged onto the net either on Cricinfo.com website other sports site offering live scores and live feed. The Commonwealth Games and India’s Gold Medal haul were forgotten for that hour.  Life has just paused everywhere, of course possibility of any work was long gone.The Cricinfo servers crashed because of tremendous traffic adding to the chaos. There were few lucky breaks, leg byes, over throws and a doubtful umpiring decision which went in India’s favor this time and India pulled it off. Pragyan Ojha tried to flick the Mitchel Johnson ball to the leg side and it got deflected by his pad and earned 2 valuable legbyes to India resulting in the narrowest of victory in India’s cricketing history.

The world erupted. Loud screams, crackers on the road and twitteratis were back furiously tweeting and life was restored in the metropolises and towns across India. India had pulled off one of the greatest come-from-behind victories ever with 9th wicket pair of VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma adding close to 90 runs. Zaheer Khan was named man of the match for fine display of bowling although my personal choice would have been Ishant Sharma for doing something which was totally unexpected of him and to stonewall charging Australian bowlers is a massive task for a number 10 batsman and of course how can we forget VVS Laxman, the biggest thorn in Australia’s path. It was a team effort and almost everyone contributed to the victory.

Ishant Sharma had done it, Very Very Special Laxman had yet again mauled the Aussies. Rickey Ponting was denied victory once more. He has never won a test match in India as Captain of Australia in 3 visits. The terms VVS, Laxman, Ishant, Sharma, Test Cricket all were trending at the same time on Twitter and thus proving the large support the match had on the Internet and I have no fingernails left to chew now, need to regrow them before the Bangalore Test in 3 days.

This was Cricket at its best. This match has reminded again to all cricket lovers and everyone that this was the real form of cricket and not the slam-bang variety of T20 and ODIs. This was the battle where warriors fought over 5 days and true  winner earned the victory not with only luck but with skills, temperament and a will to win. This was Test Cricket at its peak.

I am writing this few hours after the match is over and I can still recount the final hour, the minutes , the seconds, the loud heartbeats and have today experienced one of the best cricket matches of my cricket watching career.

Young Indian Stars of IPL 3.0

At this midway stage of the tournament it would be nice to compile of list of star players of IPL 3.0 so far, especially Indian players who have played better than expected and won games for their team or rescued the team and performed consistently for their team.

Listed below are some of the Indian stars who have performed superbly so far,  yet the common factor amongst them is that NONE of them are chosen to represent Indian team for World T-20 which begins right as the IPL ends.

Chennai Super Kings clearly have Murali Vijay as their brightest star. From nowhere , this ‘made for test match‘ player has come and played few remarkable innings to shock the oppositions out of the game and have made selectors thinking that why he is not a part of the Indian team of World T-20 . Indian Captain Dhoni has also been a pillar of strength for the team and has put his full faith in Vijay and allowed him to open the innings and deliver the goods.

Delhi Daredevils has some of the strongest batting lineup with Sehwag, Gambhir and Warner firing, but it is Amit Mishra who has delivered consistently with his slow leg spin and fooled quite a few batsmen with his turn and bounce and his clever wrong ones. He would surely be feeling unlucky about not getting selected for World T-20. Another bowler to watch out from DD camp is Umesh Yadav who has shown pace, which none other Indian bowlers have shown so far.

Another slow bowler who has impressed is Pragyan Ojha for Deccan Chargers and has been taking wickets by the bundle and also being a miser with the bowl although his team has been a failure as a collective unit.

Naman Ojha and Siddharth Trivedi have been a revelation for Rajasthan Royals. Naman Ojha is not the best of wicketkeeper but he is an explosive batsman and certainly worth considering as a backup option for Dhoni rather than Dinesh Kartik atleast in T-20s. Siddharth Trivedi has been a clever bowler, consistently amongst the wickets and the last over he bowled against the Deccan Chargers to deny them an easy victory was an example of his cool and sharp mind.

The Mumbai Indian youngsters namely Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayadu and Shikhar Dhawan have really been the real surprises and under the leadership of the ‘Master’ they have blossomed to be a real India prospect in near future. Also R. Sathish has done whatever is required from him quite well, hopefully these youngsters would continue to perform with same intensity as the tournament approaches its end.

Bangalore Boys Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey have also taken a huge load of batting upon them and delivered consistently for their team.Manish Pandey could have almost made it to the World T-20 team but for the selector’s preference over Rohit Sharma, who can bowl a bit too. Uthappa has been good in patches and not very consistent although it seems he is getting his form back.

Other notable perfromers are Manoj Tiwary for the KKR team and Manvinder Bisla for the Kings XI Punjab, although their collective team effort are not good enough for them to be in real contention.

There have been other good performances in IPL from established Indian stars like  Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and of course the one only Sachin Tendulkar. But its clearly the young stars that have outshone the senior players.

As I wrote above, none of them are in the squad which flys to west indies for world t-20 but the good things is that all of the above star performers are young and with their experience of IPL in their resume, they would only get better. Good for Team India.