Friday, December 28, 2007

India still has a chance to win at MCG

At the end of day 3 of the Boxing Day Test the equation is simple, India needs close to 500 runs to win with 10 wickets in hand. Going by the history of Test Cricket, no team has ever won chasing 500 in the 4th innings. Only thrice have teams won chasing 400. Hostile Australian fast bowling backed by superb fielding and unsettled Indian batting order all makes Australia favourites to win the match tomorrow itself.

But I am thinking positively (for a change) and that Impossible task of chasing 500 is possible. I am taking inspiration from India's Test wins against Australia so far this decade. All of them looked absolutely impossible.
1) Kolkata - India were following on trailing Australia by 274 runs. It took India Laxman's 281, Dravid's 180 and Harbajan's 13 wickets that included a hat-rick for the impossible to happen.
2) Chennai - At the end of day 1 Australia were 300 odd for 3 and Hayden completed 200. It took Sachin's 126, Laxman's twin 60s and Harbhajan's 15 wickets to turn the tide in India's favour.
3) Adelaide - Australia 400/5 on day 1. India 84/4 on tea on day 2 chasing Australia's 556 in 1st innings. It then took Dravid's 300 in the match, Laxman's 148 and Agarkar's quick 6 second innings wickets.
4) Mumbai - India bowled out for 100 in the first innings. Australia needed just 107 to win in 4th innings. It took shrewd captaincy from Dravid and tight spell from spin triplet led by Murli Karthik to script an impossible victory.

India trailed Australia in the first innings in all of those matches except the for the one in Chennai. It took a few great individual performances, record breaking partnerships and complete team work to win.

Looking at how some of the recent 4th innings totals have been chased
1) West Indies bt Australia at Antigua in 2003 chasing 418.
2) Australia bt South Africa chasing 280 odd off 75 overs loosing just 2 wickets.
3) West Indies came within 60 runs of chasing 460 set by England in the 3rd Test of 2007 series in England.
4) Sri lanka led by Sangakkara's 192 fell short by just 96 runs chasing Australia's 500. Had umpire not given the wrong decision, who knows Sri Lanka might as well have won.
5) At Perth last year England were in with a chance of chasing 550 against Australia by being 300/3 at the end of 4th day.
6) Zimbabwe batted 2 days led by Andy Flowers 232* to save the match against India at Nagpur.
7) Atherton's 185* saved England the J,burg test against South Africa having to bat 2 days to save the test.
8) Jacques Rudolph's unbeaten century saved South Africa the Brisbane Test having to bat a day and half. That was the last time Australia didn't win a Test 17 tests ago.

Pitches have improved considerably in the recent past and they do last 5 days without becoming a mine-field on the 5th day. This Melbourne Pitch is still good for batting and India has the batting resources. Australia's bowlers are not experienced and will be severely tested when the batting looks settled. Absence of a quality spinner should work in India's favour. You need a spinner or two to bowl tight long spells especially in the second innings.

Indian batsmen need to play their natural game and score runs. They need to overcome nervousness of playing in the 4th innings that too against Australia. They should look for singles and use the bad balls by putting them away for runs. They will also need help from the umpires. They shouldn't get the same treatment that they got in 1st innings. There will be several tough spells which will have to negotiated. Once the bowlers tire there will be plenty of runs to be made. Australians no doubt will set attaching fields and there will be plenty of gaps to score runs. Thought of playing for a draw should never come in. If they can bat out 2 days, they can as well score 500 to win. In form batsmen like Sachin, Saurav and Laxman needs to put their hands up and score big runs. Others will have to support them. India needs 2 or 3 big partnerships. Kumble needs to keep telling his batsmen to be positive as he did during the successful 4th innings chase at Delhi.

Before the series began, I had doubts about the Indian bowling lineup. I think, they did a great job in the 1st test. They bowled with lot of fire and energy. With little more discipline and help from fielders, they are on the way to capture 20 wickets. They seem to enjoy the fact that Australian batsmen like to go after their bowling which kind of challenges them and also gives the bowlers a chance to get them out. They gave Australian tail enders an opportunity to bat which they didn't get in the previous series. India needs to stick with the 2 spinner approach throughout the series.

Australia are favourites to win it but India has a chance to make a match of it. I would like to see India ending tomorrow's day at around 300 for 3.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Highlights of Day1 of Boxing Day Test 2007

What a fantastic way to begin the most anticipated series, The Border-Gavaskar Series between India and Australia starting Boxing Day at the historic MCG. Australia got 337 and India got 9 wickets. That leaves the first day honours even though India has a slight advantage. But to an Indian fan this is a huge satisfaction, to stay in the game at the end of Day 1 overseas that too Australia.

For India its captain Kumble has led from the front taking 5 wickets. He rates this as his best bowling spell overseas. For Australia Hayden scored 124 (100 of just 120 balls), he too rates his hundred as the best of his career. To rate this as their best achievements from players of the stature and experience of Kumble and Hayden shows what a massive day this has been and how important this contest is for the respective teams.

The turning point to me of the day was Zaheer Khan castling Ponting's off-stump. That was a peach of a delivery, bowled from an angle, pitching on good length, swings just away to beat Pointing outside edge and hit the top of off-stump. The best fast bowlers have a very simple strategy, just bowl such that the ball pitches and hits the top of off-stump. This though is a very effective strategy because at that length the batsmen is unsure as to whether to play it off the front foot or back foot. The line is such that the batsmen has to play at it. If he misses it he will get out bowled or lbw or if he gets an outside edge it will carry to waiting hands and slips.

On his personal front, it is a very special day for Saurav Ganguly who is playing his 100th test match. Lord's and MCG are Mecca and Madina of cricket. He is the most privileged one to play his first test at the former and 100th test at the latter. He scored a 100 on the first occasion, could he score a 100 on this occasion? He made his ODI debut too here 15 years back. He is the 7th Indian to play 100 tests and 3 of them (Sachin, Rahul and Anil) are playing alongside him in this match. When Laxman will play his 100th match, hopefully India will have 5 centurions in same team, 4 in the middle order. He has scored a few hundreds with the bat in Tests, ODIs and First Class matches but it will he this hundred (matches) that he will value the most.

Regarding the selection, I am happy that a spinner was picked ahead of the medium pacer. Kumble very much realises that Australian batsmen are susceptible to quality spin bowling and are very comfortable with medium pace. Only Kumble and Harbhajan of the Indian bowlers have troubled Australia consistently in the recent past. But the shuffling of the settled batting order was what I didn't like. I am not against selection of Yuvraj Singh, but the fact that Dravid is made to open and Laxman has to bat at No 3. Harsha Bogle in his column for espnstar wrote "If you want to pick a junior minister in the cabinet, you don’t move the home minister to finance, the finance minister to external affairs so that the junior man can take home!". I feel sorry for Dravid here, he is in his worst phase of his career, struggling with the bat, quit captaincy, lost his one day place and now lost his favourite Test Batting position. No doubt he has the skill and technique to bat at any position and he is ready to make any sacrifices for the team.

At this stage India have their noses ahead but a Test win is still far off. To me Australians are still favourites to win this opening encounter.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Indian Playing X1 for Boxing Day Test

Thinking about selecting the team for 1st Test against Australia starting Boxing Day makes me realise how difficult yet thankless the job of Indian Selector is. Dilip Vengsarkar certainly deserves a better deal for taking revolutionary decisions like inclusion of Ganguly in South Africa, asking Kumble to captain the test team, making Karthik as opener, giving new ball to R.P.Singh, sticking to the tried, tested and guaranteed middle order in spite of relentless pressure from Yuvraj Singh.

Let me start the selection with a few easy and uncontroversial ones. List is in Chronological order of walking into the batting crease
1. Jaffer - Best Opener for India over the last 2 years. Showed good form with a stroking 200 against Pakistan.
2. Rahul Dravid - He missed only 1 match since he has made his debut. Not in the best of form rather has just completed his worst (by his own high standards) year at office. Has got class and technique and is just a 100 away from striking form again. His selection into the team is beyond doubt but his batting position.
3. Tendulkar - Was he ever dropped ever since he has started playing? The decision whether to play him or not is left to himself. He on in part is raring to go.
4. Ganguly - Best Indian batsmen over last one year right from the first innings since he has come back. He is at his best form of his life.
5. Laxman - Remember, We are playing against Australia. We are not here to please Australians by dropping him.
6. Dhoni - Hasn't done any mistake with the gloves. Cheers up the dressing room. Batting and that too aggressively is a bonus. One who is touted to take over captaincy can learn the nuances by being a sincere deputy to Kumble.
7. Kumble. Full Stop
8. Zaheer Khan - India's strike bowler after Srinath's retirement. Worked extremely hard to earn a place back in the Team. Hasn't put a wrong foot since his return. Architect of India's triumph in England.
9. R.P. Singh - Good controlled bowler. Has his name registered at Lord's for his 5-wicket haul. Excellent new ball partner to Zaheer Khan. Both of them lack the pace to trouble Australian batsmen, but who else has? Swing and control is what is expected of them. It is important that they don't carry any injury during the entire series.

Pareto's 80-20 principle holds very well here. Selecting 80% of the 11 is only 20% of the effort but the remaining 20% will take 80% effort. I am yet to select Jaffer's opening partner and the 4th bowler.
Again starting off with an easier debate i.e. on 4th bowling option. My argument is that it has to be a spinner.
* The pitch at MCG is expected to be good for batting and will assist the spinners after 3 days. Stuart Clark has expressed his disappointment at this.
* Shane Warne last year picked up 5 wickets on day 1 against England to bring up his tally to 700. Suggesting that spin works at MVG.
* Australians are expected to bat big and long. A second spinner comes in handy then to share Kumble's workload.
* Only twice have Indian fast bowlers (Zaheer Khan and Agarkar) taken 5 wickets in an innings in at least last 20 tests against Australia. We don't have a 3rd fast bowler who looks like challenging that record. Australians were never troubled by Indian fast bowling but by Spinners.
* With Sreesanth unfit, Pathan looks the next best option. But being yet another left arm medium pace bowler, there wouldn't be any new variety to bowling attack. His batting would be useful isn't a valid argument when his bowling is useless. Ishant Sharma lacks any sort to discipline to play at Test Level, let alone against Australia. I was agitated at seeing him bowl at Bengaluru. I don't know Pankaj Singh, if he is quality bowler, I would have known.

I said we need a spinner, that doesn't mean that it has to be Harbhajan. He might have excellent record against Australia at home but that was few years back. Present Harbhajan is no longer the Turbonator, he is now a listless unidimensional off-spinner. Murali Karthik would have been good but only Harbhajan has flown to Australia and I am forced to select him.

Coming to the batsmen and Jaffer's opening partner. The possible options are Sehwag, Yuvraj and Karthik. Let me discuss of them one by one.
1) Sehwag - Till a year ago he was India's best batsmen along with Dravid for 3 years. He had one bad series in South Africa. Because of his poor one-day form he was dropped from Test Side. India had found a good opener in Karthik and never got a chance back. His style of game suits only Test Cricket. Attaching close in fielders, bowlers bowling to get his wicket rather than containing runs, new ball coming on to the bat etc suits well for him. His record over 5 years in various forms clearly suggests that. When he scores he scores them quickly, converts starts into huge scores. I wouldn't criticize the way he plays as the same method earned him huge successes in the past. Now he is low on confidence and form. So doesn't merit a selection. Selectors might hope/pray that he will come out well. But we can't expect such gambles to pay off against Australia.

2) Yuvraj Singh - He is one player who is causing head-aches to selectors, other settled middle order batsmen and me. Following arguments favour his selection. Is in form of his life; Likes ball to come on to the bat as it does in Australia; Strikes and Times the ball well; Brilliant fielder. Scores runs quickly and can be very good when counter-attacking; Provides a decent part time bowling option. But the big question is, where do one fit him? Only one opening slot is free. To select him we need to promote(?) Dravid to open and Laxman to No 3. Dravid hasn't been very successful as opener, still he as a team man has agreed to open. But I wouldn't open with him, because No 3 is his slot he has earned scoring about 7000 runs at that position. He is too good a batsmen to risk at opening slot. I wouldn't make such drastic changes in a long settled batting line up. So, if Yuvraj is to be selected he needs to open which he has never done successfully. That means he will have to sit-out and wait for his turn when any other batsmen gets injured. I would be very happy to have such a good batsmen sitting in the bench. Injury to a major batsman wouldn't be a problem then. This is a good problem to have for the team. Hussey got a break into Australian Team after age of 30 and 15000 first class runs.

3) Karthik - He had one bad series against Pakistan but otherwise he was top run scorer in England, had a good match in Cape Town, scored a hundred against Bangladesh. Dynamic fielder, back up wicket keeper and great team player. Has got India to a few solid starts with Jaffer. So I would give him a chance for 4 innings at least. That concludes the Team Selection.

Parthiv Patel and Aakash Chopra can also be considered. We have good number of options for batting but limited in bowling department. Is any pace foundation listening?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kumble - I am proud of you!

I am extremely happy about Indian Cricket Team winning the first Test against Pakistan at Delhi. They have proved that they are stronger team in the match by driving home the advantage on 4th day. Till then they have been constantly giving back the advantage to the opposition whenever they used to get it. Anyway, I would like to focus on the man who captained the Indian Team and led from the front, deservingly winning the Man of the Match award - Anil Kumble.

He has been my hero ever since he has been playing for India. We (Kumble and I) have a few things in common. Our ancestors are from the same place i.e. Kumble in Kasargod District of Kerala. This explains where he derived his surname from. He was a Mechanical Engineer from RVCE, Bangalore. Even I aspired to be a Mechanical Engineer but circumstances forced me to be a Computer Engineer from SJCE, Mysore. Javagal Srinath was the alumnus of my college. We share similar personal traits like being humble, honest, maintaining a low key, quiet or being anything but flamboyant or flashy or swashbuckling, one who tries to control only what one can do than what others can do for us, dedicated to work, let the performance do the talking. The magnitude of successes that we achieved may be different. One who bears all the pains and still doesn't react. Because of this we were considered pushovers or walkovers. Bowling wise, I liked to be a Leg-spinner while Kumble might still aspire to bowl genuine leg-spin!

Kumble was never considered as captaincy material. He has played under captains who were younger than him or who had less experience than him. He never openly sought captaincy, nor played any politics to get the post. He has always stayed clear of all controversies. Sachin, Rahul, Sourav and even Sehwag have all become captains ahead of him. He has cooperated and gave his 100% (or more) under all of them. After Rahul resigned and Sachin refused Dhoni was tipped to be Team India's new captain. But better sense prevailed with the selectors and chose the right man Anil Kumble to be India's 30th Test Captain. What a gesture that can be to the 37 year old man who has played 118 matches, taken 570 wickets and scored 2000 odd runs.

I have seen a one-day match when he led India against England at Chennai in 2002. Of course India won that match. After putting England to bat, he attached right from word go. Once a few wickets fell, he never let the hook off, having men within the 30 yard circle even after the field restriction was over. Made the right bowling changes and restricted England to around 200. Till then I never belieeved that a captain can make so much difference to the unit. He kept all the men on their toes throughout. The team mates respect him so much for what he is. Unfortunately, it was only a stop-gap arrangement when Ganguly was injured.

A few highlights on Kumble
* Only living cricket to have a street or circle on his name. We have Anil Kumble Circle at the end of famous Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bangalore.
* Only second bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings of a Test Match
* 3rd highest wicket taker in Test History and by far the highest Indian wicket taker.
* Biggest Match winner for India,
- India has won 41 tests which Kumble has played.
- Kumble has taken close to 300 wickets in those tests (half the wickets in third of his matches)
- 10 "Man of the Match" Awards, joint highest for India with Sachin Tendulkar.
* Loves Big Occasions
- Got his 100th, 300th and 400th wicket at his home ground Bangalore
- Got 9 wickets in his 100th Test at Ahmedabad to help his Team win the match and series against Sri Lanka. He won the Man of the Match and Man of the Series
- Won his first match as captain and also the Man of the Match award for taking 7 wickets
* Best bowling effort by an Indian in One-day (6-12) and Tests(10-74)
* Leading wicket taker for India in Tests (570) and ODIs (334)
* Only centurion in the whole of 3 test tour to England which India won.
* Missed the entire home series against Australia when Harbhajan took 32 wickets and India won the 3 test series 2-1. Just an exception when India has won even in the absence of him. But what people don't know is that he was mentoring Turbonator on how to bowl to Ausrtalia.
* Indians are known/proved to be poor fielders, had they not dropped catches he would easily had 100 more wickets by now and won far more matches.
* His selflessness can be summed up with a picture of him bowling with a broken jaw and trapping the greatest batsmen Lara in a dead Test at Antigua.
* Warne and Murali are rated as better spinners compared to Anil but in the series between India and Australia and India and Srilanka, Kumble has always out-performed the two. Warne though is a great bowler has 2 advantages 1) He plays for Australia 2) He doesn't play against Australia.
* An interesting point of view that came in newspapers after the Delhi test was that Saurav was given the 2nd new ball and was used quite often. Although Saurav during his captaincy in ODIs has under bowled Kumble. What a forgiving man he is.
* He has been constantly criticized for not spinning the ball. Opposition batsmen have taken him lightly although it worked to his advantage. Nasser Hussain as captain of England Team used to advice his players to treat Kumble as a medium pace bowler.

We all know how greatest bowlers like Warne and McGrath retired, by sweeping series 5-0 against their arch-rival England. So I wish his team-mates bid farewell to his illustrious career by sweeping a series thereby leaving on a high.

I write this just after the First Test is over and it is too early to decide about a person after just 1 match. This series itself is far from over. Then we have a toughest tour of Australia coming up. So, one can really judge Kumble after that. But so far so good!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Korigad Trek

Date – Sunday, September 30, 2007
Place – Korigad Fort, Lonavala
Group – Shaleen, Tarun, Hunny and I (All first benchers of D-Section)
Mode of commution – Train and Local Buses
Expenditure per head – 200 /-

Korigad - Korigad is a small yet steep hill. Shivaji had built a fort on top of it. There are 2 natural lakes on the top of the hill, couple of Buddhist Caves and Ganesha Temple. Sahara’s Amby Valley is visible from the top. Walking on the path on the edge of the hill can be thrilling and frightening.

Our First Tri-mister MBA Exams got over. It was quite hectic over last 2 weeks with 1 exam every day. Don’t want to comment about how I performed in them; don’t even want to think about it. Before the next tri-mister begins there is a long gap of 3 days. So it was quite appropriate to go to a natural/scenic place like Lonavala. I had gone there recently in August with my parents when they had come here. Since I was the only person in the group who had visited that place earlier, the trip planning was left to me. I had seen Bushi Dam, Tiger Waterfalls, Valvan Dam, Baaje Kaves, Lonavala Lake, Lion Point and INS Shivaji at Lonavala. We saw Rajamachi Point and Duke’s nose at Khandala. But all of those places were seen superficially without getting too involved in any particular place. This time since I was going with my class mates, I wanted it to be more adventurous so planned for some trekking. On searching in the internet, 2 options were available i.e. Kune Waterfalls and Korigad. Since this is in a rainy season, I thought it will be very slippery and dangerous to get down to waterfalls and decided to go to Korigad.

Traveling frustrations
Shaleen came to my hostel sharp at 6.15 and gave me a missed call from outside. I must really appreciate his punctuality this time as it was so early in the morning. Tarun and his roomy Hunny were to meet us at Dadar to catch 7.20 a.m. train. They too did make it before time. But Banker bhai Gandharv Kumar couldn’t make it before 7.20 and had to be left out.

Train was quite crowded and we barely managed to catch our seats. For about 2 hours of travel there was no trace of greenery, only slums, drainages, concrete structures and people everywhere. I was sitting in the Aisle seat. Meanwhile we rather they got into conversation. As always, I was listening most of the times instead of talking. I am just being euphemistic here; frankly I couldn’t understand what they were talking about ;-) My Hindi has improved a lot since coming to Mumbai but not good enough to understand when spoken fast i.e. naturally. They were also making fun of me linking with the girl that I like in the class. So, in this case at least I had to act as if I did not understand!

After that Greenery started, this time the views were blocked by other passengers who were standing. From whatever I could see, I could sense that scenery around was beautiful. Hills, forests, lakes, rivers, valleys, paddy fields, huts and everything added to beauty. I have been looking for every opportunity to visit places with natural beauty but this was unique and special. Last one hour went off so fast and suddenly train reached Khandala station. Next station is Lonavala, where we got down at 10.20. From there we had to walk for 15 minutes to State Transport Bus Stand. Buses start to Peth-Shahpur village at 9.15. When we reached the bus stand, the bus had just left at 10.30 and next bus is at 12.30. Hard luck! It is easy to look back and rue the little time wasted but it was just unfortunate. Next option is to take a private Jeap or Tempo to the village. The tempo guy doesn’t follow any timing, he goes only when he gets 20 passengers. We were the first 4 passengers ;-( Sensing that we are in a hurry, he offered us to take us right away for 200/-. We didn’t agree as we thought we could soon get required no of people, but that didn’t happen. We were left waiting and suffocating inside the tempo for 1 hour before it finally started. I was hoping against hope that some Public Bus comes there and all the passengers in the tempo just get down and board the bus.

The road to the village passed through tourist locations like Lonavala Lake, Bushi Dam, Tiger Waterfalls, and Lion View Point. Hope to see them when we come back after trekking. We reached the village at 12.30, packed some food stuff and water. Found that the bus timings to return to Lonavala are at 3 and 4 p.m.

Place and the Trek
Direction and path to go was obvious as the hill was right in front. I would expect any hill to be like a pyramid, broad at bottom and pointed at the top. But this was different; it was like a prism, same thickness both at top and bottom. At the trek’s starting point there is a bore-well, we filled our water bottles here. The path initially is flat, later there are easy steps to reach the top. Trekking was quite easy. Midway through the climb, there is Amby Valley View Point, Buddhist Cave and Ganesha Temple. There are more caves as we go along. Each of those caves has a water tank, used for rain-water harvesting by the Buddhists.

We soon reached the top and found 2 natural lakes adjacent to each other. Sat in between them and had our lunch. I sincerely didn’t want to throw the plastic covers and bottles there. I carried it with me for sometime, but the group didn’t encourage me for that. I myself found it not feasible to carry for long and had to leave it somewhere. I am feeling very guilty for having polluted the environment. I promise to take care of this from next time. Myself being a nature lover, I wouldn’t like anybody (including me) to damage the vulnerable nature. I want to educate the group especially Shaleen regarding this.

From there one could walk on the edge of the hill, there is a well defined path there and go to the corner or summit. The path as I said earlier was very scary, breeze made it worse. I made sure that I always walked with the head bending to the other side of the edge, So that I minimize the chances of falling down. Saw the surroundings around, Amby Valley, Dam, Plane Runway, paddy fields, lakes, forests, neighboring hills and so on. Would have loved to spend whole evening there, but had to reach the base village by 3 p.m. to catch the ST Bus. Tarun who was most tired while climbing now was the fastest to go down. Shaleen meanwhile got cramps in his legs and had to slowdown. I accompanied him as Hunny was with his roommate walking fast. Finally, we reached well on time to the bus stop.

Still we had some time left; it was only 3 in the afternoon. So, decided to visit some place on the way back. Shaleen suggested at the beginning of the trip itself that he wants to spend sometime playing in water. I thought Bushi Dam would be the best place, as when I went there last time with my parents. Dam was overflowing with water. That water used to flow down along the steps where people can easily approach and play. Since monsoons are not yet over, I thought it would be same again. But this time there was no water flowing down the steps. It was so dry that it looked like steps to just reach the dam. I was thoroughly disappointed considering the expectations with which I had come. As it was Sunday evening there was a huge crowd mainly from Mumbai. The place looked like a shopping complex within the city. Once could trek to the hill adjacent to the dam. But nobody had any energy or motivation left to trek again. So took reverse gear back to Mumbai. We had some hopes of looking at the sceneries outside this time at least. But the train was so crowded that we were happy to at least find a seat for ourselves in the upper berth. Reached Mumbai at 8 p.m. and headed to our respective houses.

Positives from the trip were 1) Place was fantastic and worth going. 2) Group members were like minded and there were no issues on that front. 3) Understood the travails of traveling to villages so that we can better plan next time.

Korigad - Mini Travel Guide
Lonavala is 100 kms from Mumbai and takes 3 hours by an express train. The base to start trekking is Peth-Shahpur Village, 16 kms from Lonavala on the way to Amby-Valley. State Transport Buses are available every 1 or 2 hours starting 9.15 a.m. Private Tempos are also available but they won’t ply unless they get their minimum 20 people.
One way trekking time – 45 minutes
There is a general store at the base where we get Biscuits and Cool Drinks. Nothing is available on the way and at the top. So, we got to carry food on our own. Fruits and water are quite handy.
Last bus to back to Lonavala is at 4.00 p.m.
Best Time to Visit – Path is slippery during rainy season. It would be quite hot and humid during summer. But anytime of the year should still be fine for a light trek like this.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Trend at TrentBridge

Indian win at TrentBridge, Nottingham was a watershed moment in Indian Cricket. Indian Cricket celebrated its platinum jubilee just about a month back. In all those 75 years, 14 tours and 45 matches in England, India had won just 4 tests in England. 28 out of 200 Tests abroad, quarter of them in Zimbabwe (3) and Bangladesh (4). If we consider the figure before 2001 (The golden era of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble), the number gets even lesser. So, Indians historically are poor travelers. All these factors add to the significance of this victory.

Factors responsible for this win
– Rahul Dravid normally an unlucky captain with the coin won a crucial toss. He promptly elected to field first. Pitch and outfield was damp owing to heavy rains. Bowlers made good use of the conditions and bowled out England for less than 200. But when India came on to bat on the 2nd day, sun was shining brightly. So conditions were favorable to Indians always be it while bowling or batting. Many batsmen might have posted 50 plus scores but each one of them had balls just passing outside edges and catches falling short of fielders. On any other day they would have been wickets. On 4th evening just when the match was slipping away, Vaughan was dismissed in most uncharacteristic fashion and that was the turning point of the match and England couldn’t recover from there at all. To tell it the other way, India made the best use of luck available to them. Put the unlucky dismissals of Tendulkar and Ganguly behind them.
Fast Bowling – Fast bowling has been a revelation in this tour. We managed to take all 40 wickets in 2 tests, with only 4 bowlers, Kumble not firing, each time without letting England go on a run-feast. Tail-enders has usually been a problem but they didn’t let them loose this time. Earlier the equation used to be simple for home teams, prepare a seaming track and have 4 fast bowlers. Now with the quality of fast bowlers we have and the batsmen, that could be threat to home team too. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh are more than competent swing bowlers.
Opening Batting – This was supposed to be the weakest link in star-studded Indian batting line-up. We have not found a solid opener since Sunil Gavaskar. I personally believe in having Sehwag the team. Whatever reasons he is failing now was the reason for his success earlier. He has given us blistering starts against toughest of bowling attacks. Any way we now have Jaffer and Karthik. Jaffer is solid in technique, strong on his pads, matured now and scored a hundred in each of previous 4 series. Karthik is one hell of a character, perfect team man, young and energetic, can assume any role in the team. I best remember him for his 90 in second innings partnership with Dravid in Kolkata Test against Pakistan. Both of them have now scored 2 50s each so far in this series. Their start was instrumental in India putting up a big-score.
I have deliberately omitted the middle order batting because they are expected to perform with a combined experience of 400 plus tests. I thought Ganguly’s batting was the best I have seen from him since his 144 at Brisbane. Dravid has massively underperformed considering the standards he sets him-selves in away wins.
Opposition Experience – Only one player has an experience of playing more than 50 Tests and that is that is their captain. Their most experienced bowler is Monty Panesar who made his Debut last year. While in Indian Team we have 5 players with 90 plus test experience.

We might have won but that doesn’t mean we don’t have weaknesses. Laxman and Sreesanth were our weakest links. Laxman might have scored 54 but he came to the crease when India had already built substantial lead. His job then would have been to score runs quickly and bat England out of the game. Scoring quickly is not asking too much from him, he is a natural stroke maker, silky gifted beautiful player. The things that I didn’t like about that innings were. One he took 150 balls to score them, way too slow. Two he didn’t protect the tail well enough by scoring singles in the first ball of the over or playing out maidens. Sreesanth was involved more in scoring a few brownie points over the opposition by shouting, pushing and bowling beamers. He did all that in Johannesburg also but he also took 8 wickets and hit a six to Andre Nel.

Where does this win rank itself?
India has proved that it is unfair to call them as poor travelers in this new millennium. With 16 wins at Adelaide, Multan, Rawalpindi, Nottingham, Leeds, Port of Spain, Jamica, Johannesburg, Harare, Bulawayo(twice), Dhaka (thrice), Chittagong and Kandy. Each one of them was extremely important barring those in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. To me it doesn’t quite match with other 8 wins mainly considering the luck we had and the experience of opposition players.

Win one loose very next one
Winning a Test in a series is not new to us and that is exactly what we have done in the n test. But finishing the series on a winning note is. We have lost the very next Test on 6 out of 8 times we won. The win-lose pairs are Adelaide-Melbourne, Multan-Lahore, Port-of-Spain – Barbados, Johannesburg-Durban, Bulawayo-Harare, Kandy-Colombo. We didn’t loose 2 times because they were the last test of the series that we went on to win. So what this suggests is that we work hard towards a win and get complacent after winning. The opposition on the other hand pull-up their socks. Win should ideally enable us to build confidence and belief to win next one.

Hope we don’t go flat at Oval
My prediction at the beginning of the series has already gone wrong. It is already 1-0 when I was expecting a 0-2. Good, very good. Can my prediction go exactly opposite by India winning 2-0? It is possible but India must overcome complacency. Oval should be a good batting track. It should help the spinners later on. We got to be wary of Monty, use Kumble well. We got to play to win this match too, instead of playing for a draw and securing the series. In this regard, I would like to drop slow scoring Laxman and bring in additional bowler in Ramesh Powar. He is not afraid to flight the ball. We will be spending a lot of time bowling and extra bowler could come very handy. Message to batsmen would be to attack, score at more than 3.5 runs per over. I repeat “Please don’t play for a draw”.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mumbai Darshan

This is a one-day trip around Mumbai showing us a few important areas. Organized by college to help all new-comers of Mumbai get acquainted with the place. Mumbai being the commercial capital, it is very important that students of business management are familiar with it. To me this was the first time I went out even 1 month after coming to Mumbai.

We had breakfast at College at 8.30 and supposed to start the journey by 9. But Mis-management started there, the Bus took off only by 10.15. At Mumbai, it is very difficult to sit inside the Bus when it is not moving. Totally 130 out of potential 400 turned out for the trip. 4 buses were arranged, our bus had about 20 people with 1 girl. Most of them were sitting at the back seats, singing and shouting. A few us were with different priorities, that of seeing outside. Tarun, Shaleen, Ashutosh and I were sitting in the front rows.

I was sitting with Ashutosh. He is a Mining Engineering Graduate from IT-BHU, worked in Hindustan Zinc for 3 years. He is a silent guy like me. I tried to kick start the conversation by talking something general. It didn't help in continuing the conversation as he replied them with Yes and No. I then asked him about his company, this enthused him and started explaining about it (Hindustan Zinc). I have been following Business news for the last 3-4 years but haven't heard much about it. May be because I don't track much on the metals and commodities space. All I knew was that zinc prices were rising. 5 years back it had profits of 250 crores when it was completely government controlled. Later it got disinvested and Anil Aggarwal led Sterlite took ownership. Now he says it has profits of 4400 crores i.e 1b$ in profits on 2b$ sales, hence 50% margins. Wow, we know so much about Infy, TCS and Wipro even they are yet to reach 1b$ profits. But don't know about this one.
He also told me a few things about him and his batch-mates. Most of them have joined IIMs or have started their own Businesses. I didn't know much about IT-BHU as a top Engineering college. But he said, selection is through IIT-JEE and one needs to get within 1000 to get Computer Science. He himself had a rank of 2700 and got Mining. This makes me feel so proud because my class batch profile is so good. We have average Work-ex of 2 years, mostly Engineers from various disciplines. Most have studied from NITs and other top colleges.

Then Tarun and Shaleen interrupted us, they are very funny, they cracked jokes we laughed heartily. We reached Bandra-Kurla Comlpex (BKC). It was a totally different place than rest of the places I seen so far. So many companies especially Banks have their Head Offices there. To list a few SBI, ICICI, BoB, BoI, NSE, Workhardt, Kotak, ONGC and IOC. This indicates me how developed our Businesses are compared to the rest of the things. The 15 minutes time that the Bus traversed through BKC was time spent at the paradise. After that traffic jam, slum, smell or normalcy restored. There was a brief stop at Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park. From Kamala Nehru park one could have a panoramic view of Choupatty Beach, Marine Drive, Nariman Point, BSE etc. It was beautiful. Captured a lot of pictures there.

Next stop was at Gate Way of India, on the way we went through HajiAli, Malabar Hills, Marine Drive, Wankhade Stadium and Nariman Point. The guide was explaining us the significance of each of the places. Wankhade stadium to me is one of the unluckiest stadiums along with Chinnaswamy in Bangalore. I can remember India loosing 3 matches in last 5 years to Australia, South Africa and England. Nariman point is another place where top companies have their head offices. Air India being the notable one. Marine Drive is also called Queen's Necklace because at night when seen from top the lights along glitters like necklace. I myself have seen it while I was flying from Mumbai to Bangalore at the time of Admission. So far so good!

After Gateway of India, we went to Nehru Science museum. Now, this is what I simply don't understand. Why are Post Graduate Management students taken to a children science museum? Anyway we were taken there. There we had to wait for half an hour for buying tickets, time is already 3 now. I had not mentioned about lunch so far. That means we are yet to have it and we are extremely hungry and frusrtated. From the ticket counter musuem is a good half a kilometer far. Then we again had to wait for another 45 minutes to gain entry inside the museum where on ground floor lunch was served. The wait outside was so agonising. Even the clouds were not there to save us from angry mid-day sun. Life is all about ups and downs, as was this day. After people were let inside, strength being 130 and only one food counter. There has to be another long wait. By that time I was used to the hunger. Had lunch and went to museum to see school level sound and light displays. Remembered the basic science principles studied 15 years back. Came back to the bus. Wait is not over yet. There was another half an hour wait for everyone to come back. Whatever plans were there for the rest of the day was canceled including the 4D show. I had lost all the energy and enthusiasm. Slept in the bus all the way back and reached back to college and 6.

What a waste of time. That's why I don't enjoy going anywhere with lots of people. I like to go only with a small group of people with same priorities or even alone or with another friend. Hard to find such people as my priorities are so different from others. To me the basic purpose of going somewhere is to see that place. Not for singing, dancing, shouting, drinking or socializing. I like to visit natural places with rivers, forests, hills and valleys. But I don't always have the choice. I end up compromising most of the times inpite of having spent my time, money and effort.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Indian Cricket tour to England 2007 - Preview

How important is England for Cricket
England is THE place to play cricket. Game of cricket originated from here. The venues are all of historic significance. Lords is the Mecca of cricket. Oval was where the first cricket test was played in 1877, 130 years ago. The playing conditions are different from those in sub-continent. It is not that hot even during summer, temperatures are in low 20s. So, good conditions for players to concentrate on their game and not get distracted by heat, sweat, fatigue and cramps. England is a small and developed country, systems are friendly and efficient hence players don’t have to face the perils of travel and accommodation. Players have enough hang out players to the likings of anybody’s tastes. Grounds really live up to their reputations, outfield is green and uniform, pitches are hard, dressing room and stadium facilities are great. Crowd is decent, understand cricket test cricket in particular, and appreciate good performance be it from the home team or visiting team. You find about 50 former test stars watching with their families just like any other spectator. They are very successful in attracting top international players play in their domestic county matches. Achievements in England are well documented and recorded in History. All the grounds record 5 wicket hauls and centuries in museum boards. It then becomes ultimate pride for players` names to feature in the coveted list. Pitches facilitate seam movements for fast bowlers and ball comes on well to the bat for batsmen. As batsmen one got to have the right technique to cope up with seam movements. As bowler one needs to pitch the ball up without fear of getting hit and let the pitch do the rest.

Previous Tours
India has toured England 14 times for 45 matches since their maiden tour in 1935 till their last tour in 2002. Won 4 matches (each one of them memorable) and with it 2 series. Ajit Wadekar led team won it 1-0 in 1971 and Kapil Dev`s team won it 2-0in 1986. On the last tour Saurav Ganguly led his team to 1-1 draw, including the biggest of all overseas wins, innings and 46 runs in conditions favoring the home team at Leeds. The present generation Indian stars had their foundations in International cricket laid in England. Sachin Tendulkar scored his maiden century here in 1990 and became the youngest Test Centurion. Anil Kumble made his debut in the same series. Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid wore their first Indian cap in the same Test at Lords in 1996. What they have done then is well known. Irony is that Sunil Gavaskar averages only 41 in England. Kumble hasn’t got 5 wickets in an innings. Neither Sachin nor Sunil scored a century at Lords. Vengsarkar scored 3 of them in successive tests at Lords.

Key players
Coming to this tour, Sachin Tendulkar and Sreesanth hold the key to India success and Kevin Peitersen and Monty Panesar are that to England.
Sachin is looking in ominous touch, scored 2 fluent 90s in ODIs, but the best had been the 171 against English Lions while leading Indian side. It has by far the most belligerent innings in last 5 years. He now has scored 4 centuries in 4 first class games. One in Ranji final against Bengal, two against Bangladesh in Tests before the last one. It has given hope for many of his fans to watch the old Sachin in action. On personal front, this will be his last tour to England as a Test Player. He would want to make it his own by adding to his tally of 37 tons and scoring his 20,000th first class run. He is only 350 odd runs short of that mark, averaging just short of 60. The most I like about present Sachin is that scores loads of runs without looking like scoring them. He just helps the ball on its way playing more behind the wicket.

Sreesanth but not Kumble will be the key to Indian bowling in England. Not to underrate Kumble’s role but to highlight that he is taken for granted. Sreesanth doesn’t fear pitching the ball up, he cal bowl good out-swingers. He had played a major part in last 2 overseas successes at Jamica and Johannesburg. He is quite expressive, keeps the proceeding lively however heated the real battle is. It will be good to see his exchanges with another character Peitersen the KP.

KP is in the best of his form, dream international career so far, scoring 2500 runs in just 25 tests all against quality oppositions, 10 of them against Australia. His attaching style, walking down the pitch to bowlers can affect the rhythm of even the best of bowlers. He outscores all his team-members with whom he has long partnerships.

With Flintoff and Harminson out due to injuries, Monty Panesar will be the main threat to the celebrated strong Indian batting line-up. He is lion hearted, consistently attacking, hardly giving away loose deliveries, mixing up well with his turn and drift. Being a spinner he can bowl long spells, giving little breathing time to the batsmen. He started his test career just 18 months back bowling Sachin for his first wicket at Nagpur. Now he has come a long way to become the side’s strike bowler and world’s 6th best bowler. Traditionally England have used spinner as a defensive option to bowl overs when their main fast bowlers are tired. Sachin`s weakness against left spin in well exploited by Nicky Boje, Ashley Giles, Ray Price and Paul Harris.

Indian challenges for this would be
1. Finishing off the tail – England already has a deep batting line-up up to Mather Prior at No.7. After taking their wickets either the bowlers get tired or complacent or both. Simple way to overcome that is to bowl to them as they were to any top order batsmen.
2. Lack of experience – Barring Zaheer Khan we don’t have bowlers with an experience of even 10 tests. Agarkar, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel have been left out for good.
3. Defensive 4 bowler strategy – After 3 fast bowlers finish their spells, bulk of the bowling needs to be done by Kumble and a part-time bowler. In Test Cricket wickets don’t come unless there is pressure applied from both ends for sustained period. If we sum-up Indian bowlers’ average wickets per match, they add up to only 14, assuming 1 run-out we can take only 15 wickets, while to win a Test match we need 20 wickets clearly suggesting that we are a bowler short.
4. Opening Combination – Jaffer hasn’t been in the best of form, has never looked comfortable against moving ball. His 4 hundreds have all come in good batting conditions. Karthik isn’t a regular opening batsman.
5. Aging middle order – This has been the strength as far as India is concerned. This will be their last tour of England and they should not get over-awed by the situation. Take it as just another tour, but it is easier said than done. They need to respect Monty however naturally talented they maybe in playing spin bowling.

England on the other hand has different challenges
1. They last played West Indies and won 3-0. That was early summer and conditions suited home team. It will be easy for the England to be confident and feel that everything is right with them. It has been a good warm-up no doubt but need to take things into right perspective.
2. Injuries to key fast bowlers. Harminson is in doubt for first test. Flintoff is ruled out for the series, he can at best hope for his return during 7 match one-day series. Flintoff’s loss will be significant as they don’t have an all-rounder for replacement. Last time he toured India in 2006 he was instrumental in England drawing the series with 14 wickets, 5 fifties with added responsibility to captain. Hoggard struggled to keep himself fit during West Indies Series.
3. Fast bowling which was has always been their strength is on a decline. Dependence on Panesar is increasing. Against India this may not be the right ploy.
4. Andrew Strauss has been struggling, scoring only one 50 in last 17 test innings beginning Ashes series. Vaughan who was run-machine last time around with 2 scores in 190s and 600 runs overall may not be as effective with the bat.

Predicted Result

I need to be very careful while writing this, because it can be compared to at the end of the series. Any major mismatch from the actual will reduce my reputation as a forecaster, if at all I have any ;-) Sorry to disappoint Indian fans but I predict a 2-0 win for England. It could have been 3-0 but one odd batting genius or rain could help in India drawing 1 match. Remember we are playing in during hotter summer, when the sun-shine will help Indian batting. It is not that Indians are weak compared to England. But difference is just in cashing in on an opportunity and not allowing opposition to get back into the game. It is not that I am an English supporter; I just want to make a realistic assessment. I hope I am proved wrong!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why should/does companies grow?

I read the news about Indian Express Group CEO Shekar Gupta not happy about his company's growth. It has grown at just 3% while the print media industry grew by 25%. I also hear salesmen, marketiers, managers being set stiff targets that only grows every quarter/year. Thus making them completely stressed out, leading them to find out shortcuts, sacrifising on the quality of product/service.

I can understand that for public listed companies the share holders' interests must be protected. The share holders want growth in the value of stock and dividends. That is possible only by increased profits. Increased profits is possible only by increased sales, cutting costs, improved efficiency, higher market share etc. All investors who are fundamentals oriented not only look for PE ratio, they also include Growth factor and hence PEG ratio i.e the PE in comparable with annual growth. High PE valuation of Pantaloons, Bharti, Infosys, ICICI Bank etc are justified by their similarly high growth rates.

Good growth is good for all stake holders of the Business. Customers, Investors, Employees, Government, Society. I will illustrate in simple terms how it is good for each one of them.
Customers - They will get same products at lower cost or higher quality or wider range of products or better service or any or all of them.
Supplier - When company grows the order volume of supplier increases which is a good thing for him.
Investors - This is where the main pressure for growth comes from. No investor does not want growth. It could have been phrased as All investors want growth. It is said in a double negative way just to emphasize the point. As illustrated before their returns increases only when comp anies grow. It is not enough if they just grow, their growth have to be accelerated. That is the growth rate should grow.
Employees - Each self respecting employee wants a growth in his salary, perks and position or at least keep his job. The chances of that happening are more when the company grows. When companies don't grow, employees are the first to face the axe.
Government - They get more taxes. Reliance paid 2500 crores in taxes to government. Trade and exports increase. Economy as a whole benefits.
Society - People get more jobs and their income and prosperity improves.
So, growth is self-sustaining, at least it seems looking at points above.

But it doesn't always happen and it takes extra-ordinary effort on the part of Management and Employees to sustain growth. We will see why
1) Competition - Along with us there will be other who want to do well, make money by increasing the market share. This results in our market share being eaten. Even though the overall market is growing, if the competitor grows faster than the market and us, we loose out.
2) Economic Recession - In this scenario the consumer demand and spending decreases and them market in which the company operates decreases. Growth and Recession occurs in cycles difference being former is virtuous and latter vicious. There is not much the company can do to solve this problem.
3) Self Destruction - This happen when the people who matter have vested interests, cheat or are even lazy.

India is in a high economic growth path as of now and it is not very difficult for the companies to grow, but interesting thing is how long is this going to continue? I hope it does for a significantly long time as I would like to cash-in on it and settle down without much of a struggle.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Test Cricket is Real Cricket

I have been a great cricket follower for about 10 years. Initially I used to watch all the cricket matches be it live or repeat telecasts. Later with maturity I started following only Test Cricket, ignoring One-day cricket. I still have more than average knowledge of One-day cricket though. Let me discuss why I have such a prejudice.

The Real Test
The name "Test" is thought to arise from the idea that the matches are a "test of strength" between the sides involved. It is a test of physical and mental strength, skill, character, patience, concentration, strategy and ability to handle pressure. Batsmen is not judged just by the ball he plays but also by the ball he leaves. Again, bowlers are judged on how much he can make the batsmen play. No matter how many matches a team wins on its home grounds on familiar conditions, pitch tailor made to suit their bowlers and batsmen, facing home crowds, enjoying their support and putting their opposition in difficulty by not providing them the facilities, the real test begins when they tour and play overseas. Australia is the only Team to win Test Series in all countries they have toured and deservingly they are the No. 1. The preparation level and the adaptability to conditions overcoming home-sickness becomes all the more important overseas. Nobody can be judged by their performance on 1 day in 1 innings, but we need 5 days and 2 innings to decide the result of a match and a series of at least 3 matches to decide on who the better team is in a bilateral series.

Weight attached
Test is the "highest and the longest form" of the cricket game and is the sub-set of First Class Cricket. Only 10 cricket playing nations have so far got the Test Status after proving that they have all the qualities required to play at that level. A Test Win, a Test Cap, the white jersey, test debut, test century, a 5 wicket haul etc are close to the hearts of any Player and is worth is weight in gold because very few people from his country to have got it. Robin Singh has played about 140 ODIs before finally playing his solitary Test. But, when I see a TV interview of him he is introduced as "Robin Singh, Former Indian Test Cricketer". A world record in tests is a real great achievement as nobody else has done it for 130 years in the game. So many grounds are used to play ODIs in India and everywhere else, but only a subset of them are qualified as a "Test Ground" which means a lot to those grounds. The quality of pitch, it should last for 5 days, facilities the ground provides allowing players to practice for 5 days, providing accommodation and so on. In 1999 world cup in England, Australia lost initial set of matches that were played in non-test grounds. But later when they played bigger matches in Test grounds they won and went on to win world-cup too. Showing that performance of teams should be judged by their performance in quality grounds (Test grounds) against quality oppositions (Test Nations) in bigger games.

Even contest between bat and ball
The real test of the bowler should be his ability to take wickets by planning and working the batsmen out. One-day game is more of a bats men's game, there is nothing in it for bowlers. A bowler is limited to bowl only 10 overs with run containing being his primary goal in defensive and restricted field settings. Whereas in Test cricket he bowls with the aim of taking wickets by placing his fielders in catching positions like slips and gully for fast bowlers and close in positions for spin bowlers. Wickets are very important in a Test match than in a one-day match, a side may be no loss or all down for 250 in 50 overs, still the chasing side needs only to score 251 runs to win the game. When wickets are so important batsmen has to cut-down in his risks and score runs only of bad balls. A good bowler doesn't bowl too many bad balls and then the batsmen has to do something different to break the shackles or try an adventurous shot in the process risks loosing his wicket. The Test for the batsmen here is the patience to wait for bat balls, ability to score runs of good balls, skill in understanding the bowling and fielding strategy, concentration in facing ball after ball and picking it the way it is released by the bowler, practice of playing off-spin or doosra, leg-spin or googly, fast ball or slow ball, short pitch or yorker. Even a short lapse of concentration can cost the batsmen his wicket, it might take him 200 balls to score a 100 but only 1 ball is enough to loose his wicket. Generally 1st innings of the test match is for the batsmen because the wicket is fresh and placid also the pressure on batsmen is lesser as he knows that irrespective of what happens now there still is one more full innings to go, while the 2nd innings is for the bowlers when the wicket wears and tears, odd ball keeps low, spinners get lot of turn and bounce from the rough patches around bats men's foot, pressure starts getting better of the batsmen, batsmen focuses more on the match result than on facing the next ball.

Luck factor
It is always the better team or the team that played better cricket during the period of the test , wins. In a one-day matches one or two lucky/unlucky moments decide the fate of the game. We have heard "Every dog has a day", so the team on its days wins in one-day matches. Whereas in a test match team needs to play well on majority of days i.e. at least 3 days. We have seen Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimbabwe and even Ireland win one-day matches against quality oppositions on its day. We never had such instances in Test Matches over last 130 years. We might have seen sub-continental teams loosing to Zimbabwe in Tests but it is more because of the unpredictability of Asian teams than the real quality of Zimbabwean Team. We also have seen Bangladesh coming close to beating Pakistan and Australia but when it came to the wire Bangladesh were simply not tough enough, while Inzamam and Ponting showed the real class needed to compete at the Test level in those matches respectively. In test cricket unlike one-day cricket it is not a case where somebody has to win. The match can end in a draw, which is very fair. England stole the 2005 Ashes though a draw in their Final Test at oval. A Test win is that much more valuable as the opposition can play for a draw thereby denying other team a win and the winning team should have put in an extra-ordinary effort to force the result. Some might say one or two bad umpiring decisions or unlucky situations as a reason for the Team's defeat. But the test match is not just about those one or 2 moments there are countless other moments over 5 days, 15 sessions, 30 hours, 450 overs and 2700 balls. Why weren't they in control of those moments if they really were the better team? Why did those 1 or 2 moments decide the fate of the test match?

I am not alone who tells this
Having watched so many matches, listened to commentaries, read newspapers, magazines, books and websites, I feel that all true cricket lovers agree with me that Test Cricket is the Real Cricket. When somebody talks about a Cricket Tour they talk about Test Matches or evaluate the winner of the tour by the result in Tests. Indian team of 2003-04 is considered as the best team ever to tour Down Under even though India lost badly in the One-day series. Australia tour of India in 2001 is one of their worst failures as they failed to conquer their final frontier. Who remembers that then Australia won the ODI series 3-2. 2005 Ashes series is considered the best ever series played in cricket and so many books and DVD are sold on it. Does anybody know that there were one dayers also played at all in that Tour, let alone knowing the winner.
Coming to the players themselves, the current generation has produced so many greats the likes of Ponting, Dravid, Lara, Sachin, Inzamam, Waugh, Muralitharan, Warne, McGrath, Kumble etc most of them are quitting one-dayers after 2007 world cup in a bid to concentrate on Test Matches. I am taking the example of current generation players in particular as they have played good number of one-day matches as well unlike the earlier generations. Steve Waugh in his Autobiography "Out of my comfort zone" has openly admitted this., the most popular cricket website run by Wisden group covers all forms of cricket but their focus is more on Test Cricket.

Who said it is boring?
If we see the game only to see batsmen hit sixes and fours or getting out, then it is boring as their frequency is a little less to keep anyone interesting. But if we understand the intensity and state of the game, in the context of the series, with the history of clashes between the teams, the team composition, their strengths and weakness, kind of pitch where the match is being played, contest between bat and ball, kind of fatigue/attrition the players are going through there is nothing as interesting in cricket as the longer format offers. Don't we think and plan at the end of each day, how the team should approach its next day, the first hour, first session and so on. When they should declare, what could be a competitive total, how many overs are necessary to bowl the opposition out the second time? What it it rains? If it is not interesting would we do that? I have seen the tense last hour at Chennai in 2001 India narrowly clinching the series against Australia, the target of 155 in 4th innings looked easy and India were well on track at 100 for 2 but what happened later was dramatic, even the likes of Ganguly, Dravid and Tendulkar couldn't handle the kind of pressure. With so much at stake, stopping Australians from conquering their final frontier, winning the series after looking like getting whitewashed 0-3 mid-way through the series. I don't remember how many heart-beats I have missed then. Whoever has watched the Centenary Test 1977 in Melbourne or The Greatest Test at Birmingham in 2005 Ashes or the India vs Pakistan Chennai Test in 1999 or Australia vs West Indies in Bridgetown in 2000 or the Tied Tests would get irritated when a naive cricket lover says Test Cricket is Boring.

Importance of One day cricket
Having debated the superiority of Test Cricket, One day cricket also has a role to play. One day cricket is useful in promoting cricket to the masses including not so serious cricket followers, it being the abridged version, we can see more sixes, fours, wickets at a faster rate, all matches have result and hence more entertainment. It is also the form the game that decides the World Champions which is the most prestigious tag to have in Cricket. Even lesser teams like Kenya, Ireland and Canada play them on a regular basis and cricket as a sport is spread there too. It is very important from Revenue point of view too. There are so many viewers hence so many companies promoting their advertisements and so many jobs created and so much money exchanged. Hence it is a win-win situation to the Cricket Board who sell the media rights, Media who broadcast the match luring advertisers, advertisers market their products effectively and reach more customers. It also creates a whole new market for gamblers. Players also find a stage to increase their popularity, endorse products and deepen their pocket. Better the performance of the player, better is his demand for advertisements, hence a great incentive for him to perform better which is good for cricket. So many non-cricket lovers become time-pass cricket lovers and become real cricket lovers and start following Test Cricket too. With the advent of one-day cricket we are seeing a revolution in Test Cricket as well. There are more results these days in Test Matches. Runs are scored at a faster rate, 4 runs per over has become a norm these days compared to 2.5 runs per over in pre-one-day period. Few of the most under-rated aspects in the past were fitness, ground fielding and running between the wickets. Come one-day cricket, these aspects got its much deserved importance. We see a lot more commitment from players now. We don't see many quadragenarians playing Cricket now, although we cannot rule that out with improved levels of fitness especially among Australians in recent years. One-day cricket now has scaled such a height that a score of 434 has been chased successfully but the highest 4th innings total to win a Test Match is only 418 ! Co-incidentally Australia was at the receiving end on both of those monumental occasions.

So all in all, both have their roles to play in Cricket and it is important for us to understand them too.

Disclaimer: Everybody is entitled to his opinion but the contents of this page are not merely my opinions but facts.