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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

ICC World T20 Cricket: Favourites Flop To Spin On A Turner, India Fail To Break The Jinx Against New Zealand!

Mitchell Santner 
It looked like a Test match on the last day (the third day could be the last day) on a rank turner with batsmen struggling for dear life. More specifically, it looked exactly like the last Test match played in this venue in November, 2015 between India and South Africa when the hosts won the series thanks to the rank turner and spin within three days. For the first match of the Super-10 stage of the ICC World T20 Championship the pitch in Nagpur was obviously out of ranks. Who knows it was perhaps gifted to Team India thanks to their known aversion to anything ‘green’. Only recently the ‘green’ offered in Pune worked disastrously for the Australia bashers as they perished to a shock defeat against a lifeless Sri Lanka in the first match of the domestic T20 Series that they eventually won 2-1. Whatever be the pitch issue, it was New Zealand who prepared perfectly for it including three spinners in the team and batting with a definite plan. The so-called masters of spin in the land of spinners called India in fact perished completely to spin giving 9 wickets to New Zealand spinners for just 44 runs whereas the glorious Indian spinners accounted for only 3 wickets for 74 runs.

If the rank turner was indeed a ‘gift’ then it was naturally expected India won the toss which Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not achieve and that perhaps sealed the game. Opting to bat first New Zealand had a menacing start with two huge sixes in the very first over by spinner R Ashwin, and of course losing a wicket too in the bargain. Reading the pitch well the Kiwis continued to go after the bowlers trying to score as much as possible despite losing wickets at regular intervals. However, the Indian bowling attack that picked up from the last ODI against Australia in Australia last year with the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah did quite well on Tuesday, the 15th of March, 2016 to restrict the visitors to 126/7 in allotted 20 overs. The effort was ably supported by excellent ground fielding. The target of 127 did not look that formidable considering Indian batting depth and the consistently performing top order. But as it transpired the hosts apart from not preparing well for the ‘gift’ did not even read the signs well when New Zealand was batting.

And the Indian batsmen perished one after the other—in a most humiliating and school-boy fashion failing to anchor even a single partnership. The top of the three Kiwi spinners, Mitchell Santner captured 4 wickets for just 11 runs. Team India crashed to their second lowest ever T20 total of 79 runs conceding a defeat by a huge margin of 47 runs in low scoring match. The highest individual score was 30 by an aimless captain Dhoni who could not prevent the crashes all around him. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli fell to atrociously casual shots. Team India thus could not break the no-win jinx in T20 format against New Zealand giving the latter the 5th consecutive victory. The Scorecard: 

Team India started their ICC World T20 campaign after winning 7 matches on the trot—two matches in the Series against Sri Lanka and all five matches in the Asia Cup-2016 winning the record 6th title defeating a spirited Bangladesh in the final in Dhaka and before that a 3-0 whitewash against Australia in Australia—as deserving hot favourites. This shock defeat could be an aberration to be forgotten quickly as some people are saying this was due to perhaps overconfidence. India have already discovered their winning eleven and they have it in them the potential and the firepower to regroup immediately for the following matches including the big one against Pakistan on 19th March in Kolkata. They cannot afford to lose one more. The Indian bowling attack now is good. And if the top order continues to perform consistently as ever with necessary support from the middle then Team India could still be invincible.


However, one concern remains. If Nagpur gives the indication of the pitches for the upcoming matches then God save the tournament and God save the spin-toned home team. In fact, such pitches defeat the very purpose of the shortest format. The Asia Cup-2016 was also a dampener as most of the matches were low scoring. The home teams concerned must always rise above their ‘own backyard’ bias for the larger interest of the tournaments and cricket. It’s the spirit of an international competition that lends so much credibility to the ICC World T20 despite being played in the shortest format. Let the spirit prevail. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cricket T20: Australia Bashers Thrash Sri Lanka To Win Series 2-1!



Ravichandran Ashwin--Player of the Match & Series
India today clinched the T20 International Series against Sri Lanka 2-1. In the 3rd and final match played at Visakhapatnam Team India annihilated the visitors wining bywickets. For a change skipper Dhoni today won the toss and put the visitors in surprising everyone—perhaps keeping in mind the dew factor. And the decision vindicated him thoroughly. He opened the bowling attack with Ashwin and two wickets fell in that over. Ashwin went on to capture 4 wickets for just 8 runs—a no mean feat in the shortest format. Displaying a total lack of application and spirit the full Sri Lankan team folded up for a humiliating 82 with Nehra taking 2 and part-timer Suresh Raina chipping in with 2 wickets. The victory for India seemed a mere formality which they completed in 13.5 overs with the loss of Rohit Sharma. The slow track where Sri Lankan spinners got some turn delayed the proceedings a bit. Shikhar Dhawan (46) and Ajikya Rahane (22) remained not out.

       .
Player of the Match CAK Rajitha
Just a touch of the green makes Team India scream! There was some green in the Pune pitch for the 1st match of the T20 Cricket Series between India and Sri Lanka. If we go by the history of IPL matches played there the Pune ground has been largely a low-scoring one with lot of help offered to the seam bowlers. Sri Lanka skipper Chandimal sensed Team India’s contempt for greens well and cleverly put the hosts in after winning the toss. The Indian top-order batsmen wanting to start from where they left in Australia went for big shots immediately and perished with two wickets falling in the very first over, Virat Kohli missed dearly at the No. 3 spot. The middle and lower order, always in doubt of their ability, did not learn anything and contributed to the collapse with only Ashwin helping the team reach a paltry 101 runs—not even being able to last the full twenty overs. Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets with 12 balls spare—but not before some anxious moments.

Plalyer of the Match Shikhar Dhawan
Team India came back magnificently in the 2nd T20 international at Ranchi. Finally Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was at home at home. He kept wickets and commanded the team brilliantly. We talked earlier about his tendency to promote himself in the batting order once the top order fires. However, despite Ranchi being his home ground Dhoni resisted the temptation after Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma delivered in great style with some support from Ajikya Rahane and sent Pandya ahead of him which proved to be a very good decision. Pandya built on the momentum provided and kept the Indian run-rate consistently over 10 per over with a quickfire knock. Team India was also helped by the Sri Lanka captain’s decision after winning the toss. Perhaps the fact that the Sri Lankan batting strength was not really tested in the first T20 match influenced Chandimal’s decision to put the hosts in again on a seemingly perfect batting track. The Indians accepted the generous offer and they were unstoppable except for a Perera hattrick in the penultimate over. The target set was 199 and it was almost beyond the reach of the Sri Lankans. And it proved to be like that with just 127 runs put up on the board for the loss of 9 wickets. It was a huge win by 69 runs and the Australia bashers got it right in every sphere of the game ruthlessly.  

The 3rd and final match in Visakhapatnam was thus set up as the decider of the T20 Series and top ranked T20 team in ICC rankings justified their position.

Earlier in Australia, as widely expected after the Sydney ODI and Adelaide T20 victories, India went on not only to win the T20 Series but whitewash the hosts 3-0. After comfortably winning the first match in Adelaide India won the Melbourne T20 in a ‘similar’ fashion sealing the 3-match Series at 2-0. The third and final match in Sydney proved to be the most exciting one. Breaking the ‘similarity’ syndrome Australia this time decided to bat first and put up a mammoth total of 197 on the board with a brilliant century by Watson. The shortest-format Champs still won the match by 7 wickets with no ball to spare. The top order roared with explosive innings by Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. Raina and Yuvraj in the end scored 17 runs in the last over. It was exhilarating to witness some vintage cricket by Yuvraj Singh. However, the veteran southpaw is not getting enough time in the middle to prepare well for the upcoming ICC World T20. India start as hot favorites for the big event starting 8th March. But before that it is destination Dhaka, Bangladesh for the Asia cup that kicks off from 24th February. This Team India, a mixture of experience and youth, augurs well and significantly, Dhoni fielded the same eleven for the third consecutive time today.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Siachen Miracle: Alas! Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Could Not Be Saved...



A billion prayers could not save him. Better than the best medical efforts ensured by the Indian Prime Minister could not save him. The miracle that saved him finally could not save him for telling his story of ultimate human endurance, indomitable willpower and exemplary courage. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad who was buried under 25 feet of snow and ice for 6 days in Siachen Glacier and rescued alive passed away today in an army hospital in New Delhi where he was admitted on 9th February, 2016 after being flown in an air ambulance from the Siachen heights. His medical bulletins over the last two days narrated his continuous deterioration with multi-organ dysfunction, lack of oxygen in the brain, blood clotting in his body not responding to maximum possible dosage of medicines and coma. He was on maximal life support system and yet he could not be revived. Today morning he slipped into a deeper coma and passed away shortly after.

The whole of India is under a deep sense of loss, sorrow and shock. His family who joined him from Karnataka hoping against hope is crestfallen. God did not grant him one more miracle. Yet his Siachen miracle remains a miracle that will go on inspiring his colleagues in the Indian Army and all of us in our daily life of beliefs, efforts, achievements and the drive to go ahead. His name will be written in gold in our hearts forever.

This is not a tragedy. This is an inspiring story of an Indian braveheart who could make history to be rewritten. Hanumanthappa is not dead. He is more spirited and alive now in billion hearts. He will continue to live on in India and the world. Let us all join his family in praying for the eternal bliss of Hanumanthappa Koppad’s invincible soul. His family ought not to be grief-stricken but be proud of him. His legendary story of bravery will be remembered and worshipped at every step of life by his family, the country and the generations to come. You cannot check tears rolling down your cheeks, but let it be tears of pride of being an Indian. This is also a historic moment to salute the bravehearts of the Indian Army who would stop at nothing to protect us and our great country. Let this also be a warning to the enemies of humanity what Indians can do to defend their pride and harmony.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Siachen Miracle: Indian Soldier Buried Under 25 Feet of Snow For 6 Days Rescued Alive!



Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, a soldier of the Indian Army, along with 9 of his colleagues was buried under 25 feet of snow on Wednesday, the 3rd of February 2016 when an avalanche swept away their post in Siachen Glacier. Within days the soldiers were presumed dead and tributes offered. However, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force carried on with their rescue operations in extremely difficult conditions. Today, miraculously, Hanumanthappa was found alive—with weak pulse and disoriented—and was flown immediately to an Army hospital in New Delhi in an air ambulance. His condition is said to be extremely critical and next 24 to 48 hours will be crucial. The news of this miracle spread like wild fire and the whole nation has joined in prayers for the brave soldier’s final recovery.

Siachen Glacier is called the highest battleground. Situated in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalayas this is one of the disputed territories between India and Pakistan near the Line of Control. The Indian Army maintains the Siachen post rotating soldiers every one to three months. With an altitude of over 19,000 feet and temperatures dipping to -50 Degree Celsius during winter Siachen sector is known for its extremely harsh weather conditions. Nearly a thousand India soldiers have died here since 1984 due to weather and environmental conditions. Hanumanthappa’s survival for 6 days buried under 25 feet of snow and ice in this chillingly harsh climate presents the story of human endurance and the triumph of sheer willpower.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the quickest to react to this news of immense proportion. Ignoring protocol, without informing traffic police for clearing of roads and without even his normal accompanying convoy the Prime Minister rushed to the Army hospital. He met the Army Chief, other top officials and the doctors there to take stock of the line of treatment given to the brave soldier and to stress that no efforts should be spared to revive him. The nation appreciated the Prime Minister’s gesture as one of his finest and most sensitive. Narendra Modi becomes the first Indian Prime Minister ever to call upon a soldier and no other instance of such a surprise or impromptu programme by a Prime Minister ever comes to mind. Modi is known to be a down-to-earth person always giving his time to talk or communicate to the common people and he has been always vocal about the ultimate sacrifice of the Indian soldiers for the protection of the country. We had mentioned his sudden decision to go to Lahore to meet his Pakistan counterpart recently in an earlier post. The humanitarian warmth of his gesture has added a refreshing dimension to this immense miracle. In today’s conflicting times we need more of such miracles—to bring human values back to humans.

Members of Hanumanthappa’s family are the happiest souls at the moment and they are being flown to Delhi from Karnataka. His wife, all others and the nation are praying for his final recovery. We join in the prayers. The Braveheart must live.
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