Sunday, March 27, 2011

[Social Eye] The War Without Bloodshed

The Indian subcontinent got partitioned in August 1947 and two nations ideologically polar opposites of one another came into existence on the world map - India and Pakistan.
From day one differences sprouted between the two on varying levels, may it be marking of the border or the division of resources, the two were never content with each others meager efforts for appeasement so much so that they fought three full fledged wars with each other with further bloodshed being narrowly averted on various occasions.
Come the late nineties, and both the countries had nuclear arsenal up their sleeves which lead to a certain Cold War between the two which exists to this date progressing and regressing from various degrees of animosity periodically. The two try to appear saccharine affront but behind the scenes the same sentiment of deep rooted hatred for one another springs up with far-right parties like Shiv Sena constantly adding fuel to the fire.
The advent of sophisticated weapons in the armory of these arch-rivals also to some extent helped maintain a balance of power between the two that lead to less instances of deteriorating diplomatic ties and the battlefield dragged itself from the plains of Punjab and the snow clad peaks of Kargil to the 22-yard, bare patch of cricket and the glistening AstroTurf of field hockey. War got confined to sporting arenas with the intensity still there as it became a matter of salvaging national pride rather than fighting for the ultimate regional superiority. Games between the two are not games anymore and have never been so, they are more like ruthless gladiator battles of the Colosseum, full of ferocity, vehemence, emotion and partisanship.
You see I am biased...there is no point going objective in an Indo-Pak encounter
The game of cricket is the most widely and wildly followed sport in the subcontinent. One can easily infer from this statement that cricket matches between India and Pakistan are no simple business...they are a multidimensional contest culminating into surprising levels of raw emotion so much so that patients suffering from heart and blood-pressure abnormalities in both countries are advised to stay away from these encounters.
These matches are fervently followed and the build-up is normally awe-aspiring which is, lately, compounded by the fact that India and Pakistan haven't played bilateral contests in the subcontinent after the relations between the two hit a new low in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Now the matches are even more closely followed with Masjids and Mandirs reverberating with prayers prior to every match.
One such match is scheduled to be played in Mohali, India on March 30th 2011 with stakes possibly higher than ever before - it is the semifinal of this year's cricket world cup!! Tournament organizers couldn't have asked for anything better.
The match is touted as the final before the final and the path to the anticipated match is littered with an amazing buildup; news bulletins spend half their time on presenting news pieces about the game, sports channels show the promos a zillion times a day, Facebook is dotted with nationalist statuses and DPs and mobile inboxes are inundated with patriotic SMSs. In short, this tie has captured the imagination of the Indians and Pakistanis alike an it lingers over the subcontinent as a dark storm cloud in a scorching summer - the difference being that after roaring along for a few hours it will drench only one of the two sides with the cold, soothing water of victory.

Stats and Trivia
  • Pakistan and India met in four WorldCup clashes prior to this one (1992, 1996, 1999 and 2003) with India standing victorious on all occasions.
  • From 1978-2009, the two teams competed in 119 ODIs with Pakistan winning 69 and India winning 46.
  • In the period of 2000-2010, the rivals faced off in 41 One Day Internationals with Pakistan again leading with 22 wins compared to India's 19.
  • In the 4 Day/Night matches played in India since 2004, Pakistan won 3 and lost 1.
  • Pakistan played India in PCA Stadium, Mohali on 2 occasions and won both times.
  • Sachin Tendulkar is yet to score a century on this Mohali wicket but averages the most among current Indian and Pakistani players in D/N matches at this ground - 69.50 runs per inning with a high score of 99.
  • The leading wicket taker in D/N matches at PCA, Mohali is Harbajhan Singh with 9 scalps but surprisingly so, save for Saqlain Mushtaq, the rest of the top 10 wicket takers are all fast bowlers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The QuarterFinal Scenario

So after today's game between the West Indies and India, the Quarterfinal stage of WC 2011 is all set to dazzle. Eight top teams from the two preliminary groups will be up against each other in scintillating clashes across the subcontinent. Lets have a look at a brief overview of these quarterfinal battles...

Quarterfinal #1 (C)
Wednesday 23rd March
Pakistan vs. The West Indies
Sher-e-Bangal Stadium, Mirpur, Bangladesh
Start Time: 13:30 PST, 14:00 IST, 14:30 BST, 08:30 GMT
Head to Head: (48), (64) (1975-2011) --- (16), (8) (2000-2011)
Prediction: 65% Pakistan, 35% West Indies, 0% Tie/No Result
Weather: Clear

Quarterfinal #2 (E)
Thursday 24th March
India vs. Australia
Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmadabad, India
Start Time: 14:00 PST, 14:30 IST, 15:00 BST, 09:00 GMT
Head to Head: (35), (61) (1975-2011) --- (13), (29) (2000-2011)
Prediction: 55% India, 45% Australia, 0% Tie/No Result
Weather: Clear

Quarterfinal #3 (D)
Friday 25th March
South Africa vs. New Zealand
Sher-e-Bangal Stadium, Mirpur, Bangladesh
Start Time: 13:30 PST, 14:00 IST, 14:30 BST, 08:30 GMT
Head to Head: (30), (17) (1975-2011) --- (19), (10) (2000-2011)
Prediction: 70% South Africa, 30% New Zealand, 0% Tie/No Result
Weather: Clear

Quarterfinal #4 (F)
Saturday 26th March
Sri Lanka vs. England
R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Start Time: 14:00 PST, 14:30 IST, 15:00 BST, 09:00 GMT
Head to Head: (7), (8) (1983-2011) --- (6), (3) (2000-2011)
Prediction: 65% Sri Lanka, 30% England, 5% Tie/No Result
Weather: Cloudy, Scattered Showers

Saturday, March 19, 2011

WorldCup Match Reviews (Part 4)


The sparkling unbeaten streak of the Aussies at WorldCup was finally brought to an end by the team that last beat them at this grand stage, Pakistan. A superb all round display by the Greenshirts, barring a few blemishes, saw them down Australia in a colorful and nerve wrecking affair at the R Premadasa in Colombo. It was the first loss of Australia in 34 WorldCup games since they went down to the same opposition at Headingley, in the previous millennium. This victory means a lot to a capricious Pakistan side that has oscillating between both extremes in this WorldCup, being stupendously good on a day and miserable on another. This win will provide just the thrust and the momentum required by this Pakistan side going into the knockout stages, this victory will give them the believe that they have got what it takes to lift the glimmering, golden Cup...

Australia: 176/10 (46.4 overs) ---  Brad Haddin 42, Michael Clarke 34 --- Umar Gul 3-30
Pakistan: 178/6 (41 overs) --- Asad Shafiq 46, Umar Akmal 44* --- Brett Lee 4-28

Match Rating: **********

Shot of the Match: Umar Akmal lifting a Johnson ball over mid-on for a one bounce four. Umar Akmal was trying breaking the shackles down at Colombo and this stroke was just another step towards it. Johnson was finding his lost rhythm and constantly bowling a nagging off-stump line from around the wicket. Umar Akmal played and missed a few but then came the flamboyance, he shuffled outside off stump, took a step towards the ball and smacked it over the mid-on fielder almost for a six as if it was a leg-stump half volley. Johnson was left dumbfounded.

Delivery of the Match: Australia had found a little opening as Brett Lee had removed YK, effectively ending the 53 run stand for the third wicket that threatened to make a meal of the chase. But still a load of work had to be done as Pakistan's middle order rock, Misbah-ul-Haq, made his way out and took guard. Lee steamed in with new vigor and bowled a perfect delivery to the veteran. It landed on good length outside off-stump, reared up and kissed the Misbah's bat through to the wicket-keeper. Lee was pumped up and followed through with his signature hill-jump. The contest had suddenly becoming alive.

Catch of the Match: After all of what we have seen from Kamran Akmal, the granite-hand wicketkeeper, it was refreshingly good to see him pouch a difficult take to dismiss Ponting. Hafeez had bowled a regulation off-spinner close to Ponting, but with the dismal run of form he is in, he went on to cut it. Mistake! A sharp deviation flew off his bat's top edge and Kamran did well to cling on to it, thanks to the webbing.

Runout of the Match: The only runout in the game was the disastrous mixup between Clarke and White just as they looked to steady the ship. Clarke clipped a bowl off his pads straight to Misbah-ul-Haq at backward square-leg and called for a single that wasn't there. White responded to the call but it proved to be a mistake as Misbah threw a perfect through to Kamran behind the stump who disturbed the woodwork with White well short of the popping crease.

Innings of the Match: Umar Akmal, Brad Haddin, Younis Khan and Micheal Clarke all played short innings that proved very valuable in the end but Asad Shafiq's calm 46 from 81 balls steals the accolades here. His perfectly paced innings is the quintessence of how one should bat when you have the deliveries on your side. A dose of his Buddha-like patience at the crease was the ultimate prescription to soothe the frayed nerves in the Pakistani dressing room. In short his innings was the anchor of Pakistan's run-chase that effectively helped the brittle Pakistani batting order evade another implosion.
Bowling Spell of the Match: The three-pronged Aussie pace attack which many consider to be the best in the tournament was at its agonizing worst, save for one man, Brett Lee. His fiery, gallant effort of 4-28 from 8 testing overs all but took the match away from Pakistan. The only thing he required was a back-up effort from his fellow pacemen, which they failed to provide, otherwise it would have been a match-winning spell of ruthless, Aussie-minded fast bowling.

Partnership of the Match: The 5th wicket stand between Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq can be labelled as a match-winning partnership for this particular encounter. The Aussies had their tails up after removing Misbah and Younis from consecutive deliveries and were looking to push the initiative even further. In this scenario Umar Akmal sent them back to their initial position with scintillating, disdainful hitting, meanwhile finding good support in Shafiq who looked to give the strike back to the aggressive Akmal every chance he got.

Disappointment of the Match: The biased commentary by the grumpy Ian Chappel. Here are some excerpts. 
Whining after Afridi castled Steve Smith "I don't like Afridi's celebration for a couple of reasons. First, he hasn't done much to get the wicket, the batsman has helped me. Second, I don't think it is good with his team-mates, he just stands there in the middle of the pitch with his arms raised."
Showing how much of a sore loser he is as the Pakistani team formed huddle after bowling out Australia for 176 "They should walk off and think about getting the target rather than congratulating themselves on a job half done. This is useless stuff."
Another reason to doubt his mental health and objective commentary as he could not stand the belligerent Umar Akmal tearing the Aussie bowling attack apart "I think the school in which Umar Akmal studied removed the page from the dictionary that had the word careful in it."
Now how many of you see this Aussie idiot fit for international events? 

Though after the Match: How could Afridi be such a shrewd tactician? 

The Match in Photos:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Combining the Quarter-Finalists

Although it may be relatively premature to state how the Quarter-Finals in this WorldCup will shape up, considering the fact that we have some very important games left for this weekend but still lets just assume some possible results to these games and then have a peek at who will be up against whom in the quarters.

Scenario #1
18th March 2011
New Zealand beats Sri Lanka at Mumbai

19th March 2011
Bangladesh beats South Africa at Mirpur
Australia beats Pakistan at Colombo

20th March 2011
The West Indies beat India at Chennai

With these results Group A will take this shape....................................................................................

Australia  11 points
New Zealand 10 points
Pakistan  08 points       
Sri Lanka  07 points

And Group B...

India  09 points
South Africa  08 points (Better NRR than Bangladesh)
Bangladesh  08 points
England  07 points

So the Quarter Final will be played between.....................................................................................

India vs. Sri Lanka at Mirpur
New Zealand vs. Bangladesh at Colombo
Pakistan vs. South Africa at Mirput
Australia vs. England at Ahmadabad

Scenario #2

18th March 2011
Sri Lanka beats New Zealand at Mumbai

19th March 2011
South Africa beats Bangladesh at Mirpur
Pakistan beats Australia at Colombo

20th March 2011
India beats The West Indies at Chennai

With these results Group A will look somewhat like this...

Pakistan  10 points
Sri Lanka  09 points (Better NRR than Aus)
Australia  09 points       
New Zealand  08 points

And Group B...

South Africa  10 points
India  09 points
England  07 points
The West Indies  06 points (Better NRR than Bangladesh)
Bangladesh  06 points

So the Quarter Final combinations come out as...

Pakistan vs. The West Indies at Mirpur
Sri Lanka vs. England at Colombo
Australia vs. India at Ahmadabad
South Africa vs. New Zealand at Mirpur

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

World Cup Match Reviews (Part 3)


Pakistan's WorldCup campaign was shaken to the very foundation when they suffered a heavy 110 run defeat at the hands of the Kiwis at the newly built MMI Stadium. Sloppy fielding, shoddy wicketkeeping, abysmal death bowling and a listless batting performance were a few reasons for Pakistan's downfall as the heroes of yesterday became the zeros of today...

New Zealand: 302/7 (50 overs) --- Ross Taylor 131*, Martin Guptill 57 --- Umar Gul 3-32 
Pakistan: 192/10 (41.4 overs) ---  Abdul Razzaq 62, Umar Akmal 38 --- Tim Southee 3-25

Match Rating: ********** 

Shot of the Match: Taylor's down-on-one-knee six off Razzaq. It was a breath-taking sight; Taylor giving Razzaq a taste of his own medicine. Eerily comfortable with Razzaq's medium pace, Taylor moved around his crease and coerced Razzaq into shifting his line wider of off-stump and once he was sure that Razzaq has taken the bait he shuffled across his stumps, a little shy of the wide mark, got down on his knee and hoisted the full bowl from Razzaq high above the mid-wicket boundary.

Delivery of the Match: Pakistan had both their openers back in the hut now as Pakistan's go-to-man-number-two Younis Khan was taking his guard intently. In comes Kyle Mills - ball one swings away, defended, bowl two swings away, defended. Then comes the touch of genius as Mills lands his third bowl slightly fuller, the seam perfectly presented as Younis shapes up to defend this one again but wait...instead of moving away, this one comes in, creeps through the gap between the bat and pad and smacks into the base of the off-stump, sending it cart-wheeling.

Catch of the Match: Kamran Akmal had a horrendous match. He had dropped the centurion, Taylor, twice at 0 & 8, spilled a Styris nick and was generally very erratic behind the stumps. The only thing that could apparently save his axing was a solid innings with the bat but he came out with no such thing in his mind; playing rash shots and surviving run-out and catch scares before sending down a low catch to Taylor at first slip, hoping against hope that he will return his earlier favors, but not to be, as he took the catch cleanly just inches off the ground.

Innings of the Match: A pretty easy one as there are not many contenders after Ross Taylor's hurricane 131 off 124 balls. He had a real slow and shaky start but thanks to the ineptness of Kamran behind the stumps he was able to stay at the crease, meanwhile making the most of the opportunities Pakistan's abysmal death bowling bestowed on him. He smashed 7 sixes and 8 fours in a sparkling knock that turned the game on its head as New Zealand unbelievingly pilled up a mammoth score they never were to achieve with the start they got.

Bowling Spell of the Match: The only thing a Pakistani is left to remember from this game is a stupendous spell from Pakistan's pace spearhead, Umar Gul. He kept hitting hood lengths at pace and got some good movement from the new ball before coming back again during the later stages of the game and reversing the ball beautifully. His ten overs went for just 32 runs, add to it three important wickets and you are left with the only bowling effort of substance from the entire armada of Pakistani bowlers.

Partnership of the Match: Once again New Zealand take the honors here as the Ross Taylor-Jacob Oram partnership for the 7th comes out on top. The two effectively smacked Pakistan right out of the game as they milked 85 runs from the 3.4 overs they stayed together at the crease at a whopping 23.2 rpo, blitzing Pakistan's super poor death bowling frequently out of the Pakallele for the security guards to fetch. In short, this was the partnership that helped the Kiwis to a target they never looked like achieving during the first 45 overs of their innings. 

Disappointment of the Match: Pakistani bowlers' horrid bowling effort at the end of the Kiwi innings is a real concern for both the team and the fans. New Zealand made off with a hundred runs from the last five overs of their innings and  if the Pakistnai bowlers continue to offer juicy full tosses and dish up sweet half volleys to hard-hitters at the death then in ka khuda he hafiz.

Though after the Match: Why can't we find a replacement for the a**hole Kamran Akmal?

The Match in Photos: