Category: Test Cricket Page 1 of 2

21 Again

Is it already a month yesterday? Do you know when one-month anniversaries get importance? When you are dating the first time and experiencing the feeling of being in love, when you are newly married, when your baby is born, when you get your first job and the first salary arrives. The first ‘month’ anniversaries are special – like this one was yesterday!

A month since that historic, incredible, unfathomable, improbable, I-still-can’t-believe-it-happened-even-though-I-have-watched-the-winning-moment-a-millions-time WIN!

What am I talking about you ask? Why are you even here if you have that question in your mind?

I have not written on the game in 6 years – many reasons – moved countries, jobs, professional life got super busy, could hardly watch matches live, but most of all minimal or zero emotional investment in the team. How did this happen – maturity with age, ability to rationalise, ability to get over debacles, ability to detach, too much cricket?

My 20s were not my best decade personally – lots of ups and downs, but it was my best decade as a cricket fan. That team of the 00s – that team had my heart, mind and soul – it still does. I get nostalgic and I hunt the youtube videos often, or I bring out my DVDs to reminiscence their improbable wins, most of which I witnessed live on TV. I lament that I don’t feel the same connect with the current lot – the game has changed. I don’t feel the same euphoria of a win or the same dejection after a loss. Cricket has been my first love and like most first loves are not successful, this seemed too seemed to be fading away with time. I was hurting, but willing to let go.

And then 2020 hit, one of the worst years of my life (I won’t be wasting this precious space lamenting on the whys of it!) and one of the worst years universally. With all sports stopped due to the pandemic, it was a miracle that cricket even resumed and India managed to get on the plane to Australia; while we managed to catch a break to India from UK. It meant I could get up in the wee hours of the morning and follow the series. Given the time zone in UK, it’s impossible to follow matches in Aus – I simply can no longer stay up all night! I did not feel the euphoria of the 2018-19 series win in Aus, because I could hardly watch any games live, but this series was different. I was on a break, at home in India, no work pressures and no time zone constraints. 5:00 am wake-up call – that I can manage!

The excitement of the day-night test at reasonable hours in India faded away with that debacle of a 36 all out in the 4th innings at Adelaide. What had I just witnessed! How could such a professional, well trained outfit collapse like that – I mean this wasn’t the 90s to remind us of 81 all out! But then it was still 2020, I mean, I knew I was not going to get any joy in my life, what was I expecting? That cricket would serve me one? It had in the past, at some of my lowest points in life, it had come to my rescue; but 2020 was against everyone, so what chance did I stand?

Although collectively, it felt a lot worse, I still felt a weird kind of optimism that this team would bounce back. This bowling unit that we have built in the last 4-5 years that’s the one that gives you hope. Despite no Ishant , Bhuvi and Shami (injured in the first test ) the unit was still lethal that could give us a fighting chance, hell maybe even level the series. I don’t have the same confidence in our batting unit unfortunately, all I wanted was them to make a match of it and put up scores that our bowling could defend.

I thought the win at MCG was one of the finest comebacks given what had transpired at Adelaide. I can’t even imagine the pressure on Rahane – average run in last few years (although his record away has been good), made a crucial mistake that cost Kohli’s wicket in the first innings at Adelaide, and then the horror-show of 36 all out. To lead a deflated team from the front with one of the best centuries I have watched, to be aggressive from the word go with his bowling unit– it was one of the finest displays of batting and captaincy I had watched. Not to forget the delightful partnership with Jadeja, whose presence not only lifted the spirit of the team but also added more strength to the team composition. He gets runs and wickets, but his fielding provides an extended arm to the bowling unit, literally and metaphorically speaking, because he will invariably affect a run-out or pressure the batsmen into making a mistake. And then there was Shubman Gill, may god give us all Gill’s confidence to get through 2021. The assurity and calmness he got to the crease was fascinating to watch from a guy who is only 21 and making his debut in Australia! Unfazed, not enamoured by the occasion, felt like he was meant to be at the grand stage! What a delightful, easy on the eyes that debut was! The team did not miss Kohli, Ishant, Bhuvi, Shami – let that sink in and won at MCG to level the series.

And while we were revelling in the win, Umesh got injured in the match and so another debutant Navdeep Saini came in to the attack at Sydney. Jadeja got injured during the first innings and could not bowl in the second. India was getting hammered and looked down and out after 3.5 days. A target of 407 was set, Rohit and Gill both out on Day 4 evening and we all were convinced it was matter of time the batting would fold away. But we were now in 2021 and not 2020, so miracles seemed a possibility, a faint one, but still a possibility – a glimmer of hope that was ignited by the audacious stroke play of Rishabh Pant. Only 23 years of age – much maligned or hyped by the word ‘talent’. He formed a unique partnership with Pujara – the stoic warrior man of this team.  Losing Rahane in the first over of the day had no impact on Pant’s mindset, who changed the course of the game. I missed the morning session of the SCG test, I cursed myself a lot but I did not budge from my seat for the last two sessions. The Pujara-Pant partnership reduced the chance of the Aus win and actually made an Indian win look probable. If Vihari had not pulled his hamstring, Jadeja was not with a fractured arm and Ashwin’s back had not broken away – India would have gone for the win. They just pulled all the breaks once Vihari got injured. It was a matter of one wicket for Aus to get to the fragile Indian tail with Jadeja almost unlikely to bat with a fractured wrist. Aus’s famed world-class bowling attack failed to get that wicket for 2 whole sessions. Let that sink in too.

The rear-guard action by Vihari-Ashwin took me back to VVS-Dravid partnership of Kolkata 2001. Not in the same mould in terms of runs scored, but both partnerships crucial to the end result of the team; a wicket gone and it would have meant series lost.  Sydney was a draw, but it made me happier than I was at the win at MCG. I can’t explain this feeling to my friends and family, who don’t follow cricket and look at me with concerned looks as to why am I celebrating a no-result in a match after 5 days. Why am I ecstatic at the batsman crawling at SR of 14 and 30 for 4 hours, when I don’t care about 400 runs being scored in 4 hours. Have you been able to explain? Teach me how! I seem to have failed over the years.

We went to Gabba – Aha the fortress of the Aussies. See ya at Gabba mate is what we heard Tim Paine say to Ashwin at Sydney. Ashwin with a broken back could not turn up at the Gabba, neither did Jadeja, nor could Bumrah and no Vihari either. What kind of cruel joke was God playing I thought? India without all their first and second choice frontline bowlers and their captain/main batsman and another seasoned batsman! Two debutants in the series – one could not be home for the birth of his first child and the other for his father’s last rites. There could not be more odds stocked against you ever!

Thank god for the coaches and team management’s foresight to retain the net bowlers and a wider squad for the entire duration of the tour. We had to field a bowling attack which had collective 13 wickets (two of those were from Rohit Sharma) amongst them vs Aus’s 1000+. Siraj in his 3rd test was the leader of the attack, Saini 2nd test, Shardul 2nd test, Nattarajan and Sundar debut. Good luck to us I thought, if we take this match into Day 4 or 5 it’s a win for us! I kept saying that all we had to do was focus on not losing the match to retain the trophy; the real pressure was on Aus who had to force a win to win the trophy back.

With this inexperienced bowling attack, we bowled out Aus in their backyard for 369 – how was that not a win? I was pleasantly surprised. Aus could have raced to 450+ and we stalled them. But as confident I’m of our bowling line-up to save our face, I’m equally confident of our batting line-up mucking up when not needed. And so, it did, we were 186-6 with all batsman getting starts but not staying for long. What played out for the next 36 overs was one of the happiest moments I have experienced as a cricket fan. Oh! The joy I felt watching that Shardul-Sundar partnership unfold in front of me – I fail to find words to describe it! It was like having ice-cream in the rain! Do you know the feeling? Have you tried it? The unexpected happiness of it all – at that point I couldn’t care if we went onto lose the game, the bowlers and these two had given me sufficient happiness to overcome the loss.

Every time we were put on a backfoot, one soldier came forward and hit the ball out of the park – every single person in the team put their hand up! When was the last time we saw this kind of effort from a team? When was the last time you felt this unadulterated joy? Their partnership restricted that Aus lead to 33 – a number famously associated with the Adelaide test of 2003. Could we? Would we repeat it? Nah! This was good enough, don’t build unnecessary hopes!

And then Aus got bowled out for 294 and we had to chase 328. The highest run chase at Gabba until then was 236, 50 years ago. Aus had last lost a test at Gabba in 1988 to the then mighty West Indies. I mean talk about odds stacked up against you – India was staring at Jack’s beanstalk!

I was scheduled to fly back to the UK on 19th Jan, something I could not avoid for personal and professional reasons and I made my peace with it – that if India hunts this down, I will miss the most epic chase or series finale ever! I was confident we would draw the match and watched the first session play out at the airport lounge. I boarded my flight in peace knowing I would not land in UK to the news of a series loss. But then to switch on my phone to tweets, DMs and multiple WhatsApp messages from my friends and my core twitter cricket circle gave me the shock of my life!

How on earth did we effing chase the score how? Gill in his debut series played a solid 91? He is 21! Pant again the mastermind? He is 23! Two successive match altering knocks! Rahane attacked with a 6 off Lyon showing intent, Pujara bruised and battered but held one end strongly, Sundar upping the chase, taking it from a draw to win with that audacious hook for a six off Cummins – Cummins the best test bowler in the world, Sundar on his debut! This again after that no-look six off Lyon in the first innings. He is 21! Siraj got a fifer in Aus’ s second innings – he is 26. Who are these guys?  Where have they turned up from? Do they know no fear? Are they never in awe of the occasion? Do they realise they have pulled off the greatest escape ever – If Houdini were alive, he would be cheering them aloud!

Is this an illusion or a dream? What did we witness, or did we just hallucinate? What on earth happened! How did India win a second successive series in Australia without 9 of their main players? It’s been a month and I still don’t have the answers, do you? I read lots of articles, lots of lovely quotes, lots of tweets – I tried to make sense of what we had witnessed session after session, innings after innings, day after day, match after match since that debacle in Adelaide. I cannot rationalise it; I cannot fathom it. After the high of Kolkata win in 2001 and the test series win in Chennai that year, I never thought I would witness a miracle again on the cricket field – and that too after the disaster that was 2020 that had sucked all hope out of mankind. But in 2021, I was witnessing one again!

I said at the start of this post, I was beginning to disconnect from the game emotionally, and here I’m today, celebrating the first month anniversary of my new found love for the game.

I feel like I am 21 again!


Circa – 1989 India Vs Pakistan.

The little boy wonder, all of 16 at the crease in Sialkot – final test – India looking to seek a draw. Knocked out by a bouncer, shirt full of blood, refused medical assistance and hit a solid 57. In the process along with Sidhu, helped India draw a series and not lose to Pakistan in Pakistan – that was as good as victory. When millions of Indians saw him take field on 15Nov1989 – he gave them hope that he would be the spine of Indian Batting in the years to come.


Circa 1996 – India Vs England – 2nd Test

Two men all of 23 took centre stage after Sidhu walked out of the tour and Manjrekar suffered an injury. One got a century on debut treating us to the best offside display we would ever see and the other almost got a century; but his knock of 95 gave us the assurance that Indian middle order would be well taken care of by this technically sound and compact player. These 2 gave us hope that the little boy wonder would be ably supported.


Circa 1996 – India Vs South Africa Ahmedabad

On what was possibly the worst test wicket , a young man of 22 held fort in the 2nd innings to make 51 on debut in a team score of 190. All silken grace , making you wonder if Azhar had come out to bat  wearing a mask. Later in the years, he would refuse to be changed to a make-shift opener, would go back to domestic cricket and score only double and triple hundreds to force the selectors to consider him for his middle-order spot. He would earn it and then in Kolkata 2001 ensure that his name would always be carved in Indian Cricket’s Hall of Fame. He gave us hope that in him we would have a man for crisis even after the above 3 had given way.


India’s fabulous and almost legendary middle order took birth in the late 90s. These men made their mark in their debut tests and have served the team for well over 10 years together. Together they were our hope for a better future of Indian cricket.


Their legacy will be tough to follow but Vijay ( 87 on debut Vs SL in 2009), Raina (120 on debut  Vs SL in 2010)  and Pujara ( 72 on debut Vs Aus in 2010) have given me hope that the famous Indian Middle Order may well be passed into good hands.


Too early to judge you may say, but what I’ve noticed is the positive attitude, and attitude is what counts most in this game. Pujara could’ve well been down and out after a nasty delivery in the first innings but I loved the way the bloke sized his opportunity and came out looking positive in the 2nd innings. Aware of the fact that he may well be sitting out against NZ when Laxman recovers, he still made most of what came his way and did justice to his captain’s faith. Apparently he is touted as the lad to take the baton from Dravid, and today as he took the Wall’s famous 1-down spot, he showed he would be ready when it finally comes his way.


They all are young blokes under 25 and the best part is that they get to grow under the shadow of the Fab 3. What better way to learn than from the masters themselves. Vijay, Raina and Pujara have all got partnerships with GOD himself and that itself would’ve been a huge learning for them . Waiting in the wings is Virat Kohli who has impressed me with his run in the ODIs. Rohit Sharma is another talented bloke.


Yes they need to be tested on foreign waters and they will have their failures. The Fab 4 went through tough tests too and came out fine. We stuck by them, we believed in them. The generation I grew up watching will soon fade away in a couple of years and it’s a thought that scares me no end. Until a year ago I kept wondering who would carry their legacy forward but the last one year is giving me hope – hope that with a few hiccups these young blokes should be able to manage fine.


Hope is what the world survives on and hope is what drives us. It is a different era and different generation, the cast is changing but somewhere the heart and mind seem to agree that the results we will get will still be the same. Time to sit back and enjoy the journey of the next generation of Fab 4.


Welcome aboard!

The Impossible

Yeah I’m bored – bored of cricket! It has never happened in my 19 years of following this game that I’ve not followed a match – that too a match involving India and a test match!

I’ve always been glued in – to the radio, to the television, to the news, to the internet at any given time – office-home-school-college did not matter! If there was a match on, I was tuned in; especially if India was playing. But this time around, believe it or not – I’ve forgotten the days the matches begin, no idea what the schedule looks like and not opened the explorer in office to logon to the sites that provide me live score.

I was therefore, beginning to wonder if there was anything wrong with me – people even suggested I see a doctor. I almost did, until I diagnosed the cause – BCCI and Ind-Sri Lanka series.

I’m sick and tired of seeing these two battling against each other. If there is a single soul I know, who can come up with any memorable moments except the 293 by Sehwag at Brabourne last year between these teams, I’ll throw a party.

Like all Bollywood romantic films these series have the same script; well most romantic films have happy endings and here only one team has had happy ending and that is Sri Lanka.

SL bats first on their dead tracks, we play the weakest bowlers, get thrashed around for 550+. Then our batsmen cave in the first innings and put up some fight in the second but lose a game that could’ve been saved. Did anyone complain that Indian pitches are awful, my answer, please rush to Sri Lanka right now, at least our tracks offer some assistance to spinners – there you could replace bowlers with bowling machines and nothing would change the game!

We have played 14 test matches since 2001 of which 8 were in SL. The last 3 series have been played in consecutive years 2008-2010. Of the 8 test matches in SL – we have lost 5, won 2 and 1 is currently underway which we look likely to lose.

The closest margin in these losses was 7 wickets in 2001. The rest we have lost either by an innings or 10 wickets!

The same Indian team has played Australia in consecutive years and every series has been memorable – some fantastic cricket and gritting display. Often it is your opponents that bring out the best in you and SL only does the opposite. I’m not finding excuses for India’s performance; but I think maybe even Sachin and Dravid are so dead bored by now, that they are not finding the will to give their best to what has become a monotonous routine year after year.

Sigh, if BCCI does not put an end to this immediately, cricket will land up losing a lot of fans along with India losing it’s No 1 ranking in the tests.

As for me – my sickness was partly cured by the fascinating test between Aus and Pak. 88 all out? How often do we get to see that score against an Aus line-up? And now I’ve some more medicine coming my way through Eng-Pak series, where a species called bowlers (which SL and India have completely buried ) will come alive on pitches that support some good swing bowling. India should not disappoint me in Oct-Nov Vs NZ and Aus, and even if they do, the Ashes will get me back on track.

For someone who is already having a terrible time at work and seeks solace in the one thing she loves; how can BCCI be so cruel and poison me with an overdose of India-Sri Lanka series in SL!

I was on the verge of my first serious break-up with my first love. It would’ve been unfair cause it is not entirely cricket’s fault; but we know many a times relationships break due to 3rd party involvements. Fortunately, the future is still looking relatively positive and cricket is pursuing me to continue the relationship. So I’m giving it another chance, cause if I don’t, I think I’ll hurt the most!

The Love Affair Continues…

Between VVS Laxman and Eden, between VVS Laxman and us fans.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Fab Four – The God, The Wall, The Prince and The Very Very Special Man. And now add the brave openers Gambhir and Sehwag. If the Prince was still around the batting line-up would be perfect – the Scintillating Six! Each one of them with their unique styles has only given us joy and nothing less.

VVS is the quiet performer among them all. He will come to the crease, get to his hundred in no time, boost the team score and quietly fade away in the background. In the time spent at crease, he would’ve mesmerised us with the magical melody he played. His batting is sheer delight, a sight to savour. Hailing from the land of another graceful player, VVS has pretty much lived up to the expectations he has built up. He has one of the best records against the mighty Aussies and today, he gave SA glimpses of the genius he is.

He makes you fall in love again and again with the array of strokes on display. Extra cover, mid-on, mid-off, square, third man , name the area and he had it covered. Improvisation is his biggest asset – remember that shot of Warne’s legside ball hit to extra cover in 2001. Today, he hit Duminy between cover and mid-off, then shots followed on the on-side and in the mid-off and extra cover region – no fielder moved, not a single one.

His record at Eden is fantastic , a 1000 runs, 4 centuries which includes that memorable record-breaking 281 in 2001. It is his arena, his stage, his region of dominance, he has marked his territory with supreme authority. As my dear friend PK told me yesterday, that no matter where he bats in the line-up; if it is Eden, Laxman will get a century!

He is the perfect team man. See what his presence and fantastic catch to send Kallis back, did to the morale of the team. Always the one to put his hand up when the team is in distress. He is now only playing tests but every time he walks onto the field he gives it all.

Sehwag’s batting makes you go WTF, Gambhir and Dravid’s brings in assurance, Sachin’s is a God’s blessing, and Laxman’s brings that smile to your face which any passerby can notice; making him wonder why you are smiling. Laxman has that charm on us.

But my friend PK summed it to perfection today about VVS’s special batting:

“Every shot of Laxman brings to my mind the adjectives – yummy, delectable, sumptuous. If only I could gorge on all of Laxman’s innings , I would be ready to die of high cholestrol”

I’ve not seen anyone come up with a better description of this man’s batting – yeah let’s relish every bit of it, while it lasts.

Ind-SA First Test Post-Mortem – Twitter Style

Selectors Goof-Up #Fail

Old war horse Kallis’s century  and Amla’s double hundred #Pass

Non-performance of Indian bowlers #Fail

Lack of support to Zaheer #Fail

Fielding a 3rd string batting line-up against one of the best pacemen in the world #Fail

Lack of runs from an experienced opening duo #Fail

Sehwag-Badri batting in first innings #Pass

Steyn’s explosive pace, outswing, reverse swing, 145Kph, full-length, short-pitch #Pass

Collapse – 6 wickets for 12 runs #Fail

Tendulkar’s ton #Pass but failure to own his test and save the day for India #Fail

Seniors failing to set an example to young debutants #Fail

Dhoni’s uneasiness at the pitch #Fail

Curator of the pitch #Pass

Selectors running for cover by recalling Raina, Karthik #Fail. Who told you to drop them in the first place !

Journalists trying to run down this team with unnecessary criticism #Fail

Media hyping the Indian Team #Fail. Media is the first to pull them down and lose faith in them.

Missed Dravid-Laxman sorely #Yes

Lost my faith in the Men in Blue #No

Expectations from this Indian team to turn around in Eden #Hope

Battlefield Nagpur

The series is being touted as the Championship series where the current No.1 and No. 2 test sides in the world will be at their wits end to conquer each other.

However, both the sides are entering the series with their own share of troubles. India taking field without Dravid against a team with a fine pair of fast bowlers is like swimming in the seas without a life jacket. In the last decade Dravid has been not only the major contributor to her wins at home and abroad against the best sides but also been the best equipped in the team to tackle the pacers and put a prize on his wicket.

Adding to this setback is that Laxman is a doubtful starter which further aggravates India’s woes cause he is India’s big hundred man and the one who sets up the pace of the innings. Missing Yuvraj is no big deal , his performance in tests to say the least, is dismal. It’s time he makes way for the young blokes who are firing on the domestic scene. He is undoubtedly a great T20 and ODI player but I’ve seen him for the last decade and every single time he has failed to impress me as a test player. If you cannot play spin at home and tackle the fast bowlers abroad, you have a problem – he does not seem to have ever acknowledged that. Don’t tell me he never got enough opportunities with the middle order occupied by the big 4. Ganguly has retired for 15 months now and yet Yuvraj has not seized his opportunity. Compare this with Gambhir in the same period and you will understand what I mean.

South Africa on the other hand are struggling with the recent political mess in their cricket circle – resignation of their coach and sacking of the selection committee. Smith did not want this off-field turmoil on what happens to be one of the most important series of his career.

India does not enjoy a great record against SA – the only team they have not done well against in the last decade. SA also can be blamed for inconsistency – after a stupendous tour in Australia in 2008, they let go the advantage once the Aussies came to SA. They did not have a great test series against Eng recently either. A series which could have been 3-1 in their favour was eventually drawn level by the Poms at 1-1.

If Laxman does not make it tomorrow, India will probably field its weakest middle-order in a decade, a fact that SA’s brilliant two pacers Morkel and Steyn will look to exploit. However, if India play sensibly and weather the initial storm, SA does not have the spin attack to trouble India. If Abhishek Nayar and Pandey could destroy Harris and Botha, it should be easy pickings for Sachin and Co.

My bet is on Gambhir and Murali to take up Dravid’s responsibility. Gambhir needs no introduction – go to any cricket website and check out his performance in the last 15 months! The bloke is on a roll, what’s more is that he can transform his game as per the situation and need of the moment. So Sehwag can still go hammer and tongs and we will rely on the hope that Gambhir will see us through the day. The series gives Murali a good chance to cement his place. Of what I saw of him against SL he impressed me. Straight Bat, the bloke plays as straight as one can and exudes tremendous confidence. The future seems assured, I’m not the only one to put my money on him – most cricket fans I know (whom I’ve very high regard for in terms of their knowledge of the game) rate him high too. So let’s wait and watch.

Bowling still is a worry – Ishaant has to strike form and support Zaheer who is the only one who can run through the side right now. If the spinners don’t strike we are well looking for trouble.

SA has a fairly balanced batting order , each batsmen capable of turning the game on his own – The old war-horse Kallis, Boucher the danger man, Smith the backbone and the youngsters DeVilliers, Prince, Amla and Duminy. Their biggest weak point is the spin attack and if India gets it right, this could well be the reason for their loss in the series.

Unless India wins in SA we cannot tell who is the better side, but before that India needs to get this one right on their home ground. India are being proclaimed as the favourites in this series and that worries me. I’ve been watching cricket for last 18 years and I’ve a theory which is a proven fact – We do far better when we are underdogs, place the favourites tag on us and we are bound to fail or underperform. So I’m going to put SA as favourites in terms of their stable batting order and pace attack, and therefore if we draw the series we have done a good job.

I would love to see India win and will be cheering for them, but if you ask me where I’d put my money – I’d play safe and put in on a drawn result.

What about you?

What draws a fan to watch the game..

Not the star players, not the big names, not the international stage, not the corporate franchises, not the big auctions, not the coloured clothing, not the half-clothed cheerleaders, not the millions spent on marketing gimmicks, not the shortened versions but the most basic need – “An equal contest between the bat and the ball.”

The match I’m referring to lacked the big names – Tendulkar, Dravid, Zaheer, it was not an international encounter, it was not the IPL. It was India’s premier domestic league – the Ranji Trophy final match between the best two teams in the nation. The Karnataka Vs Mumbai final in Mysore. The 5 day contest – the one which is termed boring. The one which Mumbai won by 6 runs amidst a million heartbroken Karnataka fans.

The most heartening aspect was the crowd turn-out and the spectators glued in to the internet from all over the world. The crazy cricket buffs- the true fans of the game – the ones I know who revere the 5 day game -were totally glued in. This brought a smile to my face. Who the hell says test cricket or the the 5 day contest is boring? Take the recent test matches in SA and Aus, and now this amazing final. Boring, you call this boring? Compare the viewers glued in to Idea Cup – the international tri-series competition and the Ranji Final. The latter will win the honours hands down.

The pitch was a fine example as to what the BCCI needs to build at all venues in the country. This will avoid dull draws and prepare the batsmen better to face green tops and give the bowlers confidence to do well on the bigger stage. Keep it equal, I’ve had enough of batsman hitting bowlers all over the park and run-rates of 6 an over seeming low. You could well not have any bowlers and put those bowling machines in if all you want to watch is batsmen get runs. Please get rid of that.

There is no need to re-format the shorter versions, making bikinis from business suits. When you need limited fun put the swimwear and go to the beach, when it is serious business – devising strategies, chasing targets and beating the competition- get those business formals out. Don’t you dare change test cricket – none of you who are sitting in ICC and BCCI. It does not need any change – get good pitches and the crowd will come in on its own. Stop driving the world crazy with your stupid marketing gimmicks – invest instead on the budding players and grounds. Ensure good cricket will be played and fans will step in automatically. A true fan of the game looks for what he knows best – a good contest between the bat and ball.

Let the ball seam, let it swing, let it bounce of the deck, let it be short and let the batsmen pull, hook, duck, sweep, and earn some applause for a delivery well left rather than well hit. Yeah give me some of that!

Let’s have some pure unadulterated fun. I did not get to see the match live cause there is no telecast here in Dubai, but from what I read; the Karnataka and Mumbai pacers bowled extremely well on a pitch that had something for everyone. The batsmen with grit would survive and Manish Pandey showed what to do with the pitch. I’ve seen the bloke in the IPL and he seemed a good potential for the future, 144 of 151 balls chasing 334 to win on a good pitch is proof enough what this bloke can do!

At the end, it turned out to be the kind of game where one would feel heartbroken and elated at the same time. 6 runs was the victory margin, 6 runs, it was not a game for heart patients! Sigh!

Once again – kudos to the teams, kudos to the curator and more kudos to the crowd who thronged the stadium to watch – what we all know – CRICKET – The real 5 day game!

Best of the Decade – Indian Test Bowling Performances

This one was due 10 days back! Reasons for delay not being reported here cause I don’t want to spoil the mood as we go down the memory lane again.

Even though it is the batsmen who rule the roost, I’ve firmly believed that to win a test match you need to take 20 wickets. That’s the basic rule of test cricket, bowling is often a thankless job but it is by far the most important one.

So here are my picks of the decade:

1. Anil Kumble: 14-5-29-1 Vs WI, Antigua 2002

If you do not understand why this figures on the top of my list, you have just insulted India’s most affable cricketer. A lion at heart,a true fighter, the man who can replace the word “Gentleman” in dictionary.

I’ve seen people run away from the field with the slightest of injuries, this man bowled with a broken jaw. Takes guts, takes great courage and takes a truck load of patriotism. His 619 wickets and awesome hundred at Lord’s can be kept aside. This one act of his, puts him in World Cricket’s Hall of Fame.

Hit by Merv Dillon in the first innings it looked unlikely he would bowl. Despite no result in sight, he did not shy away. Stepped out with a bandaged jaw, bowled consecutive 14 overs and scalped Lara – and Jumbo won a million hearts all over again.

2. Ajit Agarkar: 16.2-2-41-6 Vs Aus, Adelaide 2003

No cricketer has disappointed me as much as he as. We had too many hopes pinned on him. But this one bowling performance of his will always find a place when the best bowling performances are listed.

Aus batted for 2 days and hit 550+. Dravid-Laxman came together, put up a fantastic effort, and India batted till morning of day 4 falling short by 30 odd runs. The match looked all set for a draw until Agarkar came onto bowl and turned the tide. Used the short ball to perfection and swing to his fancy, never giving the Aussies any reprieve, bagging 6 wickets in the process with the key wickets of Langer, Ponting and Katich.

Aus was bowled out for 196 and India went to record its first win in Aus since MCG 1981

Adelaide 2003 remains a jewel in the many victories that this Indian team brought us. Along with Dravid and Laxman, Agarkar deserves the credit for it.

3. Harbhajan Singh: 37.5-7-123-7 & 30.3-8-73-6 Vs Aus, Kolkata 2001

The series could not have begun on a more sorry note. Bad loss in Mumbai and no Kumble/Srinath for the series. India practically had no bowling attack – Zaheer was no where close to the bowling he does today and Prasad was not the most helpful bowler on Indian wickets.

In Mumbai, Harbhajan Singh had showed glimpses of what he could offer, but Kolkata was his platform to let go. The first hat-trick in test cricket for an Indian bowler and he had the Aussies reeling at 291/8 at close of the first day’s play. What transpired over the next 4 days is well-known.

Kolkata 2001 will always be Laxman’s test, but let’s not forget that if the young bloke, all of 20, had not spun his magic – the match could have well been drawn. Until tea on the final day Aus looked good to save the match; but Bhajji with little help from Tendulkar triggered the Aus collapse to give India a memorable victory. If not for Laxman, Bhajji could well have been the man of the match.

 4. Anil Kumble 30-10-72-6 Vs Pak, Multan 2004

He is responsible for majority of the Indian team’s victories. There have been very few times when he has been called upon and not delivered. It was only fitting that he deliver, in what would be one of the finest moments in Indian Cricket.  Just as he had the Pakistani batsmen in a trance in that match in Kotla in 1999, he proved to be their nemesis yet again.

On their own home ground, the batsmen found it difficult to read Kumble’s deliveries and kept getting beaten by the flight. It was only appropriate that India’s war horse guide them to their first ever win in Pakistan.

5. Anil Kumble: 22.4-3-78-6 Vs WI, Sabina Park 2006 

After sparking an unlikely revival, ably supporting his captain and long-time friend on Day 1; it was only appropriate that he would script the victory for India in 35 years on the Windies soil.

In one of the most low-scoring matches, the pitch seemed to offer more assistance to India’s spinners than WI pacers. Bhajji bowled the WI out for 103 in the first innings with a 5-wicket haul enabling a comfortable 77 run lead for India. Any score above 250+ in the final innings would be tough to get and India managed to make the target 269.

Kumble came onto bowl and despite resistance from the young Ramdin and Bravo, Kumble ran through the WI line to gift India a much deserving series win in WI.

6. Harbhajan Singh: 28-2-63-6 Vs NZ, Hamilton 2009

If the pacers showed the way in the first innings followed by a brilliant knock by the maestro, it was only fitting that the this young sardar bowled us to victory.

Many of us have been critical of the lad – for not being consistent enough but he has bowled when it mattered and how. Post Kumble, Harbhajjan has shouldered the responsibility fairly well and yes, occasionally he does drift but it does not take long for him to come back! And as my cricket expert friends (with whom I rarely debate) say – ‘If Bhajji gets to flight the ball and vary his pace he can be a tough nut to crack.’ This match proved the theory yet again!

A little bit of assistance from the pitch and Bhajji can work wonders just as he did in 2001.

His 6 wickets ensured India ended another drought and now that leaves only the shores of Aus and SA to be conquered in the coming decade.

7. Zaheer Khan: 21-5-59-4 & 27-10-75-5 Vs Eng, Trent Bridge 2007

After not so great previous seasons and having been kept out of reckoning, Zaheer Khan redefined himself on this tour. After an uninspiring show in the first test, he came out firing from all cylinders against the Poms.

A 4 wicket haul and classic display of swing and seam in the best conditions, Zaheer gave India a great start where England was found reeling at 169/7 and eventually getting bowled for 198. India lead the charge with 481 runs.

The jelly bean prank backfired, since an agitated Zaheer came back in the 2nd innings spitting more venom at the England batsman. His spell with the second new ball wrecked havoc; swinging the ball both ways and giving a torrid time to the batsmen. Sadly we do not have statistics that reflect the number of times the bowler beat the bat , if we did Zaheer would be topping those statistics.

He was the key architect of the Indian series victory packing a neat 18 wickets off the series.

8. Amit Mishra : 26.4-8-71-5 Vs Aus, Mohali 2008

In the absence of Anil Kumble due to injury, one wondered who would assist Bhajji in the spin department. The young Mishra was called and how he delivered, making us forget that he was making his debut.

If persisted with, he and Pragyan Ojha will make good support for Bhajji. Hopefully the selectors persist and the bowlers continue to deliver.

Mishra did not get much turn but he was not afraid to challenge the batsmen by tossing the ball and that spoke much of his attitude in his first test.

To ensure we did not miss Kumble, was a master achievement and for this effort he makes it to my favourite list.

India eventually amassed a huge lead and landed Aus its biggest defeat in a long time.

9. Laxmipati Balaji 19-4-63-4 Vs Pak, Rawalpindi 2004

Wonder why one time wonders are on this list? Well am not comparing the best bowlers – I’m just listing the match/innings based performance, so today L.Balaji may be in obscurity but recall the famous Pak win in 2004 and you will never dissociate his name from it.

His contribution made a difference to that win and so he earns a mention in the decade best list. Selected ahead of Ajit Agarkar, the inexperienced Balaji justified his selection by lending a great support to Pathan and Nehra in the series. The trio ensured that India would not miss Zaheer and Bhajji.

Balaji had his limitations as a bowler and he bowled well within those; to the extent that he did a swell job swinging the ball. He did lose his way in between but came back well when he stuck to his line and length and made the batsmen play his deliveries.

The result – 7 wickets in the final test sealing a fantastic series victory for India – her first in Pakistan. He undoubtedly was the find of this tour but sadly disappeared soon due to injury.

But his contribution cannot be forgotten and is engraved in the history books forever.

10. Irfan Pathan: 26-3-80-2 Vs Aus, Sydney 2003

Not a match-winning performance, not a one that ripped through a batting line-up. In fact Pathan started miserably with the new ball in the Aus innings. So what is it doing here superseding Ishaant’s and Zaheer’s efforts in NZ.

The reason is the Gilchrist dismissal in the last over of the day. A perfect yorker. Remove Irfan from the frame and just watch that delivery – you will tell me it is Wasim Akram bowling. The young lad, all of 19 then, on his debut series, made everyone sit up and take notice of him with that one delivery.

Gilchrist left the field a shocked man. The ball had rattled his stumps and he must’ve looked up to convince himself that it was not Wasim he was facing.

Oh yeah and Irfan had also bagged Steve Waugh’s prized wicket – this was Tugga’s farewell test.

Sometimes results don’t matter – moments do; and Irfan has given one such moment to treasure that will last a lifetime.

The Best of the Decade – Test Innings by an Indian Batsman


This post was picked for Blogadda’s Top 25  posts of 2010 for the Spicy Saturday Picks 


This post was picked for Blogadda’s Spicy Saturday Picks 

(In no specific order of preference) 

 1. 167, V.V.S Laxman – SCG, 2000  

If you ever wondered how did Laxman learn to weave his magic wand on 14Mar,2001 in Kolkata, go back a year in Jan’00, to the last test of the disastrous tour down under. He had opened in the test match and single-handedly destroyed the Aussie bowling. His 167 in the team total of 261 was followed by second highest score of 25! That just about explains his dominance over the Aussie attack. The reason why the Aussies respect him a lot can be traced to this very knock. 

The innings was intoxication at its best – you would just drown in the beauty and wide array of strokes on display, the ease in his batting, the delicacy of his wrist play! Sigh a-la Azhar in prime form. As a friend once said, “Sachin is God, but there are strokes that Laxman plays at times, which Sachin would only dream of.” I dare not debate with him! 


2. 281, V.V.S Laxman – Eden Gardens, 2001  

If a list of the best knocks in the history of Indian cricket or World Cricket is written – this one will feature right at the top of the list and stand there undisputed. What he achieved with this knock does not merely amount to an Indian victory to be stored in cricket’s record books. In that one knock, he truly reflected the attitude that John Wright and Ganguly were trying to build into this team – to make them world beaters. In that one knock, he showed that his team was not the one to give up, had the courage to get up and fight, had the courage to conquer all demons and withstand all attacks. In that one knock, he got Dravid out of his self-imposed shell, did wonders to the team’s confidence, and laid the first brick to India’s success in test cricket – of achieving the Numero Uno position. In that one knock, he re-assured the fans of their belief in this team. In that one knock he thanked his family, team-mates and the fans for their undying, relentless support to this crazy bunch. 

In that one knock – Laxman weaved his magic forever on us. 

Of the numerous shots he played that day – one remains stuck in my head forever – replayed a million times, in awe of this man. Warne bowled a delivery leaving the leg stump, Laxman got behind the delivery, his bat almost facing the on-side and hit the ball in the extra-cover region. That was as classy an extra-cover drive you will ever see but against a ball wide of the leg-stump! Not a single soul moved on the field – Warne stood still wondering what had just happened. 

The magic had begun – one hour into the day’s play, my friends called me to check if I was coming to college for the final year project. I had said, “Are you kidding me, did you even see the first hour of play? Laxman and Dravid seem to be onto something special today – cannot miss that. I’m not getting out of the house for the next 2 days!” 

I never regretted bunking college for those 2 days. 


3. 180, Rahul Dravid – Eden Gardens, 2001  

93 runs of 6 innings in his last tour down under was not a memory that could be erased easily for someone who had a 50+ average in tests since his debut in 1996 and was India’s most dependable batsmen. The failure on that tour had played on his mind for long. He looked in good form against Zim before the Aussies set their foot on Indian soil; but double failure in the Mumbai tests had the fans wondering if the demons had been erased at all. 

This knock broke all the shackles in his mind, and it was fitting reply to all his critics who had run him down. Did you see the expression when he got to his hundred on day 4? Fist punched in the air, a jump and bat pointed at the press box – Dravid almost mouthing Take That! I cannot forget that – the ever so calm Dravid reacting in that manner. He had finally let the steam out! 

The knock resulted in setting up India’s famous win and one of the best test matches the world ever witnessed. The innings transformed him completely and did wonders to his confidence. He has not looked back since then. He has gone to play many pivotal knocks for India in her wins abroad and at home. Till date he remains her “Wall”, the most dependable man in the team – The Best Man ever! 

4. 148 Rahul Dravid – Headingly, 2002  

In conditions that were fully conducive to swing, Ganguly made the bold attempt to bat first on winning the toss. Dravid and Bangar held fort, one of the finest displays of batting in test match cricket. Dravid’s defence was par excellence and his shot selection impeccable. His innings laid the foundation for the huge total which inspired two fantastic centuries by the Captain and Sachin later next day. This innings set the tone right for the rest of the series, one in which India hardly faltered. A series win was not possible then, but it was fitting that he came back as captain in 2007 to lead India to a series win against the Poms in 21 years. 



5. 144 Saurav Ganguly – The Gabba, 2003  

If it weren’t for the magic woven by Laxman and Dravid in 2001, this one would be right on the top of my list. Call me a sentimental fool, but I’ve immense respect for Dada whatever people may say about that bloke. He is responsible for India’s turnaround in cricket – he deserves as much credit as anyone else, for India becoming the best side in the world today. 

In a test foiled by the rain gods, Ganguly came out to bat when India were 62-3 against Australia’s 323. Along with Laxman he launched a fantastic counter attack against the Aussies. He did not have a great record against them and had dealt with enough sledging from McGrath and Co. This knock was a nice slap in the face at their home ground. They did not expect Ganguly to fight it out and he kept surprising them as always. India took lead in the first innings which made a huge difference to the psyche of the team. The knock defined the series to follow – India was on the backfoot only once in the entire series in MCG. The remaining three tests tilted heavily in India’s favour. 

Ganguly has always been the ‘Capital A of Attitude’ installed in this Indian Team. 




6. 103 Sachin Tendulkar – Chidambaram Stadium, 2008  

The knock helped erase his ghosts of past. The knock helped shut the critics up who always had one sore point against him, that he does not guide India to victory. (I have always disputed that point and the proofs will run into pages!) But more than anything, the knock helped a nation smile. Mumbai’s favourite son had this to say after the knock: 

“By no means am I saying this will make everyone forget what happened in Mumbai but I’d like to thank England for coming back and playing Test cricket and we’ve witnessed a wonderful Test match – people are enjoying cricket the way it’s meant to be. 

“What happened in Mumbai was extremely unfortunate and I don’t think by India winning or me scoring a hundred, people who have lost their loved ones will feel any better. It’s a terrible loss for all of them and our hearts are with them, but whatever manner we can contribute to making them feel better we’ll make that effort 

Somehow it was only apt that her favourite son was responsible in giving the city something to cheer about. 



7. 83 Virender Sehwag – Chidambaram Stadium, 2008 

As much as Sachin’s knock helped take the ship safely to the harbour, it was Sehwag’s blitzkrieg that set the ship racing like a speed boat. His 83 of 68 not only demoralized the England bowlers but almost sealed the victory for India. A target close to 400 was reduced to 250+ in no time on day 4 and that makes a huge psychological difference. The disdain and total disregard he showed to the England bowlers never got them out of their shell. Sehwag proved once again that on his day there is no one yet born who can stop his hammering. 

8. 160 Sachin Tendulkar – Seddon Park, 2009 

Sachin’s most tons abroad have gone in vain – either in losses or drawn matches. There have been very few instances where he has hit tons abroad and we have won. There is nothing to fault with him – in the 90s he was the sole performing batsmen until Dravid walked in to keep him company. It’s only since 2001 that India began to record wins abroad and a good unit was built with some excellent batsmen and competitive bowlers. 

This knock contributed heavily to Indian’s first series win in NZ in 2009. The master blaster was exquisite and if someone said that this bloke was playing for 20 years and was 36 years old – one would be shocked. The hunger for runs remains unchanged, the balance still perfect. It will remain one of Sachin’s best knocks – he played like the old Sachin would and finally resulted in an Indian victory 

9. 137 Gautam Gambhir – Napier, 2009 

To last 11 hours and ensure a draw, after being asked to follow-on with two days to go and a deficit of 314 runs, is definitely not an easy task. He has had an awesome two years being adjudged the best player of the year and topping the batting ranks. But for me, this young lad is all about Attitude and Adaptation. He adapts to any situation perfectly – defend, attack, anchor. The bloke can do it all, and he shifts gears with amazing ease! If it comes so easy to him imagine what a great car racer he will make. His attitude is an inspiration for youngsters aiming for the India Cap. Heads down – work to be done – will do it! We need so many more like him. 

He is my bet for the future and I am willing to put my money on him. The one guy who has impressed me after the Fab Four, my sole hope that the team will not falter after the 3 big guns of Indian batting call it quits. 

Along with Laxman,Dravid and Sachin, he ensured India would see through the day and not squander the lead in the series. 

To me he is undoubtedly the second Wall – truly a man of steel. 




10. 293 Virender Sehwag, Brabourne ,2009  

You don’t need to go to a dictionary to understand the meaning of the word – Mayhem. Just search for this innings and you will get your answer. Sehwag unleashed havoc and terror in one go on the Sri Lankan team that day. What an innings to end the decade for India. I was so freaking irritated when he got out on 293 and I think so was he for the first time in his life. Disappointed on missing a milestone, of being the only person in test cricket to achieve 3 triple centuries. 

Sehwag is the mad-man of Indian cricket. I don’t think we will ever have a character like him again. His “I-don’t-care-what-you-bowl-if -it-is-there-to-be-hit-I-will-hit” attitude has more often than not WORKED and worked big time. 

At times like this I hate being in Dubai, Brabourne is 20 minutes away from my home in Mumbai. He butchered the SL attack and effectively messed up their confidence. The other batsmen had to walk in and mark their attendance – Sehwag had sealed SL’s fate and ensured India would have it easy on their way to No.1 

This amazing filmy video on the terror unleashed by Sehwag here



It’s only ten best knocks I’m picking but I cannot end the post without mentioning these: 

233 Rahul Dravid – Adelaide, 2003  

Another Dravid-Laxman partnership, this time around Dravid was in the Groom’s place. Set up India’s win. One of the best knocks I’ve seen. It makes you forget Ponting’s double in the first innings. 



270 Rahul Dravid – Rawalpindi, 2004 

If he makes a double, India will not lose – this was almost the mantra when India started winning. Stood like a Rock of Gibraltar and was out only when he tried to accelerate. Pakis never looked like they could get him out. 


155 Sachin Tendulkar – Bloemfontein, 2001 

Sehwag century on debut at one end and Sachin in prime form. Cricketing fans couldn’t have asked for a better viewing. The God and His Follower at their supreme best. India were racing at 4 an over and then at the end of the test match, one was left wondering how could a team that rushed to 350+ in a day could lose the game! Sachin scripted another beauty following his 169 on the previous tour in ‘96. 


309 Virender Sehwag – Multan, 2004 

First triple hundred by hitting a six when on 295 and that too against Pakistan on their home soil! If it weren’t for those other ten exciting knocks this one was a sure shot in my ten favourite innings of the decade. 


These are my personal favourites for different reasons – pure cricketing reasons, sentimental ones, for the attitude change those knocks brought in. I’m waiting to learn about yours! 

P.S: Yes best Indian bowling performances and my personal year end wrap up will follow but maybe a day or two into the new year!

The Best of the Decade – Cricket Series

This is going to be one long post. The year end brings lots of memories – the decade even more. Tried to pick the best of what lies in my memory.

1. India Vs Australia – 2001

This has to be undoubtedly the series of the decade and the best in the history of Cricket! Aussies riding high on a world record, looking to conquer the “Final Frontier” landed on the shores of Mumbai in Mar 2001. They annihilated the Indian Team in Mumbai barring a sparkling batting display by God who produced not one but two gems – 76 and 62. Anyone present at the stadium on that day will never be able to forget the straight drives belted out by the little master. The innings remain stuck in the head more vividly than Gilchrist’s fire-power 100 off 84 balls.

The only time I cursed the curator of the Wankhede pitch for preparing an almost perfect wicket for test match cricket – only to have the Indian batsmen play spoilsport.

Verbal duels between Tugga and Dada followed leading to an interesting “mental disintegration” by both teams. Come Kolkatta Mar 13 and India looked all set to lose the series staring at a 274 run deficit from the first innings and ending the third day at 254/4. Miracles happen – did not believe in it until this day 14Mar,2001 – carved in gold in the history of Indian Cricket! Laxman and Dravid lasted the entire day – India did not lose a single wicket; wiped out the deficit and led the Aussies by 315 at the end of it. It was not defence but an awesome counter attack launched by the two men on everything that the Aussies happened to throw at them. The partnership was good enough to inspire the remaining 9 who bundled out the Aussies in the final session on Day 5. Kolkatta created a history that might never be repeated.

Aussies earned the dubious distinction of being the only team to have lost thrice in the history of cricket after enforcing a follow-on. The match left a permanent scar on the Aussie aggression; the Aussies since then have hesitated to impose a follow-on despite being in the most solid position.

Chennai was another enthralling test and the series saw the rise of Bhajji termed as Turbanator. The series laid the foundation for India to aim for the No.1 status (achieved a month back as the decade drew to an end) and the fascinating Aussie-India rivalry that followed in the decade. If you ask me where did India’s journey to No1 begin – I’d take you back in time to revisit 14Mar,2001 Kolkatta when two men put their hands up and proved the old adage that ‘Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties’. Well, if we get to see such uncertainties we will devour them with great relish and joy!

2. The Ashes 2005

This series paralleled the 2001 series in terms of intensity and tense contests but what puts 2001 on the top of the list is the Laxman-Dravid batting miracle.

Aussies bullied the Poms in the opening test at Lords and it seemed like the old Ashes story would repeat. I don’t remember following any other series not involving India, as closely as I followed this one, ball-by-ball, not missing a single test match!

This was pretty much termed as Flintoff’s Ashes just ad the 1981 series was termed as Botham’s Ashes. 400 runs and 24 wickets pretty much ensured a victory for the Poms. What a pity the guy chose ODI and T20 over tests! I miss him on the field. With no great histrionics on field he played the silent assassin to perfection.

Pietersen couldn’t have asked for a better debut. His SA roots combined with the Aus-Brit rivalry made him a force to reckon with against the Aussies. When these two batted you wondered if the Aussies were batting seeing the aggression being oozed out.

This was the Wizard of Oz’s last Ashes in England and how well he said goodbye. He revived the memories of the “ball of the century” when he had Strauss out in a similar fashion in the second test. He took 40 wickets in this series and crossed the coveted 600 figure mark! I miss him too. Don’t you wish that some players remain immortal? Warne was one such player. There will be none as good as him ever again! For a lovely write up when he called it quits – read this piece from another cricket fan I respect, who also happens to be one of my best friends and cricket buddy.

The series went right down to the wire after the first test match. Second one was won by England by a mere 2 runs – Brett Lee and Kasparowicz’s heartbroken faces are still etched in memory. Ponting’s brilliant match-saving hundred at Edbagston along with Warne and Lee for company; and Lee and McGrath’s rejoicing at the end of the tense 4 overs was worth savouring. The Trent bridge match was Flintoff’s match all the way – a few hiccups getting to 129. Finally Pietersen ended the series with a stunning 158 at the Oval.

To both the teams we take a bow!

3. T20 WC India Victory – 2007

This was my dream come true – in the form of the game I detest, but hell we beat Pakistan in a World Cup Final. It made up for everything I hate about T20.

Every damn Indian cricket fan I know has cherished this dream and Dhoni’s young brigade made it a reality for us. I can never forget the screams and the shrieking that followed as Shreesanth waited for the miscued hit of Misbah-Ul-Haq, with Pakistan needing 6 runs of 4 balls to win the cup! We almost died of a collective heart failure.

Yuvraj’s sixes of Broad and the hammering lent to Australia, the tied league match with Pak. The first T20 cup in SA had some memorable moments and every time India won we gaped in awe. Who would have expected this kind of performance after the dreadful debacle at the ODI WC in WI just a few months back. The celebrations that followed in the country were humungous and as the Boys in Blue passed my Worli house I was stuck in Dubai following it live on TV with mom on the phone commenting live! Cruel fate wasn’t it?

4. ODI World Cup SA – India’s Dream Run 2003

WTF was my exact expression when Sehwag and Sachin belted sixes off third-man and square against the Pakistani pacers. Chasing 270 odd they had raced to 50+ in a mere 5 overs. The match’s fate was sealed in those 5 overs. Though we lost 2 wickets to consecutive deliveries, Sachin, Dravid and Yuvraj wiped out any hopes the Paki bowlers might have had. Sachin’s 98 of 75 will always be among his best knocks – listed in the hall-of-fame. Pakistan dropped him thrice in the match – so even though it was not a chanceless knock, it was still a priceless gem among the many he has gifted us.

The entire brigade did well barring the league match against Aus which was India’s second match at the Cup. They turned the tide around after that match – not losing a single one on their way to the WC final in 20 years. Sure I was crushed when they failed to win or put up a great fight but the matches against Eng, Pak, SL, and NZ were fantastic. The key to India’s success was its pace attack – Srinath and the 2 left armers – Zaheer, Nehra. They bowled exceedingly well in the conditions – remember Nehra’s fantastic 6/23 against England at Kingsmead. The top 5 batsmen were in the best form and fired when needed ably supported by young guns Yuvraj And Kaif

As much as we rue India’s lost chance, the campaign remains special for the way the team fought and looked the next best team to the dominating Aussies in the tournament.

5. India Vs Pakistan 2004

The bliss of a much awaited first ever test series win in Pakistan soil. Remember 1989 – Manjrekar’s solidity and Sachin’s fearlessness against the terrifying Pakistani bowlers. Drawing that series was a victory in itself. The scene set-up again 15 years later was different – the Indian team was more aggressive and assertive having scuffed up some victories abroad by then. Sehwag’s first triple hundred at Multan is unforgettable – only he can think of going for a six and getting to his maiden triple hundred when batting on 295! The series was marred a little by Dravid’s controversial declaration when Sachin was on 194* but the victories at Multan and Rawalpindi pretty much put that in the backburner.

Dravid’s masterful 270 in the third test ensured that we would not lose. Balaji and Pathan did a fantastic job and were ably supported by old war-horse Kumble. The last wicket was that of Kaneria c Ganguly bTendulkar. There could not have been a better ending to this fairy tale.

6. South Africa Vs Australia 2008

This one makes my list only for the awesome run-chase of 414 by the young South Africans. It will not make it to the top spot among the best run-chases of the decade. WI chasing 418 against Australia and winning by 3 wickets is No.1 in my opinion cause Australia was on the top of its game during those years and no one had expected such a comeback after a 3-0 rubbing in the previous 3 test matches. The second best is 387/6 by India against England purely for the sentiments attached to it. The England side was valiant enough to comeback to a terror-stricken country to complete the test series. Kudos to them for their attitude! 11 days following the Mumbai terror attack (one of the worst the country had seen), the run-chase was set up by the Mad-Man who blasted 83 of 68 deliveries and later led by India and Mumbai’s favourite son. The victory brought some much needed smiles to this terror-stricken nation.

Going back to the 3rd best run-chase of the decade – Duminy was on his debut and supported AB DeVilliers ably to pull the final plug on the Aussies. Watching the South Africans beat the lights out of the Aussies in broad daylight on their home ground was a delight!

SA won the next test easily and lost the third – setting up an exciting revenge series at home but sadly they lost it without much fight! This is an interesting rivalry building up as SA gains strength with its youngsters and Aus looks to rebuild the void left by Langer, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, Hayden.

7. T20 World Cup – Pakistan Victorious 2009

When was the last time before this event that I was happy to see Pak win; let me recollect – Never. I like their players – I am a huge fan of Wasim Akram but the fandom ends at that. I do not cheer their wins but this time I did. They have not had any international cricket thanks to the terrorism in their country and the World Cup too has been taken away post that dreadful attack on the SL players. I’m not sympathetic to the country but to the players yes. No athlete deserves to lose out on the opportunities cause of the political mess his country is in. They are a bunch of talented blokes – sheer raw talent and the world needs to see it. We need the Pakistani team – heck how will we enjoy India-Pak rivalry?

I was glad they won the cup, they needed it and their country needed it much more. The players to re-assure themselves that they are competitive enough for the world cricket and the country cause in the numerous terrorist attacks only this good news could help bring a smile and forget the woes for a little time.

8. VB Series – Aus/SA/NZ – 2002

This series was one of the most interesting ones wherein the pendulum kept swinging in favour of SA and NZ and Australians were never in contention for the final race. I don’t recollect that happening in a tournament that involved Australia at their home ground.

The series most memorable for Shane Bond’s outstanding bowling. Why he was never able to sustain himself is such a mystery, he is a delight to watch! Sad we get to see so less of him! NZ were led splendidly by Stephen Fleming. My favourite though were the two knocks which I caught live on television. Cairns’ century against SA and Bevan’s century against NZ; the two innings and the two matches had the same script written all over again in a span of 10 days.

Cairns walked in at 73/4 in the 19th over chasing 244 and hit a marvellous 102* enabling NZ to win by 4 wickets. We witnessed a re-run of the match with a different cast later. Chasing 246, Aus was reeling at 82/6 against the Black Caps when Bevan produced the magical innings of 102* to glide them through. However Aus failed to make it to the finals and the two better teams in the tournament were through. SA finally won the series

9. Commonwealth Bank Series India/Australia/Sri Lanka

This was India’s moment of glory and a fine revenge after the much maligned Sydney Test. Gambhir was the pivot in the league matches and scored 440 runs at the end of the series. Dhoni played the perfect finisher but the finals belonged to Sachin Tendulkar. His innings in both matches helped set up wins for India. The young bowling brigade of India – Sreesanth, Bhajji, Pathan, Praveen Kumar and Ishaant bowled extremely well to guide India to its win in Australia after 23 years!

10. India Vs Australia – 2004

This features in my list purely for my love for Tugga’s side not Ponting’s blokes. This was the side whose foundation was laid in Taylor’s reign and ruled supreme under Tugga’s leadership. Steve Waugh was a heartbroken man after the 2001 series loss; the one land which he so badly wanted to conquer remained unconquered during his reign.

I’m extremely clear about my feelings for Ponting. He is a great batsman but a miserable example for his team-mates in terms of attitude off and on the field. His brashness has rubbed on to his teammates leading to fiascos such as the Sydney test which had his own country men turn against the team. Therefore, if Ponting had captained in the winning test match it would’ve been painful – but he was out due to injury and one of my favourite Aussie players Adam Gilchrist, led his team to a fine victory.

The final score read 2-1 but it was never a close series. Australia had the upper hand from the first test. India put up a spineless defence marred by injuries to Sachin and Ganguly’s last moment back out from Nagpur match after seeing the green top. The series saw the birth of another fine player – Michael Clarke whose century debut reminded me of Steve Waugh of the earlier days. McGrath and Warne could not have asked for a better last series in India! The Aussie team had finally won their “Final Frontier”, a dream long cherished by Waugh!

Those are my favourite series of the decade – and you were saying yours were?

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