GAME PLAN: Runs and Rain; Disappointment and Delight

Jaideep Ghosh

Bengaluru-Cricket-Stadium-rain-washout

Bengaluru: Empty stadium as the second test match between India and South Africa was called off due to rains, at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday, Nov 18, 2015. Photo-PTI

Thursday morning came with the dismal news that New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu had passed away. Suffice it to say that in a sport not too keenly followed in India, Lomu’s a name known to many.

There was disappointment closer to home too. In Bengaluru, to be precise, as incessant rain put paid to the Indian cricket team’s efforts to make it a 2-0 scoreline against the visiting South Africans.

Quite strange, this turn of events. When South Africa came to India, they were feared – a formidable array of fast bowlers and batsmen who could put it past the best in the world.

So long as the limited-overs series were on, they justified their ranking and reputation in no uncertain terms, culminating in the huge 438-run slugfest in Mumbai that set the hackles to rise among the Indian think-tank, not least Team Director Ravi Shastri.

Cut to Mohali, and the near-dust bowl at the PCA Stadium ensured that the Indian strength – their spinners, come good and India were up 1-0.

It looked cut and dried, but South Africa obviously got it all wrong. Why on earth would they send Vernon Philander to open the innings? It was a wrong plan on all fronts and they paid for it.

In Bengaluru, they again floundered against the Indian spinners and were looking like fighting a defensive battle for all the other days.

But there weren’t any other days.

They lost Dale Steyn during the Mohali Test and Philander too has been added to the casualties’ list. So the second-string pace attack of Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott would have struggled against the home batting and the visitors had opted not to play their off-spinner in the Test anyway, choosing to get JP Duminy back to bolster their batting.

So just as well that the Test was rained out. Maybe they will see a sign and redemption in that as the action shifts to Nagpur.

Entertainment, DDCA style: For as long as memory serves, the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association has been the best organisation to follow.

From guns being waved in age-group selection meetings to the sudden ‘green’ tinge on the pitch (overnight) to complete chaos in administrative issues, DDCA has been a reporters’ delight.

More so because of the several factions within the body, which made gathering the dark secrets even easier, they came to you on a virtual platter.

So to see DDCA in strife again wasn’t really a big surprise. They are, after all, champions of the ridiculous. The 24 crore or something they owe in entertainment tax really doesn’t do justice to DDCA.

It was also pretty clear where the politics lay. The Delhi Government’s keenness to censure the association was pretty much because of who were the big guns in DDCA and which party they were affiliated with.

But, like all their adventures over the years, DDCA have escaped again! The Honourable High Court has allowed them to host the Test.

But the entertainment continues, so don’t look away for too long.

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File Photo of Mitchell Johnson. Photo Credit: Blnguyen/GFDL

One Mitchell better than two: It’s almost unfair that any team would have to face Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc at the same time.

Many a side has fallen victim to the sheer pace, accuracy and aggression of Messrs Johnson and Starc over the years, so it would come as a relief to most that the former decided to hang up his boots. His international boots, to be precise.

Johnson epitomised what a fast bowler is all about. While he has struggled with form and fitness and other issues of his mind, the last couple of years have been success on all counts.

So it came as a little bit of a surprise when he called time on his enviable career.

While Australia celebrated Johnson’s career, the Perth Test was all about New Zealand’s resilience. Many a better side would have collapsed when facing 559 runs in the first innings. While the verdict of the match was a draw, the sheer class of the batting from David Warner, Usman Khwaja, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith and Adam Voges.

But the biggest of them all was Ross Taylor. He was sheer class.

Taylor has often been an underachiever. When he began his career, there was a lot of talk about how he would be the next biggest thing in international cricket. So, while he has some good knocks under his belt, his 290 against Johnson, Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh and Nathan Lyon was nothing short of legendary. A triple-century would have been just rewards, but this 290 has elevated him to one of the best in the business.

So the action now shifts to Nagpur in India and Adelaide in Australia.

There will be eyeballs on the Adelaide Test. That will be the first-ever day-night Test. Should be quite something.

So keep watching this space. There will be fun and games in Nagpur and Adelaide, both will be worth watching.