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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Freedom Series ~ India play South Africa at Mohali

Test Cricket returns ~ and the hyped Freedom Series is now in Mohali – there is no Gandhi or Mandela to it – it is no battle – but Indians would find it difficult at home too against a strong Proteas team. In an interesting piece of statistics, Cricinfo reveals that since 1983 when Malcolm Marshall demolished India at Kanpur and at Kolkata, India has suffered 3 innings defeats at home [Bangalore Mar 2000; Ahmedabad Apr 2008 and Nagpur Feb 2010] – all 3 were delivered by South Africa.  Recalling that Test at Kanpur, Clive Lloyd came simmering with WC defeat – Malcolm Marshall was fast and furious; in the 2nd innings his short ball knocked Gavaskar’s bat off his hand, ball caught at forward shortleg – India lost by an innings and 83 runs.

Mohali, is also known as SahibzadaAjit Singh Nagar (SAS Nagar), lying adjacent to the city of Chandigarh.  Named after the eldest son of Guru Gobind Singh it is a popular commercial hub.  After the partition of India in 1947, the former British province of Punjab was  split between east Punjab in India and west Punjab in Pakistan.  Mohali was conceived after the trifurcation of Punjab and its capital Chandigarh becoming a Union Territory in late 1960s.

Fans would remember that it is almost two years since a Test was played at home – and the last time it did at Mumbai 2013, legend Sachin Tendulkar bid farewell to an emotional Wankhede crowd – in between India has played 17 Tests in New Zealand, South Africa, England, Australia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.   Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and VirenderSehwag have officially retired, and it is time for some younger batsman to establish. 

Photo credit : Wikipedia commons

Mohali would be chill in north Indian winter – and it is the festival time of Deepavali.  There were days when the whole Nation stopped work, when Sachin played – South Africa are tough and whether the pitch would assist Ashwin, Mishra and Jadeja is to be seen.  Out of 11 Tests played at Mohali, India have so far won five, including the last one they played against Australia in March 2013, drawn equal number of games while losing one match to West Indies way back in December 1994.

Turning away from home, Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan allrounder and former captain, has announced that the current Test match against England at Sharjah will be his last.In a shock announcement at the close of the third day's play, an emotional Malik, 33, said that the "time was right" to move on, only three matches after his five-year exile from the Test team had come to an end.His decision came out of blue as he arrived at the end-of-day press conference with a piece of paper in his hand. The team's assistant manager informed the media that, before taking questions, "Shoaib want to say something".

His team-mates were also caught unawares. Mohammad Hafeez, talking to the host broadcaster outside the team dressing-room, was shocked when asked to give his reaction and Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan's spin bowling coach, was also taken by surprise.

Malik made a dramatic return to the fray in the first Test at Abu Dhabi last month. Called in to the team as a late replacement for the injured Azhar Ali, he made a career-best 245 in his first appearance since the Edgbaston Test against England in 2010.However, his scores have fallen away since then, with scores of 0, 2, 7, 38 and 0 in his next five innings, the latest duck coming on Tuesday  trapped lbw first-ball by a big inswinger from James Anderson.Malik has played his part with the ball in this match in particular. He returned his best Test figures of 4 for 33 in 9.5 overs as England were bowled out for 306 in their first innings.

At the age of 33, and having earned his recall to the Test team on the strength of his recent one-day performances, Malik's one remaining ambition is to earn selection for the 2019 World Cup in England. Malik has played in 34 Tests scored 1860 runs with 3 tons; 5990 runs in 227 ODIs with 8 centuries; he has 25 Test wickets and 147 ODI wickets.  Some Pakistanis have made their comeback few years after quitting.

This Series too would be played without DRS. The  'umpire's call' is RaviAshwin's big objection against DRS.  ESPNcricinfo states that some players have spoken out that they  are not entirely averse to the idea of DRS but pointed to the possibility of manipulation of technology by host broadcasters, who pay for the DRS as the system stands now. However, they said they didn't know why the team leadership didn't accept DRS.  The rest of the World continues to use technology to correct or vindicate umpires' decisions. Due to limited nos. reference, Ashwin has point in asking – whether DRS is umpire protective or player protective?"

There have been innovations and changes in the way the game is played – in Test Cricket itself -  NZ and Aussies were having 8 ball overs till mid 1970s; bouncer rule has been tampered many a times; Limited Overs cricket and T20 have come into being.  When Kerry Packer challenged the establishment – many called it "pyjama cricket", due to coloured clothing, sightscreen colour and night cricket.  Over the years there have been usage of technology like hotspot, snickometer, - the lightmeter has been in vogue for long.  Perhaps it is time, the Indian Board adopted DRS without repeating the cliché, that DRS is not 100% good.

Even as we don’t even debate – later this month Australia and New Zealand will contest a five-day match in Adelaide, under lights, using a pink ball.  It may or may not work but it need not be traditional all the time.  As rightly stated, an  experiment with pink balls and day-night matches is not much of a risk. Doing nothing is the real risk facing Test cricket.

The flood lights at Mohali Cricket stadium  are unconventional compared to other cricket stadiums – the light pilllars are very low in height.  When most other stadiums have 4 towers, Mohali has 16 smaller flood light towers.  This is because it is close to airport – should we really have a stadium if that poses a security  hazard ??

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

4th Nov. 2015

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