Satire: 7 things I learned without watching the first 2 India-South Africa ODIs, and other conspiracy theories

Image courtesy: BCCI
Image courtesy: BCCI

Let me start out by saying that I am a cricket lover.

So, even when I'm not watching it, I'm talking about it. Or writing about it. Or making crazy predictions, and assumptions, and assertions, with nothing whatsoever backing up these crazy predictions, assumptions, and assertions.

I have not watched a single delivery of the current India-South Africa ODI series. I have been following ball-by-ball commentary, I have read match-reports, and I have discussed it with friends. But I have not seen anything.

I thought about how often we cricket fans get into arguments more rooted in emotion than fact despite watching everything live. How we gloss over certain details, how we focus upon obscure statistics to make our point. I decided that not actually watching the Cricket shouldn't deprive me of doing that. So I wrote this.

So here goes; this is rooted in my own emotions, and feelings, and obscure statistics that I have focused upon to make my point, whilst glossing over other salient details.

I do not intend this to be taken seriously. Have fun with it.

Virat Kohli is very very very good at this chasing thing

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Image courtesy: BCCI

One hundred and fifty-eight runs.One hundred and sixty-nine deliveries faced. Two run-chases. Two victories.

At this point, it is noteworthy when he fails in a run-chase. He is quite simply the greatest chaser in the history of this game. Had the Harry Potter books been written in the present age, there would have been a Kohli on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

'Nuff said.

Moving on....

Rohit Sharma is a selfless team man

Bangladesh v India - ICC Champions Trophy Semi Final
Rohit Sharma [file photo]

There was a great deal of consternation after the first 2 Test matches regarding Virat Kohli's selection calls. I, for one, wrung my hands in despair, and told anybody that would listen that he had lost the plot. (HOW.CAN.YOU.DROP.AJINKYA.RAHANE. I am calm. I am calm.)

The biggest point of contention for me, was that Ajinkya Rahane, our most consistent Test batsman, had been dropped. Not that he had been dropped for Rohit Sharma-I am a massive, massive Rohit apologist/fan(delete one depending on whether you're a Rohit hater or think he's the greatest thing since unregulated, big bats)-and any decision that allowed my favourite to play was a decision that I supported., but that he had been dropped. So, when he played important innings in both the final Test match, and first ODI(both of which we won), I threw my hands up in delight, and told anybody that would listen that Virat Kohli had lost the plot, and that Rahane would have not only scored 2 match-winning centuries in the first 2 Tests, but he would have also inspired Rohit to score a double, and triple century.

However, it must be noted that Rahane would not have had these opportunities without Rohit. Ravi Shastri recently stated that it was obvious that Rohit was the form batsman both in the nets, and in the middle, and that was why he was picked ahead of Rahane.

It all makes sense now. Form batsmen do not score 78 runs in 4 Test innings, and 35 runs across 2 ODI innings unless they are rubbish. OR, unless they've been getting out early to allow their out of form teammates the chance to score match shaping runs. Clearly, Rohit was doing the latter. Clearly. Clearly.

But what do I know, I have blinkers on when it comes to Rohit, and haven't watched a single delivery since the second test concluded.

South Africa continue to lull India(and possibly the World) into a false sense of security regarding off-spin in 2019

I
Image courtesy: BCCI

The South African camp has focused a lot on what they call vision 2019. It's really too bad that it isn't 2019 right now, so that we could have made all those hilarious/cliched 2020 vision jokes, but into all life and cricket games some rain must fall.

As part of their focus on the 2019 World Cup, and beyond, South Africa appointed their young batting sensation, Aiden Markram, as captain. Furthermore, they have pledged to rotate players consistently with a view to forming as deep a talent pool for the 2019 World Cup as possible. However, these are mere smokescreens to disguise their most genius move yet; the GREAT 2019 WORLD CUP CURATOR CONSPIRACY.

Hear me out. This isn't (just) the lemon and ginger tea talking.

India's bowling has set up both of their victories. It wasn't fast bowling, which is surprising given the fact that India's fast bowlers have been excellent for a while now, and the matches are being played in South Africa-the country where AB de Villiers has more revolutions and turns than the average spinner.

It was spinners. Yuvzendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav to be specific.

The leg-spin, china-man combination has taken 13 for 121 across 34.2 overs. South Africa's own off-spinners - JP Duminy and Markram-failed.*

It's obvious that South Africa have found a way to ensure that the pitches for the 2019 World Cup will be conducive to off-spin, and are lulling India into a false sense of security, by preparing pitches conducive to any type of spin but off-spin, and are waiting for the 2019 World Cup squads to be announced, before announcing that former captain, ace off-spinner, and occasional opening batsman, Graeme Smith is making a shock return for the 2019 World Cup.** Obviously.

*I'm going to gloss over the fact that South Africa picked Imran Tahir, a leg-spinner, who took 0 wickets, whilst conceding 81 runs in 15.3 overs, because why let facts get in the way of a crazy conspiracy theory?

** As far as we know, Smith is not in fact planning a return, but if he does decide to strap on the finger strapping for one final tilt at glory and crushing English dreams, you heard it here first!

Hardik Pandya is not as rubbish as I thought he was

India v Pakistan - ICC Champions Trophy Final
File Photo

I do not like Hardik Pandya. It is an irrational dislike, for he has been very successful. But it is a strong dislike nonetheless. I pick holes in his game. I actively will him to fail if he is not playing for India. He irks every fiber of my cricketing being.

If he has taken a wicket, I say it's because the batsman knew he was the weak link in the attack, and was forced to take a risk because of the pressure built by other bowlers. It's so bad, so irrational, so desperate, that I once proclaimed this after he had bowled a batsman attempting a forward defensive. And don't even get me started on his batting.

The best I can say about his batting is that it reminds me of Ravindra Jadeja at Lord's in 2014-he scored a match-turning half century, as India completed a memorable win.

I HATED RAVINDRA JADEJA'S MATCH TURNING HALF CENTURY AT LORD'S. I hate it more than the fact that Ishant Sharma is somehow up on the Lord's honours board. The best I can say about that innings is that it was agricultural. But it was also effective. And ultimately contributed to victory. He seized the moment. And Pandya does too.

A cursory analysis of the scoreboard shows that Pandya bowled 21 out of 42 dot balls in the first match, and 14 out of 30 dot balls in the second match. That means 50% of his deliveries were not scored off. He gave away 5 boundaries in the first match, and 6 in the second. 44 out of 75 runs scored off of him in the 2 matches were boundaries.

The other 31 runs scored off of him were scored off of 72 deliveries-an economy rate of 2.6 to the over. All of this means that Hardik Pandya is a good bowler, who will become even better as he improves his discipline. He is learning on the job, and on the grandest stage.

The numbers don't lie.

Which just goes you to show that statistics are like peppers in Chinese food - completely and utterly useless. Hardik Pandya is rubbish. He's not as rubbish as I thought he was. He's worse. He didn't complete his full quota of overs in either match, and scored only 3 at a strike-rate of fifty(so much for the big hitting), and didn't score a single run in the second match.*

*Hardik Pandya scored an unbeaten 3 off 6, after coming in with the match done and dusted, and did not bat in the second match.

The ICC wants us to party like it's 1899

South Africa v India - 3rd Test Day 3
South Africa v India - 3rd Test Day 3

I have an American friend who once went to watch a Test Match at Lord's. Did she fall in love with cricket? No. Was she overcome with emotion as she slowly breathed in the history associated with the ground? No. Was she struck by the notion that Lord's old pavilion, and new media centre represented Cricket's attempt to stay relevant, and current, whilst at the same time respecting, and preserving its values? No.

Instead, she laughed. Her biggest takeaway from this wondrous occasion, this spectacle that any cricket lover worth their salt would give their right batting glove and both their pads for, was that the players took a break to drink tea.

I was prepared for the old "5 days no winner argument". This stumped me. I realized that to many, cricket is still seen as this stiff upper-lip, rigid game; a relic of the past. Her pulse didn't race when a fast bowler ran in, she wasn't mesmerized by the guile of a spinner, she didn't fall in love with the beauty of a cover-drive. No, she saw some parody of Cricket, this caricature painted by detractors who view it as less sport, and more about being a good sport; a bit of fun whilst running around in the sun, and then off for a spot of tea. She was wrong.

She would have felt all of that and more had she been she watching the 2nd ODI between India and South Africa. The players went off for lunch with 2 runs left to get. 2 runs. This was Cricket as my friend wrongly saw it. Rigid and unyielding for all the wrong reasons. A game played by soft players(I would like to clarify that I am not actually calling any of the players soft), who needed to eat their lunch before their tummies started growling. Of course, she would have been wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. But how can we expect an outsider to understand that one team has basically won the game, and instead of finishing it, they go off to eat lunch, when cricket lovers around the world were baffled by the same decision?

The ICC continues to prove that they are out of sync with the game, and what spectators want. This is the organisation that allowed the 2007 World Cup to end in a farce, as spinners bowled in near darkness to finish a mandatory number of overs, to end a match that was for all intents and purposes over. This is the organisation that claims it is trying to grow the game, but has World Cup qualifiers for all but the 8 top ranked teams. This is the organisation that governs the game we love.

And now, this is the organisation that has players go off for lunch with 2 runs left to go. It may not be their most egregious error, or their most public. In fact, it's relatively harmless.

That doesn't change the fact that it's ridiculous.

Rohit Sharma is very very very elegant

Bangladesh v India - ICC Champions Trophy Semi Final
[file photo]

He only scored 35 of the most elegant runs anybody will ever see, cajoled the ball to the boundary four glorious times, and convinced it to soar gracefully, like a bird taking flight, over the ropes twice.

He did all of this in the most wonderfully elegant manner, and at least 3 men got engaged after telling their girlfriends that they were more beautiful than a Rohit Sharma cover drive*. They were obviously wrong, but we congratulate them anyway.

Also, Rohit caressed(he doesn't hit the ball) two fours and one six in each innings he played, thus ensuring that the spectators at both grounds got the same level of elegance.

We are not worthy.

We are not worthy.

*Does anybody know if he played a cover-drive?!?! Answers in the comments please.

The BCCI and Indian team management are wonderful planners

India Training Session

A lot of people criticized India for playing ODI shots, and bowling ODI lines in the recently concluded Test Series. It makes sense now. There is a lot of overlap between India's Test and ODI teams.

7 players who played the first 2 ODIs also played in at least one Test Match-and an 8th, MS Dhoni probably would have played the Tests had he not retired.

The Test Matches were all played at a faster(and very exciting), more ODI tempo, too.

The BCCI, and team management rightly received a lot of flak for the lack of warm-up games. The same can't be levied against the ODI outfit.

The team management have obviously taken note of India's success with this method-One Test Match win, and two losses where they came hard at South Africa, and now 2 ODI wins.

The 1st XI for the first T20i could conceivably have 9 players-Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Yuvzendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, and Jasprit Bumhrah-who played the first two ODis. 6 of these men also played at least one test match.

It turns out that the 9 wicket rout in the 2nd ODI was not only good for the collective ego of Indian Cricket fans, but also excellent preparation.

This whole tour-the squad selections, the Test match strategies and selections, and now this victory, have been a masterclass in planning.

Step aside Sun Tzu, there's a new Sheriff in town.*

*Ravi Shastri, in case anybody was wondering. It's also kinda perfect, given how much he likes to say tracer bullet...

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Edited by Anuradha Santhanam
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