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Understanding the vastly different playing conditions.
Maidan vs International

Indians play cricket matches wherever they get space. This is true especially in big cities where it is extremely difficult to find open spaces to play sport. Cricket is played practically everywhere, be it on a street or inside a classroom or in a local maidan (playground). The passion for the game shown in India is infectious. Local maidans hosts a lot of serious matches and the prospective players hone their skills. Players aspire to play for India and put in many hours daily to perfect their skills. Here, we will look at the differences between playing in local playgrounds and international stadiums:

Number of matches

On local playgrounds, a lot of matches are played simultaneously and the best pitches are usually on a first-come-first-serve basis. The iconic Azad Maidan in South Mumbai has 22 cricket pitches and at times, 22 matches are being played simultaneously.

In international stadiums, the ground size is massive and hosts a single match at a time. Everyone’s attention is focused on one game. There are many pitches in the central square (typically 4-8), but at any given time only one of them is used.

Practice areas

In local maidans, even a small open space is used as a practice area. Makeshift nets are set up and players make the best use of the space that is available to them.

Most international stadiums have designated practice areas inside the stadium complex, but outside the main playing arena. Some of the older stadiums have a couple of practice pitches inside the main playing arena as well.

Crowd

Anybody walking around the maidan becomes an audience for the game. They do not have designated seating areas and most of the audience watches the game by standing inside the maidan. Typically, many matches are being played at a given time, so the audience has options and can watch any game of their choice.

In international stadiums, there are proper designated seating areas and barriers which separate the crowd from the playing arena. For international matches, the stadium is full and the whole crowd is intently watching the match. With many eyes tracking the game, there is a lot of pressure on players from the home team to perform.

Rules

At maidans, the rules are tweaked depending on the playing location and player availability. Boundary location varies as per the pitch location on the maidan. If there is an obstacle on the ground like a tree and a batsman hits it, a designated number of runs are given. At times, the umpire is from batting side. Matches are also played with hard tennis balls.

In stadiums, standard cricket rules apply and all the facilities are in place. Rules are rules. The boundaries are pre-defined. There is a neutral umpire in place. Matches are played with a cork ball and every member of the team wears the team uniform and the batsmen play after wearing full cricketing equipment.

Aspirations

The players who toil daily on these maidans aspire to play for their first class team and eventually the national team. This is what drives them to continue playing in these conditions and be recognised by the selectors and talent scouts.

First class cricketers who play in these international stadiums aspire to play for the national team and those in the national team want to perform for the nation and play for the country. The dreams and aspirations get bigger.

 

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Royal treatment throughout.
VIP Box © Creative Commons

Watching a cricket match at the stadium is a fantastic experience. One can soak in the atmosphere, appreciate the finer aspects of the game as there are no ad breaks. You can scream your lungs and cheer for your favourite team. In the last ten years, most stadiums in India have been extensively renovated or reconstructed from scratch. The entire experience of watching a match in the stadium is much better than what it used to be in the 90s. All cricket fans must watch at least one match at the stadium.

With the advent of T20 franchise cricket; now, women and families also form a sizeable audience. A T20 game lasts for about 4 hours and each game typically has a lot of twists and turns. The game is equal parts sports and entertainment. If you wish to heighten the fun factor, make sure you get a ticket at one of those fancy VIP boxes.

I have been lucky to watch matches from the VIP boxes at a number of stadiums. There are various perks of watching matches from the VIP box which aren’t present in other stands at the stadiums. Some of them are listed below.

  • Best of both worlds: The VIP box is mostly air conditioned, so one need not sweat it out in the heat. Additionally, many stadiums have a private area/balcony from where one can soak in the atmosphere as well.
  • Celebrity Spotting: It’s not called ‘VIP box’ for nothing. One can see former cricketers, movie stars, politicians, etc. up close. Some of the VIPs are kind enough to oblige to requests of selfies and autographs as well.
  • Wifi & HD TV: Most VIP boxes have hi-speed WiFi connections available for free and also have a large screen TVs to watch slow motion replays in case you missed out a catch while getting the autograph signed.
  • 10 seconds of fame: A cameraman is always stationed inside the VIP box and the glimpses inside that are shown many a times during the course of the match. There is a very good chance that you may appear on the television during the live broadcast.
  • Treated like Royalty: Often, VIP boxes comes with perks like unlimited food and drinks are served. Finger food and drinks are constantly brought to your seat by butlers so one doesn’t have to get up from their seats and miss even a single shot. Sumptuous buffets are also laid out and one can eat to their heart’s content during the breaks.
  • Bragging Rights: One can narrate the whole experience to friends & family who will be very keen to know about your experience. For many, it will be an once-in-a-lifetime experience which will be forever etched in their memories.

Have you watched a cricket match from one of those fancy stands? Do let us know in the box below.

 

When the playground turns into a battlefield!

Colleges that are located close to each other often establish rivalry with each other over the years. This rivalry typically extends into all playgrounds but sporting rivalry is what people mostly remember. In the cricketing world, there are many college rivalries that exist. These rivalries are one of the vital cogs which maintain the popularity of college cricket. A lot of pride and bragging rights are at stake and college teams take these matches very seriously.

Given how popular cricket is, almost every student plays it and many of them are very good at it. Every college has year-wise teams and it is a matter of prestige to get into the team. It is an arduous process and at times over 150 people try to grab a spot to represent their college. Players train hard and typically put in a couple of hours daily after classes to learn and polish their skills. The best of the lot make the cut. This ensures that the quality of cricket played amongst colleges is not compromised.

There are a lot of tournaments that are played at the campus level. It starts from the intercity and district level and extends to the state and national level. In India, BCCI pays close attention to college cricket. Top players from each zone form a team and compete in the Vizzy Trophy. Nowadays, we even have college tournaments which involve other countries.

At the above mentioned tournaments, college students get to play in stadiums which host international cricket matches. They use state-of-art facilities under the watchful eyes of proper coaching staff. These opportunities help the students to hone their skills and become better cricketers. It also provides an excellent opportunity to showcase their talent to a large audience which might help them land a PSU or corporate job under the sports quota or get into the U-21, U-23 and First Class teams.

With so much at stake, it is not hard to see why college cricket is extremely competitive and the players give it their all to win matches.

 

The difference between a good and a great team.

Cricketers these days are playing more and more matches. With three different formats, games are spread throughout the year. This schedule hardly gives them any time to rest. We see cricketers taking breaks during the gruelling cricket season by skipping less important series and matches (dead rubbers) to keep themselves in top condition for the more important ones. Players are often overworked and are getting injured more frequently than before. Taking such breaks helps the players relax, keep them at the top of their game for a longer period of time and avoid injuries by identifying them well in advance.

Teams typically rely on their top stars to win them matches but if these top players are injured and can’t play, the team’s chances take a massive hit. To minimise this risk, it is very important to have a good bench strength so that the players on the bench can replace the injured players and the team’s chances are not adversely affected. We have seen this with the Australian team in the previous decade when their bench strength was strong and even new players were performing whenever they got an opportunity. For example: Brad Hodge played just six test matches but averaged 56 and scored a double century against South Africa at Perth when he was called upon from the bench as a replacement for an injured player.

Teams also need to have all types of players on their bench i.e., a top order batsman, an all-rounder, a wicketkeeper, a fast bowler and a spinner. This helps the team to have a relevant replacement where the player from the bench can play in his natural position instead of being forced to play outside of their comfort zone. We recently saw this during the Test series between Sri Lanka and India where India’s regular openers, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got injured but their replacements KL Rahul and Chesteswar Pujara were called upon from the bench and both of them played crucial knocks which helped India win a Test series in Sri Lanka after 22 years.

With good bench strength, there will be a healthy competition for spots in the team and players can be rotated as well. Additionally, all players go through form slumps and at times like these, players from the bench can be called upon to replace them. This will ensure that any player does not take their spot in the team for granted and players will strive to perform better so as to hold onto their spot in the team.

As we all know that the playing conditions are vastly different all over the world, we have pitches which suit spinners in the subcontinent and pitches that help the pace bowlers in Australia & South Africa. Teams tweak the playing XI as per the conditions to get the team balance right. The coach and captain are constantly trying to figure out the best combination for different playing surfaces. A strong bench will help the coach & captain pick ‘horses for courses’ and help the team compete in all conditions.

 

 

Players need to avoid these mistakes at all costs.
little things that make cricket interesting  © Red Bull Content Pool

Cricket is a complicated sport with lot of rules and regulations which need to be kept in mind while playing. Some of these rules might slip the mind while playing an intense cricket match. We look at 6 such little things that matter.

1. Grounding the bat

While taking an easy single or double, at times batsmen forget to ground their bat and just plonk it in or just walk into the crease. This is very dangerous as at times the fielder has a shy at the stumps from afar and hits the stumps directly. This sort of laziness has ensured a lot of run outs. It should be avoided and the batsmen shouldn’t hand his wicket to the opposition on a platter.

2. Hitting the stumps while bowling.

Some bowlers like to get very close to the stumps in a bid to bowl a stump to stump line. This sort of discipline is good and makes it difficult for the batsman to score freely but many times bowlers hit the stumps with their bowling hand. As per the latest rules, the ball is adjudged a no ball and the batsman gets a free hit. A wicket taking opportunity is lost for two deliveries and the batsman has the license to go after the bowler on the second delivery. The penalty is extremely harsh and hence the bowlers have to ensure that this isn’t done.

3. Putting the helmet in a safe position

There is a penalty of 5 runs if the ball hits the helmet which is put on the ground, one has to be careful especially during first class/test matches to place the helmets in a safe position where it is very unlikely for the ball to go. Putting it behind the keeper is a safe option. But it shouldn’t be forgotten.

4. Fielders inside the 30 yard circle and in catching positions.

In limited overs game, it is a mandate that a certain number of fielders be inside the 30 yard circle. The number of fielders depends on the match situation. More are required during power play overs and less during non-power play overs. A captain has to ensure the required number of fielders, else it is deemed as a no ball and the fielders have to be alert as well given the captain may forget at times about this. With the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

5. Freakish ways to get out.

Under obstructing the field means a batsman willfully obstructing the opposition fielders by word or action, the umpire can give him out. Also if a batsman changes his path of running so as to hinder the fielder taking aim at the stumps, one can be given out.

Handling the ball is a freak way to get out when the batsman willfully touches the ball with a hand that is not holding their bat. Consent has to be taken from the fielding team before one can touch the ball.

A batsman is timed out if he isn’t ready to face the ball within 3 minutes of the previous batsman getting out. This would be the most unfortunate way to get out as one is out even before coming out to bat. To date 5 batsmen have been timed out in First Class Cricket. In Test Cricket, during the 2007 SA vs India Test match at Newlands, India’s No 4 came out after 6 minutes. This happened as Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t eligible to bat as he was replaced as a fielder for 18 minutes at the end of the South African innings and India lost two wickets quickly. Eventually, Ganguly came out to bat after 6 minutes but the South African Captain Graeme Smith was kind enough not to appeal for a “timed out”

6. No of fielders on leg side

There cannot be more than two fielders, excluding the wicket-keeper, behind the popping crease on the leg side. The ball is deemed a no-ball and with the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

 

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

Major upsets in cricket

Instances where David beat Goliath or a team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

In matches where we do not have a team to support, we typically side with the underdog or the weaker team. When a weaker team defeats a stronger/established team it makes us happy and is also remembered by people for a long time. For example, unless one is a die-hard Australia fan, they don’t remember all the matches which the great Australian team won at the start of this century. But most people vividly remember matches where they were defeated against all odds. This is one type of upset.

An upset is also an unexpected result; matches in which one team is in a commanding position and is certain of a victory but the other team pulls out a victory from the jaws of defeat.

We look at some of the major upsets in World Cricket in the recent past in all three formats of the game.

T20I

Australia vs Pakistan at Gros Islet, World T20 2010 Semi Final

In a high pressure knockout game, Australia were down and almost out. Chasing 192, they were 105-5 in 12.3 overs. In walked Michael Hussey and played what many call the best T20I innings. He scored 60 runs in just 24 deliveries against world class bowlers like Ajmal, Afridi and Mohd Amir. He took a special liking to Ajmal and scored 30 runs against 7 deliveries.

Zimbabwe vs Australia at Cape Town, World T20 2007, League Game.

The invincible Australian team had recently won their 3rd consecutive World Cup and was the firm favorite to win the inaugural World T20 which held at South Africa. Zimbabwe restricted the powerful Australian batting line up to 138. In a nail biter, Zimbabwe got the 12 runs in the final over to win the game. This was easily the upset of the tournament.

ODI

South Africa vs Australia at Johannesburg, 5th ODI, bilateral ODI series.

This game has been voted as the greatest ODI match of all time. This was the first ODI game where the 400 mark was breached. Australia scored 434 and it seemed improbable that it could be chased down, but South Africa did it to snatch a famous victory.

Bangladesh vs India at Port of Spain, 2007 Cricket World Cup

India had a very strong and experienced team, they had prepared for this tournament for a long time under the leadership of Rahul Dravid & Greg Chappell. But they were bowled out for 191 and a young Bangladesh team chased it. This led to India crashing out of the group stages of the 2007 World Cup.

Test Matches

South Africa vs Australia at Cape Town 2011, 1st Test Match

After the 1st innings was completed in this game, Australia bowled South Africa out for 96 and took a 188 run lead. It was Australia’s game to lose and that they did in spectacular fashion! They got bowled out in the second innings for 47. (They were 9 down for just 21 runs and were on course to post the lowest ever score in test history but a last wicket partnership ‘saved’ them). 23 wickets fell on one day and South Africa managed to chase the target of 236 easily with 8 wickets in hand.

India vs Australia at Kolkata 2001, 2nd Test Match

The Australian team was on a roll and had won the first test match in Mumbai within 3 days. It was also their 16th consecutive win (which is a record that still stands). Australia started as firm favorites for the second test as well. The Indian bowling attack was inexperienced and the batsmen were finding it tough to counter the Australian bowlers. The first two days of the match were along expected lines with Australia posting a formidable 445 and India surrendering meekly for 171 and were asked to follow on. India had promoted the in-form VVS Laxman to number 3 and finished teh third day on 254/4. Day 4 and 5 completely belonged to India. India did not lose a single wicket on Day 4 with VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid hitting the Australian bowlers all over the park and on Day 5, India managed to get 10 Australian wickets in under 70 overs to seal a famous win. Many people call this test as ‘The Greatest Test of All Time’. This test had the stronger team losing as well as the weaker team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Makes it a perfect upset.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

Breeding ground for future cricketers.

The future of Indian cricket © Ayan Sil

Domestic season in India is a hectic one and there are a lot of tournaments which take place in a period of 6 months. While the zonal tournaments have the best domestic players on show, it is the Ranji Trophy which is highly competitive and intense.

There are 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy and they are divided into 3 groups of 9 with each team playing a minimum of 8 matches. This year, the BCCI has decided to provide a gap between the league stages and knockout stages. From October 1st to December 4th, each team will play eight games of 4 days each. The knockout stage will start on February 3rd and ends on February 28th, 2016. Overall, 115 games will be played during this period.

All this means that players have to acclimatize to a very hectic schedule along with constant travel and new conditions all over India. This tournament is specially important for young players as they need to cope with challenges and perform against the best domestic players in India. This toughens them for the grind of international cricket by giving them ample number of matches to prove themselves.

Most of these youngsters come from different age group teams (U-19, U-21 and U-23) and the Ranji Trophy acts as a stepping stone towards international cricket. The Ranji Trophy gives them the opportunity to interact with senior players from their team as well as opposition teams. They not only learn how to cope with different situations but also learn new tricks or tactics.

There are many rivalries in the Ranji Trophy such as Mumbai vs Delhi, Karnataka vs Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad vs Andhra Pradesh. For Ranji teams, winning against their arch rivals is very important and they give it all in these matches. Verbal duels between the teams are also very common. When youngsters play in these matches, it prepares them well for international cricket.

Selectors monitor the performances of young players since some of these will go on to represent the nation. Doing well in a season of the Ranji Trophy catches their eye and opens the gate for zonal matches too. Consistently performing well in the Ranji Trophy (2-3 seasons) will make it tough for the selectors to not pick a youngster in the A team, which eventually will pave the way for them to make it to the Indian national cricket team. Recently, K.L Rahul made his way into the national team on the back of his exceptional Ranji Trophy performances.

The Ranji Trophy provides youngsters an invaluable platform to be fast tracked into the national team. Performance at the Ranji level can be the difference between getting a national cap and being just a member of the state team.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here