And Now the End is Near...

As the year draws to a close, like the final overs of a Test match day ticking over as the shadows lengthen, it only remains for me to say thanks for visiting.

Memories of 2011? Steyn v Tendulkar at Cape Town, touched upon here.

Lord's, Saturday, post-lunch, described here.

Sunday afternoon at Lord's. Prior.

Dravid everywhere, but especially Trent Bridge, which prompted this.

Oh, and Tim Bresnan - as unpretentiously excellent a cricketer as England have had in years - taking his team's score past 700 for the first time since 1930 with a straight six into the Edgbaston crowd.

See you in 2012.


Reverting to Type

After a couple of weeks with the total number of posts here standing at 666, I felt I ought to check back in.

Nothing evil seems to have happened. Apart from another lame Indian failure overseas.

India should be better than this. They have at least two - well, three actually - of the greatest batsmen in history, plus another who's eaten better Australian attacks than this for breakfast in the past. Then there's Dhoni: brazen, ingenious, competitive, talismanic. And you can add Zaheer, hugely skilled and possibly even fit, Ishant, persistently under-achieving but with much more to give, and two discoveries, Ashwin, a deliciously artful spinner who can bat, and Umesh Yadav, the latest in a long line of Indian seam hopes, and one who looks as though he might stick around.

It's hard to pin down a reason, but the really disappointing thing about India's recent serial defeats in England and Australia is the way they've carried uneasy echoes of the times when Indian sides were pushovers abroad. God knows, Australia have their problems, but, as they've shown in various locations these past few months, they compete until they drop.

They have their fair share of quality, even if, in some cases, it is ageing, and they have thrilling seam bowling promise. What they also have - and Peter Siddle, with bat and ball, embodies this - is an eyeballs-out streak of bloody-minded competitiveness which is a by- product of their entire cultural DNA. Even when they're bad, they're still pretty good (apart from when they're playing England).

Indian cricketers, raised in a gentler environment, where the pitches and bowling tend to be slower, don't quite have this. They've got nearer to it in recent years, to be sure, but old habits die hard. International cricket is a big, unforgiving place. You can't always be laying waste to the West Indies in your heartland with two spinners in the side. Sometimes you have to go to Lord's or The Oval or the MCG or the SCG and stand toe to toe.

This Australian side has many weaknesses. This Indian side has many strengths.

India should be better than this.


Shifting Sands

For Australia, little is easy at the moment. The sands have long since closed over the era of the greats, and the side which drew another unsatisfactory two-Test 'series' with New Zealand had a strange, unbalanced look to it.

Ballast, experience and expertise (theoretically, at least) was provided by Clarke, by Ponting, by Haddin and by Hussey, but, in at least one case they're not what they were, and the side was completed by a range of inexperienced players who in some cases don't belong where they are and in others don't look as though they believe that they belong where they are.

On the face of it things don't look too bad, but this impression may be illusory. As was widely repeated yesterday, Australia have become very adept at losing matches over the past few years, and, of their recent opponents, Sri Lanka continue to struggle in the shadow of Murali's retirement, while South Africa had them 21 for 9.

If the superb Pattinson continues to look as impressive against India as he has against New Zealand, and Cummins returns, they will have an attack capable of causing problems. Consistent, big runs may not be needed and Ponting may get some more breathing space. What seems more likely, though, is that because the series is twice as long and India's batting line-up is stronger than New Zealand's (and is backed by superior spin bowling), something extra will be needed, like big runs from number four.

Australia's decline, while inevitable, has required both collective and individual psychological adjustment. For players like Pattinson and Cummins, who grew up in a time when their national side was the best on the planet, it has been necessary for them to come to terms with the way the world has changed, relish the pressure placed on their young shoulders and respond to it. They have.

For Ponting it is a little different. For all the contrary evidence provided this year by Dravid, almost two years his senior, it is probable that the great years won't return. But he will not want to reprise the ignominy of his departure from the Bellerive arena he knows so well.

He may have to be happy with a big score somewhere, and a dignified exit on his own terms.

He'll need the score, though.

Doing the Impossible

As with most things that go on in the mad, hectic world that is twenty-first century international cricket, I simply didn't have the time to comment on Virender Sehwag's 219 at Indore last Thursday. A pre-Christmas ramble round the pubs of St.Albans and some of London's most scenic open spaces saw to that.

I didn't, of course, fail to notice.

I can't do a better job of paying tribute to Viru than The Old Batsman did here, but, as usual with Sehwag, a few things - a few simple things - stood out.

When interviewed afterwards, his words were unassuming, trite even. As with his strokes, little energy is wasted on thought or analysis, and, like any genius, Viru can no more explain what he does than teach someone else to do it. To him, the things he does aren't extraordinary because he can do them.

Sometimes they may even seem as simple to him as they appear. Us mortals will never know, but we do know that many of the things he does are, for most people, impossible. They can never truly be easy.

If they were, everyone would be doing them.

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