Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Favorite Players - Grant Flower

Grant Flower - Zimbabwe

Grant Flower played in what was probably the golden era of Zimbabwean cricket, from the early 1990's to early 2000's. Players such as Alistair Campbell, Guy Whittal, Eddo Brandes, Heath Streak and his own enigmatic elder brother Andy Flower (now the director of the English Cricket Team) made Zimbabwe a team which could take on the strongest teams of that era head on.

Grant Flower, Zimbabwe
Grant Flower
Image courtesy

Grant was an attractive stroke maker though he could also buckle down and hold an end up for long periods of time. He made his test debut against India in 1992 and made an impressive 82 in his debut innings. He made a classy 201* in a match in which Andy compiled a 156 of his own as Zimbabwe scored a mammoth 544/4 declared against Pakistan in 1994/1995 at Harare. Zimbabwe went on to win the match by an innings and 64 runs. He was also Man of the Match against India when Zimbabwe beat the Indians in a thriller by 3 runs in the 1999 World Cup. How well I remember that match, it was nothing short of a nightmare!!

Besides being a competent batsman, Grant was also a handy bowler. His slow left arm spin got him over a hundred wickets in ODI cricket making him the country's most successful bowler, only after Heath Streak. He was also a brilliant fielder who prowled in and around the gully and point positions.

Grant fell out with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union over the rebel players issue and formally announced his retirement in 2004 though he was shockingly recalled later in 2010 during a 3 match series against South Africa. It appeared at that point in time that he would play the 2011 ICC World Cup in Sub Continent though that was not to be.

He is the batting coach of the current Zimbabwe team. So he is still connected with cricket and is still doing his best for the betterment of Zimbabwe Cricket.

PS - To Read Other Posts From The Segment My Favorite Players, Click On The Following Link - My Favorite Players

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Life and Times of Michael Clarke - In his Own Words!!

I am Michael Clarke. I believe that this is lowest point of my cricketing career; this is even worst then being dropped from the national team which I once painfully endured. I am writing this to ease my twinge, to clear my mind, to brace myself for the tough days that lie ahead of me as the captain of the Australian team.

Most of you might not know but I was a scholarship holder at the prestigious Australian Cricket Academy when I was 18. Yes, just 18. As a kid I watched the Waughs and the Taylors, the Warnes and the Mc Graths play for the Australian team; rip in to attacks, overpower them, intimidate them and pound them to dust. I wanted to be like them, they were my heroes. With dreams in my eyes and my eyes on a dream to bag the baggy green, I worked hard and kept improving. I kept reminding myself that I was good enough to represent Australia at the highest level.

I was finally selected in the national side and made my debut in the most arduous circumstances that any kid could dream off. It was in India, the hot and sultry Bangalore to be precise. I hit a sublime 151 and all was going according to plan for me. We managed to finally breach what the great Steve Waugh had proclaimed as being ‘The Final Frontier’. We won the series 2-1 and I feel so very nostalgic remembering those days. The fact that I had made significant contributions towards making our collective dreams a possibility makes my memories all the more sweet. After making a century on debut, I managed to crack a century on my debut test in Australia as well. A year later I would win the Allan Border Medal and I was well on my way to stardom now.

What a team we had then!! Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, our current coach Lehmann, Hussey, Gilchrist, Warne, Gillespie, Mc Grath!!! I was just a kid in that team, probably a rising star in a team of full blown galaxy of superstars! This team won matches for fun. Most of the times, all we had to do to win was just turn up at the ground! We could play to 50% of our potential and still win easily. The opposition did not matter, the umpires did not matter, the pitch, and the weather were not even an issue for us – we could win against any team anywhere in the world on most given days. These players were at the peak of their powers and in their pomp would scare the opposition even before they entered the playing field.

Then, as age caught up, these legends started to call it a day. One by one, they began to walk in to the sunset. In the beginning, we had alternatives. But, then you can’t find suitable replacements for the above mentioned greats in a jiffy.

I was made the captain of the team and I had, now, only the experience of Ponting and Hussey to fall back on. They made my job so much easy. I personally had a romantic start to my captaincy stint. In 2012, I became the only man to score 4 double centuries which also included a triple ton! I could seem to do no wrong. Then Ponting announced his retirement in December 2012. Hussey announced it a month later in January 2013. The last of recognized stars of the previous decade had just faded away.

I was now the superstar in this Aussie team, a veteran. I was no longer the carefree, wide eyed kid. I had powers, responsibilities. I decided to take them on manly. We toured India again, almost 9 years after my famous debut but this time there were none of those old wily hands upon whom we could fall back on. We lost 0-4. The tour was marred by the homework-gate as some players were handed punishment for not filing the team survey. Was I asking too much of my players if I wanted their assessment of what we were doing wrong and how we could correct them? I could not tolerate the indifference shown by some players including the vice captain of the team. Watson threatened to quit test cricket and flew back to Australia in a huff.

Everything was falling apart now. The rosy picture had eventually begun to make way for a dark and long gloomy night.

Warner punched Joe Root after a group match against England during the Champions Trophy, another transgression from him and our Ashes campaign was well and truly in disorder. We could not even make it to the finals of the Champions Trophy and a tough Ashes battle loomed ahead. Mickey Arthur was sacked finally after a string of poor performances under him; I stepped down from the post of a selector to concentrate on my batting.

We have already lost the first Ashes test, albeit narrowly and are staring down the barrel in the second one. I personally still feel we can win this game, in my heart. My head, though, is whirring as I try to come to terms with the recent performances of the current Australian Test Cricket Team.

This is all that I have time to write today. But I will be back again to share with you my innermost thoughts, my feelings. I must now get back to the practice session and brace myself for the tough couple of days that lie ahead.