October 11, 2008

Low blows all around

Aakash Chopra
Stuart Clark traps Aakash Chopra lbw, Board President's XI v Australians, Hyderabad, 3rd day, October 4, 2008
 © AFP
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Hi guys

I've just come back from a literary festival in Kovalam, Kerala. I read out a few pages from my book, and that was followed by a Q&A session on sports writing, which included Boria Majumdar and Suresh Menon as the other two panelists. It was an altogether different kind of experience. Being surrounded by all the great authors, writers, poets, etc. could be quite intimidating, and I must admit that it was so for me to begin with. But I'm glad that I not only managed to hold my own but also made a few friends.

It was refreshing to be away from the game for a couple of days, especially considering the way the match against the Australians panned out in the end. I got a start in the first innings, but couldn't capitalise. The good thing was that I batted confidently, and even though this was the first time in nearly four years that I was playing against an international attack, after initial butterflies I felt at ease. Actually I'd started enjoying my batting till that particular ball from Mitchell Johnson kept just a tad low.

Usually, I'm my biggest critic, and would always find a fault in myself whenever I get out, but in the last two seasons I've started looking at things objectively. Well, the ball wasn't a half-tracker but since Johnson's previous deliveries were regularly hitting the splice of the bat, I decided to get rooted to the crease instead of lunging forward. Going forward is a safe bet on Indian tracks, but not when the guy at the other end is bowling consistently at around 90 mph.

That particular ball was slightly short of a good length but kept a little low. The funny thing about such balls that keep low is that they skid and reach the batsman a fraction quicker and at that pace, a delay of just a fraction is all you need for your demise. The ball might have missed the off stump, but the way it looked from a distance I knew that I was doomed.

During the Australian innings, I teased Punter about the lack of bounce in the track. He'd tried to pull one ball, which was just short of a length and the ball bounced a few times before reaching the wicketkeeper. I told him sarcastically that this track wasn't like the tracks in Australia where you could trust the bounce. He laughed!

The IPL has helped bridge a few differences. Both Punter and I were in the Kolkata Knight Riders, and now share a more cordial relationship. Please don't get me wrong, we wouldn't give each other an inch on the field but off it, it's very light-hearted.

Little did I know that soon it would be Punter's turn to return the favour. Let me brief you a bit on the field placements and the tactics used by the Aussies in the second innings. The bounce was on the lower side so their bowlers bowled within the stumps with a heavy on-side field. Playing a bouncer on a track with low or uncertain bounce is a little difficult as you can't duck under the ball, trusting the bounce, and even playing any kind of shot isn't that easy either.

They had a leg slip for me because I like to go back and across on the balls pitched short to get in line with the ball and play it fine. The idea is to get on top of the bounce and just nudge it round the corner for a single or more. Stuart Clark was mixing the bouncers and full-pitched deliveries nicely, and was using his height to good effect. One such bouncer pitched halfway, but bounced only a few inches. I went back and across as usual, but instead of feeling it near my ribcage, I felt it hitting my shoe!

This was a first for me. Not that I'd never been hit on the shoe while batting, but I really can't remember being hit on the shoe off a bouncer. I could only manage a smile when the dreaded finger went up, but Punter was quick to remind me of what I'd said when he was batting… a typical Aussie track, mate! This was my turn to laugh, but laughing doesn't come naturally to me while taking the long walk back to the pavilion after getting out.

I wanted to blame myself for getting out, but however hard I tried I couldn't. My biggest match ever since I was dropped from the Indian team was over. I failed to make an impression, but there's little I could've done differently.

It was interesting to read the match report in some national newspaper the next day. It stated that I didn't do myself any favours by getting out for 6. That is true, I must admit. I, honestly, didn't do myself any favours by getting out for 6, but isn't that rather obvious? Scoring 6 in an important game against the touring side would never help my cause, all right. But astoundingly, the fact that the ball didn't bounce at all seemed to have been surprisingly neglected.

But let me assure you that this isn't the first time that such reporting has surprised a cricketer, and it probably isn't going to be the last time either.

Ta ta...

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Somo Banerjee on (October 16, 2008, 18:32 GMT)

Hi Aakash I have been reading your columns since last year, and I have found them immaculately detailed and dripping with the technicalities involved in playing cricket. I cannot comment on your playing career and whether or not you get to play for team India again, but one thing I am pretty sure of - you have a great career ahead as a coach/batting expert and you should start working towards that. I have read very few articles which can capture and explain the mechanics of batting as yours do.

Good luck

Posted by Milind Dovhal on (October 15, 2008, 20:08 GMT)

Akash.. I've been following Indian cricket for the past decade or so and I've seen lots of openers come and go.

What you did in Australia was commendable.. u provided the base that people like Sehwag could feast upon and take things forward.. sadly, i feel that u just took way too many deliveries for a 30 or a 40...take for instance Justin Langer.. he is in a similar mould.. he 'grafts' his runs and is not really a known aggressor (like Hayden for instance)...but the still gets the boundaries ticking ...i guess with people like Gambhir and Jaffer around the corner you would need to start scoring at a faster rate .. i mean, thats what cricket is all about now (sadly).

but i do enjoy reading your blogs...

and thank u for your wonderful show in Australia..u were pivotal in that series (no doubt).

Posted by S.R. SHANKAR on (October 15, 2008, 18:11 GMT)

dEAR aKASH Me and my sons watched you in Neo Sports. We were extremely impressed with your diction and clarity of thoughts. But to be candid we were less impressed with your cricket. But nevertheless you have stuff lest you can't score so many runs in domestic. Our humble suggestion for you change your style to aggressive one;After all you have nothing more to prove and you may get one last chance yet again Love to interact more with you as a journalist/ player

Posted by sai on (October 14, 2008, 14:11 GMT)

Hello Aakash Why are you not playing in the challengers trophy due! I thought you are one of the strong contender anytime.

Posted by Anil on (October 14, 2008, 14:00 GMT)

hi pl get fired up. play few good domestic matches. we can play in tests against England. in the first tests India was clearly missing a close in fielder. may be 3-4 catches missed. if you perform good opportunity to replace gauthy, your mate or even saorav

Posted by Proud Leo on (October 13, 2008, 16:22 GMT)

Akash, Don't 4get all the other 21 players played on the same pitch. Earning back the Indian cap is not easy and instead of finding excuses you must do well to analyse what went wrong.

Don't 4get there are already players like M Vijay, C Pujara and the eternal comeback man W Jaffer waiting in the wings.

So the fact of the matter is you got a chance and blew it away. SIMPLE.

Posted by Goutham Chakravarthi LS on (October 13, 2008, 9:20 GMT)

And many congratulations on the book. Hopefully you'll reveal more of the inside-the-dressing-room-stories, more on the accomodation and transport mishandlings by the DDCA and so on. I have added it to the my list of 'books to read'.

Posted by Goutham Chakravarthi LS on (October 13, 2008, 5:01 GMT)

You didn't have a good time of if in the 2 most important games for you insofar this season - the Irani Trophy and the BP XI match against the Australians. Hopefully, there are better times for you ahead in the season.

Posted by anne mcgrory on (October 12, 2008, 12:04 GMT)

Dear Sir, Like Andy & Raghu, I'm a fan & have been following your written work since you posted from Rochdale. So I'd like to treat myself to your book, & for that I need the publisher, ISBN number & publication date please. And as for the comment about Jaffer & Gambir, I really dont think either of them have covered themselves with glory inthe test arena. And it Gambir's case he "can't field for toffee". All the best for the future & good-luck in captaining Dehli Anne

Posted by Rahul on (October 12, 2008, 6:17 GMT)

Hi Aakash, Hang in there buddy. There are lots of vacancies that are going to be open in the indian middle order. Unfortunately you are a opener and we have settled combination in veeru and gautam but just keep scoring the runs. Hopefully kris shrikant and his team will take notice. Hope to see you real soon in indian whites. Our team could do well with thinking cricketers like you. Also would like to have more articles from you about that tour down under in 03-04 and that incredible catch you took close in of a no ball if i m not wrong. All the best.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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