July 26, 2011

Mike Holmans

A thank you letter

Mike Holmans
Praveen Kumar swung the new ball in overcast conditions, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 21, 2011
Praveen Kumar will run through brick walls for his captain  © AFP
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Dear Mr Strauss and Mr Dhoni,

Thank you for my birthday present of an excellent Test match at Lord's. It was very kind of you to give me such a lavish gift, which I was able to share with my good friend Bharat, a gentleman originally from Hyderabad who now runs a research lab in Pennsylvania and has said that he will be in the Warner Stand for England-India Tests at Lord's until either one of us is too decrepit to manage it. Even though he didn't care for the result as much as I did, he too says that it was a very enjoyable match.

I particularly appreciated your arranging that two of my favourite batsmen should score centuries.

The one by Kevin Pietersen was very unexpected. Not so much that he got one – I've seen him get several before – but the way he got it was most unusual. I hadn't known that he had it in him to play so carefully for so long. He often goes slowly for the first three-quarters of an hour or so, during which time he usually gets the chance to have a look at most of the main bowlers before deciding how he is going to approach the serious business of destroying them, but I've never before seen him play himself in until he reaches 130.

Of course the main reason I like watching him is his power to devastate bowling attacks, and I don't really want to see him block, leave, prod and nudge for hours on end; however, it is very gratifying to know that he can do it when that is what the situation and the quality of the bowling demand. We all know he wants to be the world's No. 1 batsman, and with this innings he has taken a giant step towards realising his ambition one day.

And then there was Rahul Dravid's hundred. He has always been my favourite among the phalanx of marvellous batsmen India have had these last 15 years or so, and this was a classic example of why. His batting is wonderfully serene and effortlessly economical. Without any fuss, he calmly treats every ball with appropriate respect, good ones defended or left, bad ones gently dismissed towards the boundary. You hardly ever see him hurried into a shot, even by the fastest bowlers, and he plays late enough to incur library fines. How reassuring it must be for his teammates when they are under pressure to see him contentedly grazing runs out there in the middle.

You also gave me a new hero to watch out for in the future.

Praveen Kumar looks like the kind of cricketer Nasser Hussain once described as being prepared to run through brick walls for his captain, and thus a captain's dream. When one of your main bowlers breaks down mid-match, the others have to shoulder more of the burden to make up for it. In England's first innings, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma with their combined 130 Tests conspicuously failed to take up any of the slack whereas Praveen the Lionheart, a young man in only his fourth match, performed titanically.

Pietersen was the only one of England's strong middle order who succeeded in preventing him from getting them out, and even KP did not find him easy to cope with. He may not be quick and he may be pretty much cannon fodder if the ball won't swing for him, but when it does move around, his lack of pace is irrelevant.The England backroom staff are going to have to do some very minute examination of the videos to see if there is any reasonable way of detecting which way a given delivery is likely to swing, but I doubt they will come up with anything helpful. Ian Bell seems in particular need of assistance: even though he managed to get 45 runs, he was completely at sea when Praveen was bowling to him.

And Praveen also batted appropriately in both innings. He is obviously not very good, so chancing his arm with a few lusty blows to try and boot the total over the crossbar of the follow-on target was a perfectly reasonable approach in the first innings. Second time around, he did his best to hang around for Suresh Raina by dead-batting deliveries. It didn't work for very long, but at least he was doing what the team wanted him to do, unlike Harbhajan's ridiculous skyer. (Remembering the little contretemps Matt Prior's bat had with a dressing room window earlier this season, I was rather expecting to hear that Mr Dhoni had had to go down and apologise to the MCC members who were hurt when they had a spin bowler dropped on them from the balcony after he returned to the dressing room.)

Gentlemen, I could go on for a lot longer about the various delightful nuggets I found in my present but you no doubt have practice to supervise and fitness reports to digest before you pick your teams for Trent Bridge so I'll just leave it at those three highlights.

Thanks again,

Michael

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Posted by E S Holmans on (August 2, 2011, 12:59 GMT)

I appreciate it too because it let me get him something cheap and late for his birthday.

And my! Isn't that Alestair Cook pretty?

Posted by Manish on (July 31, 2011, 10:01 GMT)

Hey it was not that great a match, &even if India had done better and won this one..i would not see this as that great a match, but your sincere appreciation and passion for cricket and ability to discern quality cricketers is very evident..!

England was the better team by a mile and deserved to win..!

Posted by goodcricket on (July 30, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

India lead by 67 on day 2 of 2nd test.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (July 29, 2011, 9:40 GMT)

Well, no Zaheer again. let's see how well the indians do this time, I am sure batting wise India will be strong even without Gambhir, it is bowling that I am more interested in. After all, a number one team should have one great bowler and three good ones, right?

Posted by cricketlover on (July 29, 2011, 9:23 GMT)

guys, this fazlanka does not represent all of lanka. He is just a waste of space, spare him and let's discuss CRICKET. I really don't understand why we bash ourselves up everytime the team does not do well. Give them some time, I am sure they will do well. Also pertinent to note is that this English side is not a better side than India only the local media hypes them up like this. We just need to play some attacking cricket and then you will see their true colours.

Posted by Amit on (July 28, 2011, 13:22 GMT)

@Fazlanka - dont forget that its the BCCI which has organized a number of meaningless matches and series with SL because of which the SL board is solvent. Your players - Murali, Sanga, Mahela - all are admired in India. So I wonder why all the hatred towards India?! You say that the Indian players are arrogant, well we are the world champs, so we can be proud. If pride is mistaken as arrogance, its not our problem. Arjuna Ranatunga was quite similarly arrogant then! As far as performances are concerned, I hate to rub it in but your team has not won even one test match in India, whereas we have done better in SL than what you guys have done in India. Perhaps that is the reason why you feel bitter towards India? If I were a Sri Lankan, I'd be more upset with what happened in Pakistan (where almost all your team got wiped out) than what India is doing and how their team is performing. A lot has been said to you on this forum and most of it has merit. Get your house in order mate. Cheers!

Posted by Rishabh on (July 28, 2011, 13:10 GMT)

@fazlanka everyone knows who is arrogant mate.first you watch your side having players like malinga who retired from test cricket just to play in ipl and player like randiv who dont have sportsmanship then dare to talk about india.................india will surely bounce back in this series....and the result will be in front of you all........just wait nd watch...........

Posted by psychicsaint on (July 28, 2011, 12:00 GMT)

@fazlanka, the rest of the world hates team india because we are the reigning world champions and all of you lost miserably to us.. wonder what your lankan pussycats achieved in england for you to talk so much about india.. i can only laugh when i read some of the comments here.. we have seen such comments during the world cup and most of the guys who bashed india vanished after the final.. i predict the same to happen at the end of this series... we will have the last laugh dudes.,

Posted by Sarat Menon on (July 28, 2011, 10:15 GMT)

A very interesting article and even more interesting array of comments.Many readers seem to forget that this is a sport and one is meant to enjoy it.It is alright to support a team but one does not have to go to extreme ends while celeberating a victory or mourn in defeat.England were the better team over the 5 days and that is a bare fact.

Having said that,I feel that the BCCI has to take the rap for the under par performance of the Indian team.It's obsession with money is taking Indian cricket to the doldrums.I would advise every Indian who has the intersts of Indian cricket at heart and boycott watching IPL matches totally as this circus is athe root of most of the troubles.Sehwag's injurySachin,Zaheer,Dhoni and Gambhir skipping the W.I.series and coming to the series seriously under prepared can all be attributed to the IPL virus.Many columnists will not harp on this issue as they too make a good living out of IPL.I say,shun IPL and Indian cricket will find its feet again.

Posted by Mandeep on (July 28, 2011, 10:14 GMT)

Totally agree @Shaji Wahab's comment in reply to fazlanka.I am an Indian and not a big fan of the BCCI either,I think too much money has gone into their heads.But to say the Indian Players are arrogant is a bit too harsh.The talk about Indian players playing only for money isn't true either,those living in India know very well,no matter how passionate/honest/loyal one is to the game,if you want to make it big, you gotta be the part of the system. BCCI is the system,they have money,they have money makers;As a player you do what the system wants you to do,or your only ambition to play cricket for India will also go down the drain. So,the Indian players are living their dream,being a part of the system and not to mention living it big being one of the top teams in the world. About the SL team,well just take the example of Malinga declaring retirement to play in the IPL, Randiv bowling a leg side wide to deny Sehwag a hundred, on the advise of Dilshan. Every on knows where arrogance is !!

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