Prem Panicker

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Prem has been writing about cricket since 1996 -- and sometimes wishes he hadn't.

Blog Posts by Prem Panicker

  • Death to all bowlers

    Do you enjoy a real contest between bat and ball on a sporting wicket? Really?

    RCB's Mayank Agarwal tries out an expansive shot

    the sports home page of the print edition of the Times of India of April 14, there was a sponsored (by Orient Fans; possible tagline: Spreading hot air for decades) column by Sunil Gavaskar.

    It was horribly butchered by some desk jockey, with sentences arbitrarily chopped and trains of thought unilaterally derailed, but some content survived the butchery. And in those mangled grafs I found this (emphasis mine):

    Pune’s impressive run was halted by the grassy pitch at Mohali. Having seen mayhem with the bat in just the previous match, cricket lovers would have realized as soon as they saw the Mohali pitch that the ball was going to do the talking, and that meant a low-scoring game. It served the purpose and Punjab got onto the points table, but it will be interesting to see if they keep a similar pitch against teams that have a better pace attack than Pune.

    The Twenty20 format is popular because the spectators get to see plenty of big hitting, bowler bashing, and run chasing. But on
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  • Life Lived Pinsize

    Sadanand Vishwanath and the curse of talent

    "Nothing prepares you for when fame suddenly goes away", says Sadanand Vishwanath

    was playing Pakistan — and back in the 1980s where this story is set, there was only one way such stories ended: in heartbreak for the Indian fan.

    For once, India seemed to have the upper hand — batting first, Pakistan was losing wickets without much to show for it. And yet, hope was a bridge too far because out in the middle, wearing his signature combative attitude  and wielding a bat that was equal parts rapier and bludgeon, was the imposing Javed Miandad.

    Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was on — and spin was the one form of bowling that held no terrors for a batsman who was a master of angles and a blur between wickets. The flighted, looping delivery on off was met by the characteristic two-step that took Miandad closer to the pitch, all twinkle toes and manipulative wrists. Only, this ball had been held back just that fraction; it landed ahead of the bat, it bit, it turned fractionally…

    Cue magic.

    The baby-faced wicket-keeper let the ball settle in his right glove even as his right Read More »from Life Lived Pinsize
  • Rahul Dravid and the uneaten ice-cream

    All my life, I've had things done for me. Now, I'm looking forward to having the time to do things for others - Rahul Dravid

    Ever since Rahul Dravid announced his exit from cricket in the quiet, unfussy way that characterized his performance on it, public debate has swirled around the question of retirement.

    Who should, who shouldn't? To go when glory is ablaze, or to fade almost imperceptibly into one's personal twilight? And who decides when - the sportsman himself, or the paying public who no longer finds the player delivering 'value' for money on whatever idiosyncratic scale they chose to use?

    "I agree - there is a broad division between those who say the player should decide, and those who say the public decides," says Rahul Dravid, speaking on phone from Jaipur after a morning training session with his Rajasthan Royals mates. "The thing is, we use those two broad categories to fit all kinds - but my personal view is that there are as many different ways to look at this as there are sportsmen. Ian Chappell answered this question by saying, 'I just knew'. Like, one day the penny just dropped and that was

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  • Obfuscating matters, the BCCI way

    Sehwag's axing, and the events surrounding it, once again reveal BCCI's feudal core.

    Virender Sehwag The problem with obfuscating — lying, if you prefer to use blunt, direct words — is that no one will believe you even if/when you tell the truth.

    You would think the BCCI, which has 'Obfuscate' embedded as its motto on the family crest, would have learnt this lesson by now. But apparently not, if the contretemps with ref Virender Sehwag is any indication.

    The BCCI says Sehwag has been rested on the advice of the team physio. Sehwag says he had asked the physio for rest. Trouble is, the BCCI also said, through one of its many voices, that the player is being rested to recover from injury. And that doesn't jell with Sehwag's own essay in sarcasm at a recent press conference — when asked to comment on MS Dhoni's remarks that the seniors were slow on the field of play, Sehwag recalled his diving catch as an example of how fit and quick he personally was — and in his final outing before the selectors picked the team for the Asia Cup, he showed no sign of any injury — unless he had tripped

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  • Shane Warne: Over And Out [Part II]

    Click here for Part I


    Ball Four:



    What strikes you, as you watch this master class in leg spin, is how limited Warne's range really was (and that is allowing for the fact that this is a basic lesson, and Warne is not about to reveal all his secrets).


    There is a leg break (with variations including the one with overspin, and the one with sidespin), a googly, a top spinner, a flipper, and a slider, which Warne rechristened the zooter.


    After his shoulder injury and corrective surgery in the late 90s, though, Warne dropped the flipper almost entirely from his repertoire; and his googly, always easy to pick when compared with say an Abdul Qadir or a Mushtaq Ahmed, was mostly wheeled out against relative novices or when nothing else was working.


    So Warne's arsenal, in fact, was a leg break, a top spinner, and a slider – very little, you'd think, to base a career on that resulted in 708 Test wickets and 293 one day wickets, besides a boatload of victims at the first class level.


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  • Shane Warne: Over And Out [Part I]

    Today, a legend bows out of the game for all time. All-time great bowler, larger than life character and, in an age that tends to produce cricketers from a singular mould, one of the game's pitifully few rock stars. An attempt to capture the key ingredients of the Warne mystique:


    Ball One:



    When his captain waves him over to the bowling crease, he bustles up, brisk to the point of impatience. He snatches the ball with one hand; with the other he hands his trademark floppy hat off to the umpire often without even looking at that official. His manner speaks louder than words – and what it says is, 'About time you gave me the damn ball – what took you so long? Now get out of my way and let me go to work!'


    He grabs the ball and almost in the same motion, he spins it, whirring, from left hand to right, and then again, and again, the action a bit more emphatic, urgent, with each iteration.


    He seems abstracted, almost uninvolved, as his captain discusses his field with him – almost

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  • To be seven years old again!

    Meet Charvi.

    She is the seven year old daughter of my colleague, Priya. And she stole my heart as the April 2 World Cup final unfolded at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

    I remember the exact moment. It was the 10th over; Nuwan Kulasekhara straightened the second ball of the over onto the middle stump line. Virat Kohli, who at that point had gone 10 balls without opening his account, flowed into the shot, and with perfect timing and unsuspected power, flicked hard to beat the fine leg fielder to the fence.

    There were close to 20 of us in the Yahoo newsroom in Bangalore at the time, watching on the two screens in the edit bay. And as the fielder retrieved the ball and threw it back, all was silent.

    It was a stark contrast to the earlier mood. We had gathered in the newsroom a good hour before the game; as Zaheer marked his run up, the first of many bottles of beer was being opened; as the game progressed and India dominated with the ball and in the field, the beer was supplemented by

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  • World Cup final: India versus Sri Lanka in Mumbai

    India innings: 41-50:

    It was almost anti-climactic -- despite Gautam Gambhir's rush of blood charge that saw him bowled three short of what would have been the most memorable century of his career.

    Heading into the straight needing to chase down a run a ball, with MS Dhoni stroking in form, Yuvraj replacing Gautam, and Raina still to come, it was India's to lose. And this India is not losing too many, not if it can help it.

    Mathematical, it proved. So dominant was India that Murali backed off from bowling in the PPs. And India broke the game open against Malinga, the most feared of the opposition bowlers. Needing 16 off 18 heading into the 48th over, Dhoni smashed the Lankan quick twice to the square leg ropes to turn the chase into a fait accompli, India ending that over with just 5 needed off 12. Fittingly, Dhoni ended it with a humongous hit over the long on ropes, to seal a six wicket win.

    Think of that one more time -- just two wickets went down after Sachin and Sehwag, and at the

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  • Live: India versus Pakistan in Mohali

    Pakistan innings: Overs 41-50:

    Zaheer Khan set things up with a tight 41st over that produced just four despite all the huffing and puffing; Harbhajan nailed it in the next, when he tossed up a ball way too much; it ended up as a full toss and Afridi, overdosing on adrenalin, heaved where he could have guided, put it up in the air, and down the throat of Sehwag at cover. The ask had topped ten, and the tail had been exposed at one end -- and that put India firmly in the box seat.

    From then on, it was almost mathematical: shut them down and take them out. Nehra -- and while on that, it will be a long time before anyone, present company included, questions any decision no matter how bizarre that Dhoni makes -- produced an inswinging yorker onto Umar Gul's front pad to nail him in front of the stump.

    Misbah, who had spent much of his innings in an Abou-ben-Adhem like deep dream of peace, woke up when it was way too late, hitting some crisp shots down the line -- but an asking rate of 3+

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  • It’s just another game

    It's just another game.

    No, seriously. It is.

    Yes, there is a World Cup final berth at stake -- but two teams played yesterday for the same stakes, with no one pretending that the fate of the world hung in the balance (in fact, television channels were banging on about today's game while yesterday's was see-sawing through its course).

    Today, two other teams are playing for the second berth -- and that is all they are doing.

    They are not, as politicians from Manmohan Singh down (or up -- it depends on your point of view) would have you believe, taking a big bold step towards peace in the sub-continent. The game is not, as it is being made out to be by the hypemeisters on television, a watershed event that will end terrorism, open borders, revive the glory of akhand Bharat. (Just as, if India and Sri Lanka happen to meet in the final, the game will not be played through the prism of the Indian army's peace-keeping activities in Lanka or Rajiv Gandhi's assassination or the ceaseless

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(30 Stories)