ready, set, rant!

It has been a bloody long time since I have made an entry into this blog. My French Euro Trip series has been abandoned with 3 days to spare. Any enthusiasts can see the rest of the photos in my Facebook album. If you’re not my Facebook friend, then I probably do not want to share any more of the details of the trip with you, anyway. 😉

So the subject of this post is, quite simply, “rant”. A number of things have annoyed me in the last few days so I have decided that instead of keeping them all in my head, I will transfer them over to teh interwebs where they will stay published forever (or until a server crashes, or I delete it, or something). Without further ado, let the bashing begin!

1. Satellite TV in general, DirecTV in particular

I know satellite TV is still this kinda new thing (yeah, right) and I was excited to see all the discounts I could get on a new DirecTV installation. So, last week, I finally decided to take the plunge on getting TV in my apartment and signed up for a DirecTV account. I think it was actually around 10 days ago. I was able to get about $21 off on their “new user” discounts in addition to a $10 discount for using a referral code from someone at NI. So I was saving a sweet $31 a month for 12 months, and getting TV at about $40/month. Or rather, going to get all this. Of the several appointment days available, I decided to choose the Saturday 8am-12pm slot, since I was gonna be at work the rest of the time.

My first mistake, perhaps? Turns out Saturday is a super-busy day (who woulda thunk it?). So naturally, DirecTV’s local field office should have been a little bit better staffed, right? Wrong. Pity me, who woke up at 8am, excited for the smell of new TV. It wasn’t until 12.15pm that I felt miffed enough to call and when I called, I was told I would be called within 20 minutes. I received a call from the local office to confirm that a technician was present. I told them quite curtly that there was no technician present, while reminding her that it was already 30 minutes past my rather-large-time-range appointment. She said she’d call back in 20 minutes but only a fool’d believe her. I was a fool.

Luckily I was able to get a lot of stuff done in the mean time, such as getting a “permission form” signed from Riata that allowed me to get a satellite in my patio, as well as getting some batteries from the Food Mart nearby and figuring out a rent check error with Riata. I also figured out rent/expenses issues with Hubert at that point.

Still nothing. I called DirecTV again at around 1.30pm and asked them, in kinder terms, “What the hell?” They told me they’d get in touch with their local office again (with whom their only method of communication happens to be, wait for it, …. email). This time the local office called me, apologetically, saying that the technician was late (no, shit!) and that he’d be there in 35 minutes. I got some other errands done and finally the technician arrived.

And after waiting for more than 5 hours for him, our meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. Apparently the satellites are located in the “southern sky” whereas our patio can only see satellites in, well, the rest of the freaking sky. So, no DirecTV. I called and cancelled and checked Dish Network’s availability. Looks like they used to be in the “northern sky”, which would have been perfect, but they are now operating in the “southeastern sky” area. So no Dish. So… no satellite. Humph. I have sold my soul to AT&T (see next gripe).

2. AT&T U-Verse: An arm and a leg for TV

After my failure with satellite and my ever-growing appetite for television (in particular, trash TV) I decided to look at my options. Basically it was down to the two “cable”-esque providers: Time Warner Cable and AT&T. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of dealing with either of them, to be honest. I have heard very bad things about TWC and I have experienced very unprofessional behaviour from AT&T. I don’t think I ever disclosed the shenanigans that took place when I first moved to Austin and tried to get my own Internet.

Basically, to save some time, I decided to order my AT&T internet from Houston a few days before I reached Austin. That way, I hypothesized, I would minimize the amount of non-Internet time. As it happened, AT&T’s dysfunctional website decided to eat my apartment number and hence the modem+router never got delivered. When I tried to call them to ask them to call FedEx and have it redelivered, I found out that their phone department and internet department is not connected. This is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. What’s the point of having a tech support line for online orders, then?

Once I got all that cleared out and billing time came around, I received two bills–one for the account that was never created and one for the fixed account. To make matters worse, the second account took me for a business and hence charged me nearly double. A long phone call later, everything seemed to be figured out, but I’ll be keeping an eye on my next few billing cycles.

Anyways, I finally brought the wallet out for AT&T U-Verse and went with a pretty expensive plan that is supposed to give me $200 cashback after I activate. At this point, you are probably asking me why I fell for the AT&T trick again, and I have no valid response. I am hoping that somehow the stars will align and everything will miraculously work. Unfortunately, there has already been a slight issue, since right after I placed my order, the confirmation page said, “If you have an AT&T DSL service at that location, that account will be cancelled.” I immediately opened up a tech support chat window to figure out what’s up.

Turns out AT&T has TWO SEPARATE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS. It’s as if they are purposely inventing stuff to confuse the consumer further. I have an AT&T High Speed Internet account, whereas since I’m going with AT&T U-Verse for TV, supposedly my account will be transferred to an AT&T U-Verse Internet account. I foresee further issues.

That’s it. I grew tired after those two rants, but I was planning to rant on the Indian cricket team. Then I realized that I never really cared about the ICC Champions Trophy, so I didn’t care that India got knocked out early. I am a little unhappy, though, that I will miss out on the opportunity to watch/DVR the Twenty20 Champions League or India-Australia ODI series later this year. Oh well, I guess Dish/DirecTV are saving me some money, after all.

india-england post-mortem: india out

Well that’s that. India’s batting let them down in a major way and we are now officially out of the tournament. As expected, the English bowlers bowled it “around the earholes” of the Indian batsmen with good effect; we managed only 59 off the first 10 overs. It is pretty pathetic to be in an international side in any format of the game and not be able to play short deliveries. I guess it points out a major shortcoming in the Indian domestic cricket structure.

Openers

Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir failed once again as Sharma unluckily pulled one onto his stumps. I suppose the loss of Sehwag is beginning to show here–a part-time opener can go only so far. It may have been worth surprising the English, who had obviously made “bouncer” plans by sending in an unconventional opener, such as Yusuf Pathan. However, Dhoni left his “thinking out of the box” to make another ‘brilliant’ move. Gambhir looked in fluent touch for once, though, so I suppose that is one positive.

Middle Order

I haven’t seen an Indian batsmen play so pathetically against a short ball as Suresh Raina today, since the days of Sourav Ganguly. Not something you’d expect from one of the 5 cricketers named as the cricketers of the next century by Wisden. All the same. It appears he did not work on facing the short delivery in the nets, since he looked even worse against it than in the game against the West Indies. And instead of putting the pull shot out of the playbook, he decided it would be more intelligent to attempt it and obviously holed out. Sigh. This is the downside of picking “youngsters” I suppose. They do some really stupid things on the way up their learning curve.

Next came Dhoni’s “mastermind” move. Ravindra Jadeja. In my earlier post, I conceded that Dhoni may have made a correct choice by picking Jadeja, but any thoughts of that quickly vanished after his pathetic display of batting today. I believe Dhoni had sent Jadeja in to play the same role as England had sent Mascarenhas in to play: get some quick runs at the cost of a relatively cheap wicket. Unfortunately, Jadeja neither got quick runs nor got out nor rotated the strike. If his performance in the warm-up game against New Zealand was bad, this was downright unacceptable. I said after that New Zealand game that I hoped Jadeja was no where near our starting XI. I was wrong. I change that now to say that I hope Jadeja is never near an Indian international cricket squad in his life. He’s just not good enough–not for Twenty20 anyhow. He has now displayed that he not only lacks the ability to finish games, but he doesn’t have the ability to build a base for someone else to finish the game. He clearly shouldn’t be opening, so the only way I can see him in the game is as a pure bowler. I actually think Irfan Pathan would have been a hell of a lot useful with the bat than Jadeja was, today. All the same, it was still Dhoni’s mistake to send Jadeja in instead of coming in himself. As a result, Yuvi didn’t come in until the equation was too imbalanced (11+ runs per over required) and hence he was negated.

Lower Order

Yusuf Pathan showed why form players should be pushed up the order. Dhoni continued to struggle with the bat, but the two made a valiant effort to save the game, and got within 3 runs. Yusuf, in particular, hit a one-handed six to get the equation down to 9 from 2, but was only able to dig out a block-hole delivery the next ball to secure the win for England. Yuvi, who looked in good touch, was dismissed by a quickfire stumping opportunity by Foster off Swann, and that was honestly where we probably lost the match.

General Thoughts

A lot of the current crop of batsmen seem to display no on-the-field intelligence. Jadeja, for example, pulled 5 out of 6 balls in a Stuart Broad over. 3 of them were miscued and 2 of them he missed. In the age of innovative paddle shots, reverse sweeps galore and walking across the stumps, it is absolutely unacceptable that you stand in your crease and get eaten up by bouncers. You’ve had 2 days to plan against it and if you aren’t comfortable pulling it, think about other ways to counter it!

This was again in evidence in the penultimate over bowled by Stuart Broad. Broad bowled in the same area every single ball. The commentators knew what he was going to do, so the Indian think tank should definitely have had that knowledge. Yet Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni both stayed on their leg-stump guard and tried to hoick it to the midwicket boundary every single ball. Seriously? Move across the stumps. Walk down. Take guard inside/outside your crease. Don’t just follow the pig in front of you on the way to the slaughterhouse!

Fielding

After everything is said and done, the two glaring points of this match and this tournament was our poor fielding and our inability to play the short-pitched delivery. If you simplify the match naively, India would have won this game if Harbhajan hadn’t bowled one down the leg side on the last ball of the over, and Yuvraj hadn’t misfielded it. We gave away 5 runs on that ball and we lost by 3. England saved at least 15-20 runs more than us in the field, which is not acceptable seeing that we are not lugging around any of our “seniors”. These are all youngsters and should be at the peak of their fitness and athletic ability.

The Future

I will be supporting the Lankan team now. Mendis, Murali and Malinga seem to be the package that could just stop South Africa on what appears to be a clear path to the championship now. Sri Lanka’s batting still depends heavily on their openers firing, but their bowlers seem to have the ability to defend almost any total, regardless of how low it is. It’ll be interesting to see how their semifinal and perhaps final opponents address that problem.

india-west indies post-mortem

India have just dropped their opening Super 8 game against Chris Gayle’s West Indies side and are now precariously placed in the last position of what is inarguably the the Super 8 “group of death”. What this means is they now have their backs to their wall and will be confronted with must-win games the rest of the tournament. Before I take a look at what they need to do, let’s take a look at what they did and didn’t do in this game.

Indian innings

MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat, in this game, a throwback to his “bat-first-no-questions-asked” policy of the 2007 World Twenty20. It seemed like the correct decision in the time and probably was, in retrospect, the correct decision, but the Indian batsmen came up a bit short, literally, against the West Indian bowling attack. Gautam Gambhir looked in decent enough touch but the in-form Rohit Sharma fell after just 3 deliveries, trying to pull his Deccan Chargers teammate Fidel Edwards twice in a row. The first one was not well-timed but ran down the hill for a boundary; the second was a touch fuller and caught the top edge, with a good catch being taken by Lendl Simmons to give the Windies an early breakthrough.

The batting didn’t get much better for a while, with Suresh Raina being sent in at number 3 for the first time since India has arrived in England. Gambhir and Raina didn’t last long, with Edwards snagging Raina as he played a nothing shot after being softened up by two bouncers. Gambhir fell an over later, trying to hook Dwayne Bravo out of the ground and becoming the second Indian batsmen of many to fall prey to the short delivery. Dhoni finally arrived at the crease, having sent Yuvi in at number 4, and the two built a slow, but steady, partnership. Unfortunately, it was more slow than steady, with the two adding only 37 runs in a ball short of 8 overs, before Dhoni played an awkward square cut straight to the fielder stationed at deep point.

India had a breath of good luck after Yuvi was dropped in the same over, and him and Yusuf Pathan breathed some air back into India’s innings, adding 64 runs in about 5 overs. Yuvraj was in great touch and leant into the Windies bowlers, including the nippy Taylor, before becoming yet another victim of Edwards’ short ball. With him, India’s hopes of posting a big enough total also disappeared, although a cameo from Bhajji at the end gave the bowlers something, 153, to bowl at. As it happened, it was not near enough.

West Indies innings

The West Indies got off to a lacklustre start, with Gayle looking a shade of himself from the Australia match earlier in the tournament. In fact, he played out only the second maiden of the tournament against Harbhajan Singh! Andre Fletcher fell pretty early while trying to smack Irfan Pathan away, and Lendl Simmons came in to replace him. The two didn’t do anything flashy, but added the runs at a quick enough rate to keep the Indians on their toes. Both players were taking too long to score the runs, though, and Gayle finally fell while trying to slog-sweep Yusuf Pathan away.

The team then pulled off their most critical move of the tournament, by opting to send Dwayne Bravo in ahead of Shiv Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Critics and pundits alike have been screaming hoarse for Bravo to be given a bigger role in the West Indies batting, and he showed today why they have been wreaking this pain on their throats. He played a brilliant knock that reminded me of these two match-winning innings he played in the span of 3 days against India the last time we toured the Carribbean.

Although the required run rate was hovering between 9 and 10 when Bravo came in, he and Simmons knocked the ball around intelligently and with a boundary every couple of overs to keep it manageable. When Simmons top-edged one trying to execute the final push and Chanderpaul in, the game was evenly poised. That is, however, when Dwayne Bravo took over. Seeing that Chanderpaul would be more of a liability, he took most of the strike and dispatched our bowlers all over the park. A booming six over cover to end the game showed what pretty batting Bravo exhibited on the day, and also showed his pure match-winning capabilities. All the sixes he hit were in the 90-100 m range, and would have cleared any ground in the world.

India’s bowling woes continue. After getting off to a good start and strangling the opposition in the middle overs, the death bowling again let us down. Dhoni is going to have to think seriously of bringing someone more accurate, such as Praveen Kumar, into the mix in place of Ishant, who has been, quite frankly, deplorable after a good spell in one of the warm-up games. Luckily Zaheer looks like he’s back, and Irfan is swinging it at 85+ mph, so getting our death bowler straightened out could be the missing key in our bowling attack.

A thought on the fielding

Our fielding today was horrible, in contrast with the West Indies’ who, although they dropped a couple of chances, took a couple of brilliant catches, including Simmons’ dismissal of Gambhir. In particular, their ground fielding was almost flawless, with only a couple of fumbles and I think no misfield. In contrast, India gave up 4 runs at least twice when a fielder misfielded the ball in the inner circle (the culprits I remember being Harbhajan Singh and Yusuf Pathan). Our ground fielding is already several rungs below South Africa’s and England’s, and if we don’t pull our socks up there, we have no hope of pulling off a miraculous jump into the semifinals.

A thought on the captaincy…

For a man whose gut instincts are usually pretty good, I thought Dhoni made several mistakes today. Obviously, he’s been under undue pressure from external sources (namely, the Indian media who continue to wrangle him about the Sehwag episode). However, the couple of oversights I would like to point out are as follows.

First, I think Dhoni should have come in at number 3 when Rohit fell. Not only has he habitually been coming in at number 3, but, in retrospect, a calming, nudgy innings is just what we needed at that stage (as Lendl Simmons proved later that evening). Sharma fell in the second over and both Indian batsmen already showed signs of struggling against the extra bounce and pace of Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards. Instead of exposing the young and aggressive Raina, Dhoni should have taken the onus to come in ahead of him and take some on the chest. Raina hasn’t had much batting in this tournament because of our opposition as well as the strength of our batting, so dumping him in at the deep end of the pool could potentially have been a bad decision.

Secondly, Dhoni mis-used Irfan Pathan. Pathan was the bloke who was getting the most swing and troubling the batsmen the most. He, ironically, brought home the best figures of 1/9 but bowled the fewest number of overs (2). Irfan should definitely have been bowling in the end instead of Ishant, who was coming on to the bat nicely. I was surprised Dhoni didn’t use him, in fact, since he has trusted Irfan with this role in the past, and since Irfan made his comeback into the ODI team. Again, maybe this was just an instance of the gut instinct going wrong.

What do India need to do?

Strangely, this result places us in almost the same situation that we were in the last edition of the cup, in 2007. Then, we had been placed in a group with England, South Africa and New Zealand. We dropped the first game to New Zealand by 10 runs (NRR of -0.5, here we have one of around -0.7) and then beat England and South Africa (in that order, which is the same order we have the games this time) to qualify to the semis ahead of both those teams. They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but this coincidence is a little too much for me to keep up with!

In my opinion, we definitely have to beat South Africa if we want to go through. We won’t be able to do this with just one win (over England) and let the NRR do the rest for us. We’re already at the bottom of the table when it comes to NRR. If West Indies beat South Africa tomorrow, they’ve all but guaranteed their spot (unless England/India drop all their games, in which case it will become a three-way tie). I expect South Africa to beat West Indies, though. This group is wide open, right now, with South Africa being the clear favourites. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out, but I have confidence in our team performing with their backs to the wall. It’s going to be a good few days of cricket!

making blunders out of thin air

As many of you may know, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is currently hosting the Twenty20 World Cup in England. The tournament thus far has been pretty exciting and has seen a couple of upsets, including ODI champions Australia crashing out, but the tournament structure has come in for a lot of criticism. Most of this criticism, I agree with. Let me dissect the issue by round.

First Round

The 12 teams were put into 4 groups of 3 each, with the allocation of the groups being determined by the team’s performances in the previous edition of the World Cup. This was used since there are no Twenty20 rankings that have been devised by the ICC, that could be used to better predict the skill of each team when it comes to this version of the game (not to mention that it is highly unpredictable in the first place). The seedings based on last year were as follows:

  1. India (winner)
  2. Pakistan (runner-up)
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. South Africa
  6. Sri Lanka
  7. England
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. Scotland
  11. West Indies
  12. Kenya

The seeding system, then, is pretty straightforward. Seeds 1, 2, 3, and 4 are placed in different groups and 5, 6, 7 and 8 in different groups in reverse order (so that 1 is paired with 8, 2 with 7 and so on). That’s a conventional seeding system. After doing this twice, these are the groups:

Group A: 1 – India, 8 – Bangladesh
Group B: 2 – Pakistan, 7 – England
Group C: 3 – Australia, 6 – Sri Lanka
Group D: 4 – New Zealand, 5 – South Africa

That’s when the logic breaks down, though. With Zimbabwe and Kenya being replaced by Ireland and the Netherlands in this edition, how will those teams be seeded? I am not aware of what algorithm the ICC used, but they ended up putting Ireland in at 9, Netherlands at 10 and Scotland at 12. I’m not sure why Scotland was moved around. The logical thing to do would have been to remove the teams that did not play and then move the teams below them up. Hence, Scotland would be 9 and West Indies would be 10. Then Ireland and the Netherlands would be placed at 11 and 12, presumably using their ODI ranking as a tie-breaker. I have no idea why Scotland was moved down, even though they played in the last edition, and why Ireland was automatically placed above West Indies, given the latter is a Test nation and undoubtedly stronger. In my opinion, the ICC messed up (no surprise). The first round groups should have been:

Group A: 1 – India, 8 – Bangladesh, 9 – Scotland
Group B: 2 – Pakistan, 7 – England, 10 – West Indies
Group C: 3 – Australia, 6 – Sri Lanka, 11 – Ireland
Group D: 4 – New Zealand, 5 – South Africa, 12 – Netherlands

This would still result in a group of death (Group B), but this time Ireland and Netherlands would be correctly placed below Scotland and West Indies, who were obviously better enough than them to qualify for the last edition of the tournament. I suspect the organizers used fuzzy logic, instead, to make the going a little easier for hosts England, who had a higher chance of being knocked out if grouped with West Indies instead of Netherlands. As it happened, the Dutch beat the English, but did not have enough luck to do the same to Pakistan!

Second Round

As if the first round wasn’t riddled with problems, the logic really goes for a toss in the second round. In the Super 8’s (the second round), last year’s results are again used as a way to pre-seed the teams. Hence, India is A1 and Bangladesh is A2. Pakistan is B1 and England is B2. The trend continues. Groups E and F (the super 8 groups) are then comprised as follows:

Group E: A1, B2, C1, D2
Group F: A2, B1, C2, D1

This is the same silly concept they used in the 2007 World Cup (and what a farce that was!). Since 2 out of 3 teams qualify from each group in the first round, if a seeded team is knocked out the unseeded team simply takes no their seed. Which makes no sense whatsoever. Essentially, the second round is seeded based on the way the teams were playing Twenty20 in 2007! What it also means is that it doesn’t matter how you perform in the first round as long as you notch up enough on the board to get through to the second round. This has resulted in the last 3 first-round games being dead-rubber games with nothing to gain for either team involved except pride and momentum. This seeding system has created a whole host of issues. Let’s look at the Super 8 groups fleshed out:

Group E: A1 – India, B2 – England, C1 – Australia, D2 – South Africa
Group F: A2 – Ireland, B1 – Pakistan, C2 – Sri Lanka, D1 – New Zealand

Not bad, if you look at their performances last timea round. Two semifinalists in each pool, right? Except, let’s take a look at this year’s ACTUAL results (hypothesizing that India beat Ireland and Sri Lanka beat West Indies; I will append a _T to signify this is the “True” seeding of the team based on the most current results):

Group A: A1_T – India, A2_T – Ireland, A3_T – Bangladesh
Group B: B1_T – England, B2_T – Pakistan, B3_T – Netherlands
Group C: C1_T – Sri Lanka, C2_T – West Indies, C3_T – Australia
Group D: D1_T – South Africa, D2_T – New Zealand, D3_T – Scotland

This would create the following Super 8 groups:

Group E: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand
Group F: Ireland, England, West Indies, South Africa

These groups look a LOT more balanced to me, given the way each team has played in the competition thus far. Instead, what we are going to see is two solid teams being knocked out from Group E (which contains both pre-tournament favourites!) and one weak team in Group F (Ireland) making it a three-way race. So the structure is indeed fraught with problems and someone at the ICC obviously took their thinking cap off while devising it. Mind you, it appears that the ICC has been long suffering from a shortage of thinking caps over the last decade or so.

The worst part is it won’t get any better next year, either. In effect, by creating a group of death and eliminating one Test nation guaranteed every year, you are going to make sure the group of death effect is present the next year, as well. See, next year Australia will be in West Indies’ position and Ireland in Bangladesh’s. Which means Australia will be in the group of death again next year while the winner will probably have a group with Ireland and another associate nation.

Some people seriously need to be out of jobs, which is a pretty bad thing to say now, in the current state of the economy. Oh well, I’ll pray for a revolution every night, anyway.

upcoming posts

This is a whet-your-appetite combined with a reminder-for-me note alerting the both of our parties about the upcoming posts coming up on my blog. I’m putting it down in concrete form so that if I don’t forget what happened, I can recount my experiences in word form, and if I do (forget) then you (and I) at least have a brief idea of what happened.

  • Sohum eats mangoes
  • Sohum watches 99 with his mom
  • Sohum learns to cook Indian-style chicken curry
  • Sohum watches Aa Dekhen Zara on DVD
  • Sohum gets batteries and a film-roll for an old-school Canon EOS 3000QD
  • Sohum thinks about the ICC World Twenty20 event a bit more

So that’s what’s coming up. I may just have to wake up early tomorrow and get all this done as if it were some sort of paper. Naah….