Friday, January 30, 2015

Five stalwarts to look out for in the cricket World Cup 2015: 3. Brendon McCullum. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’

Dazzling and versatile both side of the sticks

World Cup matches…..25 

Highest score…..101








Proficient with the big gloves, brilliant fielder without them, belligerent with the bat, able to open the batting or play in the middle-order, Brendon McCullum is dazzling as well as versatile. His pyrotechnics in the very first match of the Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 will forever remain etched in memory. He has built up a fine record: Over 5300 runs in Tests at an average of 37 plus and a strike-rate above 60, with nearly 200 dismissals; more than 5000 runs in One-dayers at an average exceeding 30 and a strike-rate of almost 90, having surpassed the 260 dismissals mark. These are figures of a top-flight wicketkeeper-batsman, one of the finest cricketers to emerge from New Zealand.

Having sat out of the first match in the 2003 World Cup, McCullum only came in at no. 8 as the West Indies had them in strife at 147 for six after 32.2 overs. The 21-year-old helped Chris Harris add 41, and then allied with the belligerent Andre Adams in a crucial undefeated 53-run stand which took his side’s total to a respectable 241 for seven. McCullum’s unbeaten 36 came off 53 deliveries, and he struck one boundary. West Indies were bowled out for 221, leaving McCullum with pleasant memories of his World Cup debut.

A superb unconquered century by skipper Stephen Fleming in a rain-interrupted innings carried the Kiwis to a nine-wicket win over the Proteas. McCullum snapped up his first two catches in the premier event, sending back the openers Graeme Smith and centurion Herschelle Gibbs off the pacemen Shane Bond and Jacob Oram. The match against Kenya was forfeited as New Zealand declined to travel to Nairobi due to security concerns.

New Zealand beat Bangladesh easily by seven wickets. McCullum now took three catches, continuing his association with the same bowlers. Canada did not stretch them much and McCullum again allied with the two seamers to bag a catch each for them.

In the super-six game against Zimbabwe, there was a catch, this time off Chris Cairns. Bond was on fire in the face-off with Trans-Tasman rivals Australia at Port Elizabeth, and McCullum was in the frame with two catches off the speedster. Brett Lee’s return burst sent New Zealand packing, McCullum being trapped leg-before for 1. India were too good and McCullum, promoted to no. 5, was bowled for 4.

The young wicketkeeper had done a competent job, picking up 9 catches. He played one significant innings, which was an important ingredient in the eventual victory. A budding career was waiting to flower.            

New Zealand upstaged the English by six wickets in their opening encounter in 2007. McCullum snapped up Edmund Joyce (0) and Ian Bell (5) off James Franklin and Oram respectively. Later he caught the dogged Paul Collingwood and Jamie Dalrymple off Scott Styris. Kenya were trounced but McCullum was dismissed for just 6 and did not take a catch.

A John Davison-inspired Canada put up a spirited fight. McCullum joined Oram at 278 for five at the end of the 43rd over. After Oram had hit Davison for a six over long-off, McCullum swept left-arm spinner Kevin Sandher on top of the Beusejour Stadium stand, and skied the last ball of the over that just eluded Anderson Cummins at long-on and also carried for six. In the next over he tickled Cummins, the former West Indies paceman, to the fine-leg boundary. Sunil Dhaniram, another left-arm tweaker sent down a full-toss, which McCullum launched over square-leg for his 3rd six. Oram lofted Cummins for a straight six. In the final over McCullum rocketed Dhaniram for 2 more on-side sixes to raise the fastest fifty of the World Cup off a mere 20 deliveries, quicker than two Mark Boucher efforts in the same tournament. Oram teed off another six over extra-cover off the penultimate delivery. The unfinished partnership was worth 85 runs in 7 overs. McCullum was unbeaten with 52 off 21 balls, comprising those 5 sixes and sole boundary. New Zealand piled up 363. Canada did well to total 249, McCullum pouching a catch off Daniel Vettori.    

It was at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua where the West Indies received a drubbing from the Kiwis in their super-eight clash. Having put up a half-century stand with Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan drove at Oram only to manage a thick inside-edge which flew down the leg-side, McCullum bringing off a spectacular catch. Soon Oram got one to leap and take Marlon Samuels’ glove, for McCullum to hold on. Gayle played on to Oram in his next over. Brian Lara and Dwayne Bravo staged a 47-run rescue act but Bond had the latter edging into the gloves of McCullum. Then it was the big wicket. With McCullum standing up to the stumps, Lara tried to swing Styris on the on-side, inside-edged it and McCullum brought off a fine catch. McCullum had a hand in four of the previous five dismissals, and the West Indies slipped to 177 all out. The Kiwis coasted to a seven-wicket win.

The Bangladesh openers were off to a steady start but with Tamim Iqbal stepping out to paceman Oram in the quest to raise the scoring-rate, McCullum decided to come up to the stumps. The fifty was raised in the 16th over, and in the next Tamim stretched to pull off an inventive shot off Oram on the leg-side, missed and McCullum whipped off the bails in a trice. His move had paid off; the left-hander departed. In Oram’s next over, the other opener Javed Omar tried to cut, only to edge it to McCullum. The Bangladesh innings never really took off, and New Zealand raced to a nine-wicket triumph.

McCullum got another opportunity to bat against the other surprise qualifiers Ireland. Coming in at 172 for five, he soon saw his side slip to 189 for seven in 42.3 overs. Joined by the left-handed Franklin, the pair upped the ante, initially in well-run ones and twos, to the extent that there were no boundaries in 11 overs upto the end of the 47th. Then there was a flurry in the last three. Franklin struck the captain Trent Johnston for two successive fours, and McCullum lofted his pull to the fence. Franklin struck Kevin O’Brien for a four and a six in the penultimate over. McCullum replicated it off Johnston He drove through the covers and then bludgeoned a straight six to crack a glass screen in the pavilion. He holed out off the fourth for 47, scored off 37 deliveries. New Zealand totalled 283 for eight. Then in the second over of the Irish innings, Bond induced an edge from Jeremy Bray’s blade, and McCullum snapped it up. Later Eoin Morgan snicked one from Oram into the gloves of McCullum. Ireland packed up for 134. 

By now most of McCullum’s work was over. The formidable Sri Lankans registered a comfortable win. Magical Muralitharan trapped McCullum leg-before for 1. Though McCullum snapped up Sanath Jayasuriya off Oram, it was not before a 100-run second-wicket stand with another classy left-hander Kumar Sangakkara. The Kiwis did well to beat the Proteas. McCullum scored 4 not out in the five-wicket victory. The Aussies were too good, McCullum falling for 7. New Zealand, though, made it to the semi-finals, but again Sri Lanka packed too many guns. This time Murali had McCullum caught for a duck.

McCullum played a couple of belligerent knocks, finishing with a strike-rate of 134.48, and was always superb behind the sticks with 14 victims to his credit. New Zealand have always performed creditably in the World Cup without being brilliant. McCullum was invariably at hand to answer the call of duty.

In another campaign going right up to the semi-finals in 2011, McCullum was designated to open the innings. As a Kenyan team in decline crashed to 69 all out in 23.5 overs, McCullum snapped up their captain Jimmy Kamande off Oram. He brought up a ten-wicket win alongwith Martin Guptill in a mere 8 overs. McCullum was unbeaten with 26 off 17 deliveries with 4 fours.

Seemingly in a hurry, McCullum swung his willow against some fast, short-pitched bowling, particularly from Shaun Tait, clattering 3 boundaries. Then he slashed at the speedster, only to be caught at third-man. His 16 had come off 12 balls, and the Aussies never really gave much of a chance, cantering to a seven-wicket victory in 34 overs. 

McCullum and Guptill coasted to another ten-wicket win, this time against Zimbabwe. Guptill began with 2 fours and a six in the first over, then another six in the fifth over. McCullum struck his first six in the 15th over. The hundred came up in 22.4 overs, and McCullum reached his fifty with a straight four off his 74th delivery. He pull-drove his second six in the 32nd over, and victory came two overs later. McCullum scored 76 off 95 deliveries with 6 fours and 2 sixes; Guptill scored 86 off 108 deliveries with 7 fours and 2 sixes.

Shoaib Akhtar’s third delivery of the match was a no-ball. McCullum bludgeoned the re-bowled free-hit over mid-wicket for a six. The next ball darted in sharply and took his off-stump. Ross Taylor waded into the Pakistani attack, the Kiwis totalling 302 for seven, and then bowling themselves to a 110-run win.

The valiant triers from Canada bore the brunt of McCullum’s punishing blade once again. The ball flew all over the Wankhede Stadium. The opening stand realized 53 runs in 9.5 overs, of which Guptill’s contribution was 17. Jesse Ryder joined in another belligerent partnership. McCullum’s fifty came off 38 balls, by which time he had struck 9 fours and a six. When Ryder fell to John Davison, the pair had added 96 runs in just under 20 overs. McCullum raised his hundred off 107 deliveries. He was soon gone for 101, having played 2 more balls, and blasted 12 fours and 2 sixes in all. Later Taylor’s pyrotechnics saw him rocketing 4 sixes and a four in an over off Harvir Baidwan. There was a jamboree with a flood of fours and sixes, most notably 4 boundaries off another Baidwan over, and Franklin’s 3 sixes and 2 fours in the last over bowled by Rizwan Cheema. The Canadian bowlers were getting into the record books for the wrong reasons. New Zealand piled up 358 for six. After early setbacks, Canada did well to total 261 for nine. So far McCullum was pouching the odd catch in a match. Here he held a succession of them. Hiral Patel was going after the bowlers until he edged a pull off Oram into the gloves of McCullum. Then followed a heart-warming 125-run stand between skipper Ashish Bagai and Jimmy Hansra. A cramping Bagai nicked Nathan McCullum, and brother Brendon completed the dismissal. Not long after, Cheema dabbed Oram on the off-side and McCullum brought off a splendid diving catch. He picked up the man-of-the-match prize too.

The Kiwis were upstaged in a Sangakkara-Jayawardene-Muralitharan show. The Lankans put up 265 for nine, with McCullum holding catches off Styris and Oram. McCullum and Guptill seemed on course, but McCullum fell for 14 off 16 deliveries, having struck 2 fours. His partner followed soon and New Zealand folded up for 153.

Though New Zealand stunned South Africa in the quarter-final, both openers fell cheaply. As Oram dazzled in the field, McCullum held a late catch off him, and the Kiwis were through by 49 runs. Facing Sri Lanka again in the semi-final, McCullum departed for 13, and his side was not good enough to break through this stage yet again. Sangakkara was man-of-the-match once more, this time as much for his wicketkeeping as for his batting. 

On the face of it, McCullum had done a fine job with the bat, scoring 256 runs in 8 matches at an average of 42.66 and a strike-rate of 92.41. But his big scores came against the weaker sides. What must not be forgotten, however, is that he was fulfilling a crucial dual role, which added depth to the batting and gave the side the option of including an extra bowler. As always he was efficient, and often brilliant, behind the stumps with his 9 dismissals.
Overall, he is now third among wicketkeepers in the World Cup with 32 dismissals. His batting is always an asset, at the top or in the middle, with 414 runs at a strike-rate of above 94 and average of nearly 32. His name is one of the first picked when selecting the New Zealand team, and what is most heartening for his country is that he still has some good years ahead of him. Brendon McCullum is poised to go down in their annals as one of the brightest stars alongside the likes of Bert Sutcliffe, Glenn Turner, Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe and Daniel Vettori.

(From the Hall of Fame section of Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’. The author can be contacted on email 

Indian Spring

ISBN 978-81-901668-7-4

Available shortly in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Distributors in India: Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Five stalwarts to look out for in the cricket World Cup 2015: 2. Michael Clarke. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’

Dazzling show in times of triumph

World Cup matches…..18 
Highest score…..93 not out

It is not easy to bat no.4 in a line-up when the preceding batsmen are Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, which is what Michael Clarke did for the most part in the 2007 World Cup. Nor is it easy to fill the void left behind by the elegant Mark Waugh. Yet this is what Clarke has had to live up to. He was hailed as the next great batsman from Australia, successor to Ponting as captain and leading batsman. Clarke has it all: abundant natural talent, technique, poise, elegance, strokes, temperament. It was almost as if the cricketing world was waiting for him to emerge from the shadows of his great senior and express himself on a stage all his own.

Clarke did all that was asked of him in the 2007 World Cup. In his 9 innings he hit up two nineties, two other half-centuries and two forties, was never dismissed in single digit, and had a brilliant average of 87.20 and strike-rate of 94.98. He shared a World Cup record fourth-wicket partnership of 204 with Brad Hodge against Holland at Basseterre, St. Kitts, as he logged his top score of 93 not out in the tournament.  

Coming up against a major side for the first time in the tournament, Clarke registered his second successive ninety. Gilchrist and Hayden had already smashed the South African bowlers all over Warner Park, racing to 106 inside 15 overs. Hayden and Ponting then added 61 in 8.4 overs. When Clarke walked in at 167 for two only 23.3 overs had been bowled, and Hayden had blazed to the fastest World Cup century in 66 balls. Along with the skipper, Clarke put on 161 runs in just 21.4 overs. Ponting departed for a run-a-ball 91, and shortly afterwards Clarke was run out for 92. He had played 75 deliveries and hammered 7 fours and 4 sixes. Australia zoomed to their highest total of 377 for six in the premier event. Try as they might, it was a bridge too far for the Proteas, though Graeme Smith and Abraham de Villiers raised 160 first up in a mere 20.6 overs, and the latter was dismissed for the third ninety of the match, also tragically run out.

Australia lost two wickets relatively early against the West Indies in the first super-eight match.  Clarke joined Hayden at 76 for two in the 15th over. They put on 98 in 16.1 overs before Dwayne Bravo trapped Clarke lbw for 41, having faced 47 deliveries and struck 4 boundaries. Hayden went on to hit up Australia’s highest score of 158 in the World Cup, paving the way for another easy win. England set a target of 248, and Clarke combined with Ponting again in a 112-run third-wicket stand in 21 overs. The captain was run out for 86 but Clarke saw Australia home with his unbeaten 55 off 63 balls with the help of 2 fours.   

Hardly any team was able to challenge Australia for the second consecutive World Cup. Sri Lanka could only post a total of 226. Clarke put on 47 this time with Ponting, but failed to keep a drive off leg-spinner Malinga Bandara on the ground and was taken in the covers for 23. Australia sailed to another seven-wicket victory. As Hayden came up with his third hundred of the tournament, off the Kiwi bowling, Clarke featured in a 72-run partnership with the burly opener in just 9.4 overs. In a rare misjudgement, he shouldered arms to a slower one from left-armer James Franklin and was bowled middle-stump for 49 after negotiating 46 deliveries and carving out 7 boundaries. Australia went on to amass 348 for six, coasting to an easy 215-run triumph.

The Aussies were hardly tested in the tournament. Would the Proteas stretch them in the semi-final? The answer came very quickly as South Africa were bowled out for 149. They did get Gilchrist early, and then Ponting too, but Clarke linked up with Hayden in a 66-run stand. He brought up a facile seven-wicket win in the company of Andrew Symonds, top-scoring with an unbeaten 60 from 86 balls, having struck 8 fours. Clarke’s job was more or less over as Gilchrist turned the truncated final into a no-contest with his blitzkrieg. But he did get the opportunity to bowl his slow left-arm spin, and knocked over the stumps of top-scorer Sanath Jayasuriya and Chamara Silva.

The talented Clarke was always at hand to back up the scintillating deeds of the big three in the Australian line-up in the hugely successful 2007 World Cup campaign. Invariably, his brief was to complete the work of the seniors and he did so with panache and style. He had already built up a formidable international record. The future beckoned Michael Clarke.

By 2011 the team was already in decline but they began the tournament well. They faced Zimbabwe, a team fighting hard to find its feet back in international cricket. Shane Watson and Brad Haddin raised an opening partnership of 61, then skipper Ponting helped Watson add another 79, but both were out in quick succession. Clarke then built another partnership steadily with Cameron White. He hit his first boundary off his 25th delivery when the batting Powerplay was utilized in the 41st over. Still, the runs came mainly in singles. The pair added 63 before White departed. There was a rise in tempo with the entry of David Hussey, but a couple wickets of wickets too fell. Clarke hit Chris Mpofu for two fours in an over. He returned unbeaten with 58 off 55 balls, having struck 4 boundaries. Australia totalled 262 for six. It seemed a measured performance by a team short on self-belief and determined to ease into the campaign on the right note against one of the weaker teams. Zimbabwe were dismissed for 171 with all the bowlers getting a good workout.

The Australian bowlers did well to bowl out the Kiwis for 206 in 45.1 overs. This time Watson and Haddin put up 133. Clarke batted steadily, once again remaining not out, having scored 24 in 37 deliveries and picking up 4 fours along the way, helping bring up victory by 7 wickets in 34 overs.

There was a long wait of eight days before the next game, made longer by rain in Colombo after less than 33 overs in the Sri Lankan innings, resulting in abandonment. Another eight days later they took on Kenya but most of the batsmen were in good nick. Clarke allied with Michael Hussey in a brilliant fifth-wicket stand of 114 for in a bit more than 16 overs. The pair found the boundary regularly before Hussey departed after scoring a rapid half-century. Clarke now got into belligerent mode, cracking two boundaries immediately thereafter off Nehemiah Odhiambo on either side of the wicket. He then turned his attention to Elijah Otieno, pulling deliveries of contrasting lengths for a four and a six to mid-wicket. Clarke was approaching his first century in the World Cup, having already equalled his highest score of 93, and averaging a Bradmanesque 122.20 in 12 innings at this point. But it was not to be as he slammed Odhiambo, and Rakep Patel took a fine catch at long-on. Clarke had finally got an average in this World Cup, another Bradman-like 175 in his three innings. He had struck 7 boundaries and a six in the 80 balls that he had faced. Australia finished on 324 for six. The Kenyan batsmen, particularly Collins Obuya and Tanmay Mishra, did well to respond with 264 for six.

Canada were bowled out for 211. Clarke was unbeaten with 16 as his side rung in an easy seven-wicket victory. Now came a challenging final group match against Pakistan, the last team to beat Australia in the World Cup way back on 23rd May 1999 at Headingley by a mere 10 runs in a high-scoring match. Clarke came to the crease at 75 for two in the 19th over. He battled through as wickets fell at regular intervals on a wicket of variable bounce, aiding lateral movement. Abdul Razzaq bowled him as he attempted a pull. His 34 had taken 48 balls and contained 2 boundaries. Australia collapsed to 176 all out in 46.4 overs. A Herculean bowling effort by Brett Lee could not prevent the 34-match unbeaten World Cup spell of the Australians from being broken.

This set up a high pressure quarter-final with home favourites India at Ahmedabad. As Ponting scored a vintage century, Clarke top-edged a sweep off player-of-the-tourrnament Yuvraj Singh, and holed out at mid-wicket for just 8, his first failure of the tournament at a crucial juncture. Australia did put up 260 for six but the inspired Indians won with relative ease. The days of glory in the World Cup were over for the time being.
Clarke has built up an impressive record in the World Cup, 669 runs in 15 innings at a brilliant average of 83.62, albeit with 7 not outs, and a top strike-rate of 93.56. These were mainly performances when Australia were riding high. When the going got tough, Clarke did not dazzle so bright. Nevertheless, the polished batsman that he is, he carried out his duties magnificently most of the time. He already has nearly 16,000 runs in Test matches and One-day Internationals put together, but back trouble has begun affecting his career. That is the challenge he must deal with successfully in his quest to be ranked among the true greats of batsmanship.

(From the Hall of Fame section of Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’. The author can be contacted on email 

Indian Spring

ISBN 978-81-901668-7-4

Available shortly in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Distributors in India: Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Five stalwarts to look out for in the cricket World Cup 2015: 1. Abraham de Villiers. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’

Priceless asset for the Proteas

World Cup matches…..15
Highest score…..146

That he is a natural sportsman is apparent from A.B. de Villiers’ batting and fielding, his fluid movements and innate elegance. Technically sound and naturally aggressive at the top or in the middle-order, keen of eye, agile behind the wickets and close to the bat, fleet-footed in the outfield, he is a priceless asset for the Proteas. Dashing as well as reliable, in good times and in a crisis, de Villiers is a captain’s dream. His World Cup record is evidence of all these attributes.

The start, though, was not so brilliant in the 2007 World Cup against the weekenders from the Netherlands. Opening the batting with skipper Graeme Smith, de Villiers was caught behind off the second ball of the match for a duck. South Africa registered a 221-run win.

He set the record right in another stroll in Warner Park with the Scots, who raised a total of 186. Smith and de Villiers made short work of the target with a spate of boundaries, hoisting the fifty in 6.3 overs. Smith got to his half-century first, the hundred of the innings came up in 12.2 overs, and de Villiers raised his fifty in 41 balls. And then he hammered Glenn Rogers for two consecutive sixes over long-on, before holing out in the same direction. His 62 came off 45 deliveries punctuated by 9 boundaries and the 2 sixes. The partnership was worth 134 in 15.5 overs. Smith missed his century by 9 runs, and South Africa raced to a seven-wicket win in 23.2 overs.

The Aussie run-machine churned out 377 runs for six wickets, Matthew Hayden slamming the then fastest World Cup hundred in 66 balls, and Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke losing their wickets in the nineties. All eight batsmen on show had a strike-rate of 100 or above. Smith and de Villiers made a tremendous effort against the formidable attack. De Villiers set the tone, stroking left-armer Nathan Bracken for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries in the first over. There were five more boundaries by the pair in the first 5 overs. The great Glenn McGrath came on now and de Villiers hit him for three successive boundaries rightaway in the arc between mid-wicket and point. There was a lull as McGrath and Bracken conceded only 3 runs in the next 15 deliveries. The duo was back to their aggressive best, clouting fours and sixes with regularity. This time de Villiers was first to his half-century in 47 balls, and immediately lofted McGrath over mid-on to the boundary, raising the hundred in 13.1 overs, and replicating the shot in the same over. Smith’s fifty came up in 41 balls. Soon de Villiers rocketed Brad Hogg over long-on for a six. In the next over he turned on Andrew Symonds, who had a fixation for the short-pitched ball, pulling him for three consecutive boundaries. Just as the Aussies might have been worried and de Villiers was racing towards his hundred, came a turn in fortunes. A powerful direct hit from long-leg by Shane Watson had de Villiers run out for 92, the same unfortunate manner of dismissal and the same score as Clarke. His brilliant knock had occupied only 70 deliveries, studded with 14 fours and those 2 sixes. The partnership had tallied 160 in just 21 overs and put the Proteas right on track. Soon Smith began cramping, de Villiers was back as runner, but both had to return after a while as the captain’s condition was too debilitating to continue. Then wickets began to crumble regularly, Smith was back but dismissed soon for 74, the procession continued and South Africa were bowled out for 294 in 48 overs. Watson’s throw and Smith’s cramps might have pre-empted a thriller in St. Kitts. 

The pendulum swung again as de Villiers was bowled by Chaminda Vaas for another duck in the super-eight clash with Sri Lanka, but South Africa pulled off a humdinger by one wicket as Lasith Malinga scythed through the tail with four wickets off consecutive deliveries spanning two overs. 

There was a successive duck for de Villiers as the lanky Irish paceman Boyd Rankin had him caught, trying to square-cut one that bounced more than expected. But an easy win was logged up as expected.

Then giant-killers Bangladesh upset South Africa too. Having strung together 251 for eight, the Bangladesh bowlers kept a stranglehold. Smith (12) and Jacques Kallis (32) departed after putting up an aggressive posture. At the other end of the scale, de Villiers tried to grit it out but was bowled by an armer from Abdur Razzak for 15, having been in for 39 deliveries. Wickets kept tumbling and South Africa were beaten by 67 runs.

Pitted opposite hosts West Indies, de Villiers atoned handsomely for his failures. He lost Smith early but aligned with Kallis in a huge partnership. Kallis was in a belligerent mood but de Villiers caught up with him and hammered Dwayne Bravo for a four and a six off successive balls, raising his fifty in 58 deliveries. The century partnership came in 15.4 overs. They went on merrily until Kallis was bowled for 81, the partnership worth 170 off 28.2 overs. As Herschelle Gibbs joined him, a delighted de Villiers ushered in his first hundred in One-day Internationals, having faced 114 balls. He soon strained his hamstring and Smith returned the favour by running for him. Having decided to wield the big stick while he could, de Villiers lashed out at Chris Gayle, clouting 2 sixes in the 40th over, with Gibbs striking a four of his own in between. De Villiers unleashed his willow on Ramnaresh Sarwan in the next over, clouting him over mid-wicket for consecutive sixes and a four to point a couple of balls later. Now in considerable strife, de Villiers slammed two boundaries off Bravo in the following over. Soon Corey Collymore had him caught for 146, ending the mayhem of 130 deliveries in which he blasted 12 fours and 5 sixes. Gibbs’ contribution was 18 in a stand of 70 in 7.5 overs. South Africa went on to amass 356 for four. After a bit of rest, de Villiers was back on the field and took a fine diving catch at point. West Indies fought gamely right down the order but could not manage more than 289, having lost nine wickets. De Villiers took away the man-of-the-match prize for his heroic knock.

The Kiwis tripped the Proteas by five wickets, and astonishingly de Villiers bagged his fourth duck of the tournament. The pendulum was swinging wildly.

South Africa fought back, trouncing England by nine wickets in the last super-eight encounter. Chasing a target of 155, de Villiers was off to a blazing start hitting Sajid Mahmood for 2 fours in each of his first two overs. Smith joined in the boundary hitting mode and the fifty was up in 5.4 overs. The duo continued to find the pickets until de Villiers edged one to the wicketkeeper. His 42 comprised 8 boundaries spanning 35 deliveries. The opening stand had realized 85 runs in 9.5 overs overs. Smith (89 not out, 58 balls, 13 fours) and Kallis brought up victory in 19.2 overs.    

The Aussies were unstoppable in the semi-final, skittling the Proteas for 149 in less than 44 overs, Andrew Hall drawing first blood with a brilliant haul of five for 18 in his 10 overs. De Villiers was third out for 15, none of their batsmen got to fifty, and they were defeated by seven wickets.

It was a strange kind of World Cup for de Villiers, being dismissed for four ducks and two 15s in 10 innings, still averaging 37.20 without a not out, and with the help of a century, a near-century, a half-century, and a near half-century. Indeed de Villiers and South Africa experienced a whole range of emotions in this tournament. The elegant strokemaker, though, entertained all the while, well illustrated by his strike-rate of 100.81 runs per hundred balls.       

With Hashim Amla now in the side, de Villiers was batting down the order in the 2011 World Cup, and donning the big gauntlets when required, a mark of his talent and versatility. West Indies totalled 222 and then dismissed Amla and Kallis early. De Villiers joined Smith at 20 for two after 5 overs, and was soon into his stride, stroking speedster Kemar Roach for three exquisite boundaries in an over. The half-century of the stand came up in 9.1 overs. True to type, de Villiers skipped down the wicket to Chris Gayle and sent the ball sailing over long-on for a six, raising his fifty at a-run-a-ball. The century stand arrived in 19.4 overs, and soon after de Villiers tonked the slow left-armer Suleiman Benn for a four and a six on the off-side off successive deliveries. Smith was bowled in the next over, the partnership worth 119 in 23.3 overs. There was still some work to do as Jean-Paul Duminy joined in, and apart from an early boundary each in their partnership, they concentrated on picking up the ones and twos. A bit of rain halted play for a few minutes, and immediately after de Villiers raised his century off 97 deliveries, the quickest by a South African in the World Cup, and a successive one against the West Indies in the premier event. They brought up victory in 42.5 overs, de Villiers unbeaten on 107, having faced 105 balls and stroked 8 fours and 2 sixes. The partnership was worth 84 off 14.2 overs. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir with his bag of four for 41 on debut, was a contender for the man-of-the-match award, but de Villiers eventually got the nod. The campaign had begun on the right note.

Morne van Wyk was given the responsibility behind the sticks in the workout versus the Dutch, leaving de Villiers free to concentrate on his run-getting. And he did get the runs in glorious fashion after Smith and Kallis had departed just after the fifty had been posted. Amla was now de Villiers’ associate in a huge partnership. After a bit of a look-in, de Villiers beautifully on-drove Ryan ten Doeschate to the boundary, and off the next delivery cut him powerfully above point for another four. He brought up his fifty off 47 balls, as the paired cruised. The hundred of the stand came up in 16.1 overs. Amla sailed to his ton in 121 deliveries. They raised the termpo with the commissioning of the batting Powerplay in the 42nd over, de Villiers crashing Pieter Seelaar for a six and four off successive deliveries, and Amla striking another boundary a ball later. A Mudassar Bukhari yorker was despatched to the point boundary by de Villiers, who reached his hundred with a single off the last ball of the over. This was now the fastest hundred by a South African in the World Cup, off 88 balls. In the next over he launched Bernard Loots for on-side sixes off the first three deliveries to log up the double-century partnership in 28 overs. Amla helped himself to a four off the fifth ball. It was ten Doeschate’s turn in the following over and de Villiers now struck three consecutive off-side boundaries straighaway. Two balls later ten Doeschate had Amla caught at point for 113, scored off 130 deliveries containing 8 fours. The stand was worth 221 in 29.2 overs. A cricketing cliché showed up once again as de Villiers was run out in the next over. Both partners were dismissed in quick succession after a long partnership. His superb 134 spanned just 98 deliveries and was embellished with 13 glorious hits to the boundary and 4 sailing high above it. The later batsmen too enjoyed themselves and South Africa ended up with 351 for five. Holland were bowled out for 120. It was a successive hundred as well as man-of-the-match prize for de Villiers in the first two matches of this tournament.

A low-scoring thriller at Chepauk went England’s way by just 6 runs. Tahir (four for 38) and Robin Peterson (three for 22) spun out the English for 171 in 45.4 overs. South Africa began well, Amla and Smith raising 63 in 14.1 overs. Then the wheels began to come off with three wickets gone in just about 5 overs. De Villiers and Faf du Plessis gritted it out, adding 42 runs in 12.2 overs but England began striking back. Shouldering arms to James Anderson, de Villiers found to his dismay that the ball had grazed his off-stump. In an innings of 25 completely out of character, de Villiers had not hit a single boundary in a stay off 44 balls. Two more wickets fell at the same score, another after 3 runs, van Wyk and Dale Steyn raised hopes only to be dashed as the last three wickets crashed for 5 runs.

Another nerve-wracking encounter took place with hosts India at Jamtha, Nagpur, but this time it was a high-scoring one that South Africa managed to pull off with just 2 balls to go. India were propelled by Sachin Tendulkar’s 99th international hundred, but Steyn pulled it back for South Africa with a five-wicket haul. With the asking-rate hovering around 7.5 runs per over, de Villiers joined forces with Kallis at 127 for two. His first big hit was a six over mid-wicket off Harbhajan Singh. Kallis was run out for 69 with the score reading 173 for three with the required rate climbing close to 9. The batting Powerplay was availed of immediately as Duminy arrived, and the boundaries started flowing. Both batsmen found the ropes off Ashish Nehra’s over. Seven runs came off each ball of a Zaheer Khan over without a boundary. Again the pair hit a four each off Munaf Patel. Then Zaheer bore the brunt with de Villiers hitting 2 boundaries and Duminy a six. Harbhajan came on in an effort to slow down the pace in more ways than one, but de Villiers defty lofted the ball to the ropes backward of square, ringing in his half-century. He swept the next delivery hard but was caught at square-leg. His 52 had come off 39 deliveries and he had struck 6 fours and a six. Virtually every batsman contributed to the cause, South Africa managing to scrape through just in time with three wickets to spare, Peterson swinging the bat with abandon in the final over.

Having been rested in the last two league games with Ireland and Bangladesh, de Villiers was back in the quarter-final face-off with New Zealand, and with the wicketkeeping gloves too. The Kiwis posted 221 for eight. After the early loss of Amla, Smith and Kallis put on 61 runs. Then the Jacob Oram magic started taking effect with the scalp of Smith. Things seemed on course with Kallis and de Villiers in charge but a brillant catch on the mid-wicket boundary by Oram sent Kallis on his way. Duminy did not last long, but another run out of de Villiers two balls later was a huge blow. The sight of de Villiers sprawled on the turf as he dived desperately for the crease might have been symbolic of what lay in store for his team. His 40-ball 35 was studded with 4 fours. Oram went on to bag four for 39, and South Africa crashed out, beaten by 49 runs.      

It was a superb tournament for de Villiers, having scored 353 runs in 5 matches with an average of 88.25. A strike-rate of 108.28 and 2 hundreds and a fifty were proof of his brilliant form. Unfortunately, his team had faltered once again in the final stages of a World Cup.

South Africa could not ask for more of de Villiers in the World Cup. A tally of more than 700 runs, average above 50, strike-rate over 100, 3 hundreds, 3 fifties, versatile with the bat and in the field. With plenty of time still to go it is hard to imagine what de Villiers will achieve, and in endearing, spectacular fashion. He is definitely poised to be counted amongst the greats. 

(From the Hall of Fame section of Indra Vikram Singh’s new book ‘Indian Spring’. The author can be contacted on email 

Indian Spring

ISBN 978-81-901668-7-4

Will be available shortly in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Distributors in India: Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Batting heroics in the cricket World Cup 2011 : excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s forthcoming book ‘Indian Spring’

Virender Sehwag scored the first century in the 2011 World Cup.

Runs by the ton

As many as 24 hundreds were scored in the 2011 event, the maximum in any World Cup. The most earlier was 21 hundreds in 2003.

India’s Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli (100 not out) scored centuries on the first day of the 2011 World Cup against Bangladesh. This is the third time that two centuries have been scored on the first day of a World Cup, but the first time that two batsmen from the same team achieved the feat.

There were three other instances in the 2011 World Cup of a pair of batsmen from the same team hitting tons in the same match. These are Hashim Amla (113) and Abraham de Villiers (134) for South Africa versus Holland, Tillakaratne Dilshan (144) and Upul Tharanga (133) for Sri Lanka versus Zimbabwe, and again Tillakaratne Dilshan (108*) and Upul Tharanga (102*) versus England.  

South Africa’s Abraham de Villiers hit up hundreds in consecutive matches, 107 not out against West Indies and 134 against Holland, emulating five others in the World Cup.

Virat Kohli joined twelve others in scoring a century on World Cup debut.

Irishman Kevin O’Brien smashed the fastest-ever century in the World Cup from just 50 balls, off the English bowlers, beating Matthew Hayden’s record set in 2007 by 16 deliveries.

Ireland’s Paul Sterling became the youngest at 20 years 196 days to score a century in the World Cup. The earlier mark stood to the name of Ricky Ponting at 21 years 76 days in 1996. Kohli is now the third youngest at 22 years 106 days.

Sachin Tendulkar has scored six hundreds, the most by any batsman in the World Cup, followed by Ricky Ponting with five.

Sri Lankans scored 7 centuries in 2011, the most by a team in any World Cup, beating Australia’s six in 2007.

Five centuries were hit off the English bowling in 2011, equalling Namibia’s unenviable mark of 2003, the most conceded by a team in a single World Cup.

Epic knocks

There were three 140-balls plus knocks in the 2011 World Cup, all by opening batsmen.

The longest innings of 145 deliveries was by English skipper Andrew Strauss as he hammered 158 in the tied match with India at Bangalore. His team scored 338 for eight in 50 overs.

Sri Lanka’s Upul Tharanga occupied the crease over 141 deliveries in the record 282-run opening partnership with Tillakaratne Dilshan against Zimbabwe at Pallekele. He hit up 133 in his side’s total of 327 for six in 50 overs.

Virender Sehwag’s 175-run blitz in the opening encounter with Bangladesh at Mirpur spanned 140 balls. India logged up 370 for four in 50 overs, the highest total of this tournament.

Beyond the boundary

The maximum runs scored in boundaries by a batsman in an innings in the 2011 World Cup were 88 composed of 13 fours and 6 sixes by Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien in his awesome match-winning 113 against England. Virender Sehwag followed closely with 86 carved with the aid of 14 fours and 5 sixes in his 175 versus Bangladesh. The maximum of 7 sixes were crashed by Kiwi Ross Taylor in his exhilarating unbeaten 131 against Pakistan, the next best being 6 sixes by Kevin O’Brien in that upset of England. The most boundaries adding up to 18 were struck by Andrew Strauss in the lead up to the tie with India, with Upul Tharanga bludgeoning 17 in the record opening partnership at the expense of Zimbabwe.  

Nervous nineties!

While 24 centuries were scored in the 2011 World Cup, there were 8 dismissals in the nineties. Michael Clarke recorded his third innings in the nineties in the World Cup, equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s mark, but the Australian was unbeaten once in 2007 and is yet to notch up a hundred in the premier tournament.

(From the Tailenders section of Indra Vikram Singh’s about-to-be-released book ‘Indian Spring’. The author can be contacted on email 

Indian Spring

ISBN 978-81-901668-7-4

Will be available shortly in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Distributors in India: Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.