Thursday, May 31, 2007

A question of evolution

Was doing some thinking. What are the main essential qualities that are basic for survival for the modern one-day international batsman? Natural flair? Technique from the manuals? The proper cricketing acumen?

Ten years before, to be called a cricketing great, required the player to have all the above qualities. But looking around at all the successful batsmen of now I can think of only four main qualities: aggressiveness, confidence, brute strength and some shrewd thinking.

How many of the present day one-day international cricketers do all that stuff about using the wrists, turning the face of the bat at the right moment, the little delicate flicks, the picking up of gaps and rotating the strike etc.? Except for a period of roughly 15 overs between the 20th and the 35th of a 50 over match it is always just brute attack all the time. In a few years even those 15 overs of conventional cricket will become unnecessary.

As the game evolves, batting is just getting more and more of literal powerplay. On the other hand bowling is evolving in the reverse direction. Just mere pace and aggressiveness is not the sought after quality. More and more emphasis is on deceit and 'out-thinking' the batsman.

I might be wrong but it certainly does seem like batting is turning into the more grotesque part of cricket while bowling is evolving into the art form.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Let's play coach coach

Who's going to be India's next coach? If you happened to have asked me this question three days ago, I would have looked you in the eye and said: Dav Whatmore. Now, I'll look you in the eye and say: anyone but Dav Whatmore.

What a turn of events this humt for coach has taken! A lot has transpired since the day when Dav Whatmore decided to dump the Bangladesh coach job in anticipation of a better job, that of the Indian coach. His blatant willingness to do anything for the job was so very obvious and with his very impressive coaching record with the Lankans and Bangladesh more recently Whatmore was a frontrunner for the coaching job. Add to that all the news reports of the hush-hush meetings the Indian cricket management was having with him during the Bangladesh tour, and anyone would feel he was the top choice for the job. Not to be so. Just take a look what Kapil Dev apparently said in a press conference about Whatmore and his chances.
"Who is Whatmore? Why do we need to talk about Whatmore? Or, for that matter, anybody not associated with our team at this point in time. In my opinion, when Ravi (Shastri) isn't available after Bangladesh, the Board should give the coach's powers to Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, both of whom have played international cricket and are currently working with the boys."
Wow! That's interesting! Kapil Dev is on that panel of experts who will choose the next Indian coach and I think that comment clearly means he is rooting for an Indian coach and if not an Indian coach, anyone but Whatmore will get his vote. Meanwhile Gavaskar has also been harping about the lacking tactical ability in the Bangladesh camp after their heavy test-match loss to India. And of course he is on the panel too . Two big votes gone for Whatmore.

So who will be India's next coach? I will not hazard a guess. The fog is too dense right now. We'll just have to sit tight and wait for the 4th of June. What more can we do?!! (Sorry, I just had to say that! It is a funny name!)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New captain. New lows

I am just not able to stop feeling sorry for Ramnaresh Sarwan, the new West Indian captain. What a nightmare of a first tour as captain he is having!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Well done Zaheer!

So India have finally conquered Bangladesh. Surely nothing to be excited about, given the quality of the opposition, but definitely a lot to be relieved about! So here is a sigh of relief from me..phew! With the kind of penchant the Indian team happens to have to mess things up right at the end when everything seems to be going on perfectly, what a relief it is to see our guys come through. Three cheers to the Indian team!!

There were moments, I will not deny, even during the final stages of the match, when I felt pretty certain some mess up had to happen, especially when Mashrafe Mortaza was doing a great job undoing the efforts of the cricket ball factories. Thankfully, Sachin Tendulkar came to the rescue yet again picking up Mortaza's wicket for the second time(hmmm..Sachin can claim a bunny now).

But there was one man who looked just perfect and unstoppable and that was Zaheer Khan! A fiver in the first innings and two quick top order wickets in the second were cracking blows on the Bangladesh spine. And when you realize that that performance came on a flat track with nothing at all for the quickies, it was one hell of an effort by the big man.

So with the three cheers to the Indian team add ten cheers to Zaheer Khan! And twenty more to his huge heart and consistent perseverence. Way ta go Khan Saab......

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Four centuries and five wickets!

Four centuries with two of them unbeaten! And ofcourse a delectable cameo by Mahendra Singh Dhoni towards the end which is getting to be almost a regular feature lately. And then the Zaheer Khan act to wipe out the Bangladesh top order to add to the batting effort. Rest assured, this match is going to result in that elusive victory for India, maybe within three days into it.

Never mind the opposition. However flat the pitch was and however ineffective the Bangladesh bowling seemed, the biggest point is that at last the Indian team has come up with two full days of consistent high quality cricket. I just can't recollect the last time that happened.

Anyway, one thing that is so noticeable, with pleasure, is the Dhoni-Kaarthick duel, isn't it? Obviously both the wicketkeepers are trying to outperform each other and neither wants to let go the India cap. Great...thats awesome news for the Indian team. Gilchrist had once said if he didnt perform well for two games on the trot he would get the feeling the team was just carrying him and he could be ousted out of it any minute. With such intense competition driving the Aussies, no wonder they always perform so well. This competition has almost been absent in the Indian team especially for the wicketkeeper's slot and this present 'war of the wicket-keeper' is damn exciting to say the least!

About the Bangladesh performance all that is evident is how much they need to still progress in test cricket and how little their performance in the World Cup actually suggests about the team. For starters Habibul Bashar's decision to bowl first was undoubtedly one of the most generous offerings any captain could make to the opposition. Gavaskar's comment on that is totally on target:
There was no cricketing reason that one can think of for him doing so, for the pitch was flat, and even if there was a bit of cloud cover, his new-ball bowlers were hardly the type who could move the ball in that kind of weather.
And once Bashar made that decision, the rest, as they say, was just history.......

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Maninder Singh owns up

So Maninder Singh was infact taking drugs. And that too for the past one-and-a-half years! Who would have believed that had it not come out as a confession from the man himself. Frankly, when I read about the news of the arrest I was almost wanting to believe there was some kind of mistake. This man has been commmentating on television for many years now and all cricket followers in India have, I am pretty sure, grown quite familiar to his presence. And to think that the same man was hooked to drugs all the time! That shakes me up and, dare I say, is even amusing too.

And how does he defend himself? He apparently claims he was having a pretty rough patch at home and had taken to drugs to 'de-stress' himself. Common excuse. First of all we dont know how much of that is believable and even it was true nothing and definitely not 'a rough time at home' can justify doping. If every guy going through 'a rough patch at home' resorted to drugs half the world would have been flooded with junkies.

I believe it to be true that Maninder Singh is as guilty as a Shoaib Akhtar, if not more, and that means it should be seen to that this matter is dealt with approprate seriousness by the Indian cricket fraternity. A ban on him from futher cricket commentating work? Probably.

Ans on a side note, it seems like Maninder Singh is very well represented in court. Take a look at what the lawyer, Mr.SK Ahluwalia, has to say:

"My client has never taken any kind of drugs. There is a rival group in the cricket world that is working against him. The police are trying to implicate him"
Ha!! Typical lawyer. Rival group huh? haha..that's funny. Maninder is already out on bail and if any further complications arise in the case he is surely in safe hands!

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Graham Gooch's World Cup dream team

I am very impressed with Graham Gooch's World Cup dream team. I think he has got every player and every position spot on.

1. Sachin Tendulkar

2. Adam Gilchrist

3. Viv Richards

4. Ricky Ponting

5. Martin Crowe

6. Steve Waugh (captain)

7. Imran Khan

8. Wasim Akram

9. Shane Warne

10. Glenn McGrath

11. Muttiah Muralitharan

Quite a formidable team huh? 

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ICC Player’s rankings

Not very rosy for India, Rahul Dravid is the only Indian batsman in the top20 and Anil Kumble is the only Indian bowler in the top 20. And as for allrounders, Irfan Pathan saves our face. 5th place for him. Surprising that he finds a place.
TEAMS
1. Australia (135 points)
2. England (114)
3. Pakistan (108)
4. India (107)
5. Sri Lanka (102)
6. South Africa (102)
7. New Zealand (93)
8. West Indies (72)
9. Zimbabwe (28)
10. Bangladesh (2)

BATSMEN
1. Ricky Ponting (Aus; 936 points)
2.Mohammed Yousuf (Pak; 915)
3.Kevin Pietersen (Eng; 864)
4. Kumar Sangakkara (SL; 857)
5.Mike Hussey (Aus; 842)
6.Matthew Hayden (Aus; 828)
7.Jacques Kallis (SA; 820)
8.Rahul Dravid (Ind; 793),
9. Younis Khan (Pak; 789)
10. Ashwell Prince (SA; 755).

BOWLERS
1. Muttiah Muralidharan (SL; 913)
2. Makhaya Ntini (SA; 856)
3. Shaun Pollock (SA; 730)
4. Anil Kumble (Ind; 725)
5. Shane Bond (NZ; 722)
6. Stuart Clark (Aus; 720)
7. Matthew Hoggard (Eng; 715)
8. Mohammed Asif (Pak; 710)
9. Andrew Flintoff (Eng; 701)
10. Corey Collymore (WI; 700)

ALLROUNDERS
1. Jacques Kallis (SA; 462)
2. Andrew Flintoff (Eng; 407)
3. Shaun Pollock (SA; 356)
4. Daniel Vettori (NZ; 329)
5. Irfan Pathan (Ind; 249)

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Praise for Suresh Raina

Must be party time for the 20 year old Suresh Raina. I am a firm believer of his cricketing credentials and this bit of news about him did not surprise me at all:

The latest issue of the Wisden Cricketer clubs Raina with Australians Michael Clarke, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson; England’s Kevin Pietersen; Pakistan’s Mohammed Asif; Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga; West Indian Dwayne Bravo, New Zealand’s Ross Taylor and Bangladesh’s Mohammed Ashraful as the players who will define cricket’s next decade.

The writer says that Raina has the talent to be a left-handed Sachin Tendulkar with even more intuitive flair. “But he needs to be sensitively handled by India. The way he dismantled England during an ODI in Faridabad in March 2006 hinted at a rare genius, and Greg Chappell never stopped singing his praises. Aged 20, he has plenty of time on his side.”

I concur. He is a committed cricketer and an electric personality in the field. But above all he seems to be the kind of guy whom you can safely expect not to crumble under pressure because he obviously does not carry the 'star status' on his shoulders unlike some of the others in the Indian team. He is definitely another of the guys who are invariably going to shape a new, youthful, vibrant, positive Indian team in no less than two years from now. The others being Dhoni, Kaarthick, Zaheer, Sreesanth, Powar and maybe Yuvraj and Piyush Chawla too. Some other new entrants will come too and then we will have forgotten these dark days when the Indian team struggled to beat the Bangladesh team in a humiliating display of amateur cricket.
Now, Raina, I am sure, is more excited than he is willing to admit about the Wisden praise and has even vowed to keep up to the people's expectations

"Any such comparison with Sachin bhai is not only flattering but rather
intimidating. I know it's a huge task because he is simply from another planet.
Players of our generation idolise him. Still, I have age on my side and would do
whatever it takes to live up to people's expectation," the 20-year-old player,
recovering from a knee surgery, said.

But then the national selectors and the coach, whoever it will be, and the captain really need to realize their responsibility involved in keeping him as well as the other new talent in the same excited spirits as they are now. Treating them as they have treated Laxman and others in the past will only lead to more wasted talent as has happened so frequently in the past. Can these officials do it? That is the milion dollar question.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

China's noble game

It is very interesting to note that China has a recorded history of cricket dating back to 1858! I was astonished to read an article on the internet that said:

The first recorded match(of cricket in China) was played in 1858 in Shanghai, between a team of officers from the HMS Highflyer and a Shanghai XI.
Photographs also exist showing 19th century cricket matches in other areas, such as the southern city of Chongging.
Now that is surprising. If the Chinese did show an interest in the game back then, they seem to have forgotten all about it somewhere between then and now. As far as I am aware, the two most popular professional sports in China are Basketball and Soccer and most Chinese men and women are not even aware of a game called cricket.

Motivated by this discovery, I decided to some Googling on cricket in China and guess what I found: The Chinese are trying to popularize the game as 'shen shi yun dong' or 'The Noble game' and some chinese youth are taking to the game, in not very huge numbers though, as these pictures accompanying this post indicate.

Now, it is no secret that the ICC is putting in a lot of effort to try and popularize cricket all over the world and gain a wider market(read as revenue) for the game. So far little progress seems to have happened. Ofcourse small and part-time cricket teams were inducted in the 2007 World Cup but they were mere 'formality teams'. And if the ICC does want to gain some rep points for the game in China, which is an immensely huge market, they will have to try and keep that image of cricket as a 'noble game' intact. But going by how they have gone about pimping the game for some ignoble ends through some ignoble means, that image is clearly going to take a beating unless some sense can be driven into administrators of the game.
Help! Keep cricket Noble!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What a series!

So the Lankans have got the upper hand over Pakistan at last. After suffering two defeats against Pakistan, the World Cup runners up had a lot to play for. One being the pride factor. They would surely not want people talking about their superb World Cup run as a mere fluke. So they had a point to prove and had to hold their chins high which meant they needed a win against Paksitan in the last match of the 3 match series, inspite of the series already being lost. And then ofcourse there was the Moody factor. With their coach, Tom Moody, leaving the Sri Lanka job after this match they would have felt they owed one last victory to him after the awesome effort he has put into Sri Lankan cricket that almost saw Sri Lanka repeating their 1996 feat of a World Cup truimph.

Whatever the reasons, the deserving team agan won with the only difference being that the deserving team this time round was Sri Lanka rather than Pakistan which won the first two of the matches. If the boring India-Bangladesh test match had me regretting having watched it, I am kicking myself for having missed half the live telecast of this Sri Lanka-Pakitan series. After all, this is where all the action was. Thankfully, a timely phone call from a friend ensured I didn't miss Shahid Afridi going Berserk.
On Pakistan's new captain
Looks like Shoaib Malik has got off to a great start to his tenure as captain(he owes a lot to Shahis Afridi). A booming series victory against an in-form side and a nice show with the bat in the final match. Pakistan has had an infamous history of players being unco-operative(does such a word exist?) with the captain and one effective way to stitch a team together, I believe, is to have a captain who commands respect. If Malik can continue with the way he has started and learn from his mistakes on the way, there is no reason why he shouldn't be a good captain and why the Pakistan team can't take a few leaps ahead under him.

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Some fresh cricket gossip

Whoa! Now, this is very interesting and extremely gossip-worthy news! Apparently Maninder Singh, the soft spoken Sardar and former left-arm spinner, was found possessing 1.5 grams of coacaine, a banned drug, at his residence. Nobody seems to know how and why but this will mean is that if found guilty he could be arrested. It seems the Delhi police were tracking a Nigerian national who was indulging in drug trafficking in the country and somehow believe him to be selling the drugs to Maninder Singh.

Hmmmm.....so what may you be upto Maninder Paaji? Who would have thought this tricky left-arm spinner turned commentator who was part of the famous Indian World Cup truimph in 1983 would get involved in a drug controversy? Surely Chetan Chauhan his Delhi teammate never thought of that too:

"I am completely surprised. I have played with him for Delhi, for two or three seasons. I had no inkling of any previous instances involving him. I can't believe this."

Believe me, you are not the only surprised person Mr.Chauhan.

Luckily for Maninder though, the quantity of 1.5 grams is not enough do be deemed as "for commercial use" but will be treated as "for personal use". But that wont stop the Police from booking a case against Maninder Singh. However, that gives Maninder a chance to get out on bail. Some relief for the Sardar.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bangladesh deserved the draw

Habibul Bashar, I am sure, is a happy man. For one thing some runs flowed today from his bat; something that has not really been happening to him in the recent past. And secondly, his team has drawn the first match in the two match series against India. Having expected a 2-0 knock-out for his team, this draw will certainly be as sweet as a win for him and his team. Ofcourse part of the responsibility for the draw should lie with the rain Gods, but I don't want to even imagine what would have happened had the rains not come pouring down during the course of the match. More embarasment for the Indian team, maybe.

Having scored 387 in the first innings and having got the opposition at 149/8 any other test-cricket team would have taken advantage of the huge lead and ensured atleast a near-victory situation if not for a win itself(considering the rains). But India were lurking far behind at the end of the match with not even a sniff of victory. Uninteresting, unexciting and unimaginative cricket is what we played to ensure a drab end to what was such a promising start.

Often, a whole test match depends on the first innings lead and when India had a chance to easily secure a first innings lead and even enforce a follow-on, our men faltered. In hindsight, we should have first of all gathered more runs in our first innings batting effort. None of the two centurions carried on to say a 150 or 175+ and none of the half centurions carried on to a 100+. In a test match on a flat track, a highest score of 101 is unforgivable, especially so when two centuries are involved. And the tail didnt wag at all. Scores of 7, 1 ,0, 1 from the last four batsmen are just not acceptable. How much difference some 20-30 runs at that stage would have made!

Now, this Bangladesh bowling attack is good. But surely they are not the best around. And if we are not able to chance the arm around and belt some quick runs off this bowling attack, God knows what depths this batting line-up of ours can achieve against some of the better attacks. 

And ofcourse, our bowlers and the captain just allowed Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain to bat on and on and on to easily avoid the follow on and much more.

The bottomline: The Indian team did not win since they did not deserve to and the Bangladesh team did not lose because they did not deserve to. And I should not have watched the match because the match did not deserve an audience.

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Race against time for India. Game on.

The Gods and one Mashrafe Mortaza are not going to let the Indian team have their way easily. What was supposed to be a boring match with guaranteed victory within 4 days of play for the Indian team is turning out to be an exciting dash to the finish line; if we make it, that is.

Mashrafe Mortaza has always stuck it up to the Indian players. Damn him for that! Apart from tormenting us in the World Cup encounter with some classic quick bowling he again plagued us in the first innings of this test with 4 wickets to his name. But he is not satisfied and wants to flog the Indian bowlers with his bat too. At one point when we had the Bangladesh batsmen reeling at 149/8 and needing 39 runs to avoid a follow on the magical Mortaza walks in and scores a quickfire 79 of 91 balls with 7 fours and 3 sixers! This man is clearly a very impressive all-rounder. He is right up there with the likes of Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis.

The Kumble factor

We sorely missed Anil Kumble. He would have been easily able to mop up the Bangladesh tail at 149/8 with his quick and coming-out-of-thin-hair yorkers that only he can bowl. That surprise is usually too much for the tail-enders. 89 runs for the last two wickets would never have happened. 

Put your hands up, seniors

Anyway, now there is a tough yet a very achievable task ahead for the Indians. This is the time for the seniors in the side to put their hands up and do some quick scoring before lunch tomorrow. The first innings was entirely different with no pressure whatsoever and all the time in the world to do the scoring. Those centuries by Ganguly and Tendulkar were fine and classy but if they fail this time round, then those centuries will not have proven anything. Having said that Tendulkar is going on magnificently with some intelligent cricket scoring lots of 1s ans 2s. Hope he continues. And hope Ganguly clicks too. He can be very effective against left-arm spin and conincidentally Bangladesh feature a pack of left-arm spinners among them.

Interesting day ahead. The tasks are cut out for both teams. Indians need to smash some quick runs in the first hour and declare and follow up with neat bowling while the Bangladeshis need to just dig in there with the bat.

If Tendulkar and Kaarthick last long enough Dhoni might get a push up the order and some violent hitting could be on the cards. Now, that is some excitement to look out for. No rain please. 

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The downside of being a cricket player .....

....is that when on tour you cannot eat what you like. Atleast that is true with the Indian team touring Bangladesh right now. Found this on cricketzone:
The dishes(for the Indian team in Bangladesh) were finalised in line with a guideline given by Indian team physical trainer Gregory Allen King, who has advised the hotel to desist from serving spicy food.
"A lot of items on the menu has been chosen by King," said a top executive.
So the physical trainer decides the food and any spicy food is a no-no. Ofcourse that doesn't mean the Indian cricketers out there are not enjoying the food at Bangladesh. Apparently Kumble was head over heels over the Wood Apple sherbet and even requested the chef for the recipe behind the sherbet! Ravi Shastri, the team manager, only eats yoghurt and honey every morning and that need is being taken care of. The South Indians are being taken care of too with Dosas being part of the menu. I can't imagine dosas even in North India leave alone Bangladesh. They are recieving royal treatment over there, aren't they? And with the rains ensuring the players are indoors half the time, it is all food and no play for the touring Indian team. Gregory King must be a concerned man.

But if you badly want some spicy food then you will have to slip away unnoticed in the middle of the night to a 24/7 joint (preferably an old and dingy one where people do not recognize any cricketers) and satisfy your craving! I'm sure the chubby Romesh Powar has some plans running in his head right now! But he'll need to discard those sunglasses during the night...

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A soccer ball sticker for me

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This is a sponsored post......


Being an ardent follower and fan of the game of soccer(apart from being cricket-crazy), I like this sticker of a soccer ball at StickerGaint.com. For some reason I have this great fascination with soccer balls and just love to toy around with them when I have nothing else to do(I have three soccer balls at home, all of different colours). The sticker is simple enough yet striking in its simplicity, atleast for me. I am going to stick it on my car bumper and it is going to be one of my prized possessions for years to come once I make the purchase. Meanwhile, you can get some stickers for yourself too. They have 1000s of categories and I am pretty sure you will come across one that will suit your liking.
____________________________________________________________________

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Afridi on song!

Such a pleasure watching an Afridi in full flow! And what an absolutely fantastic innings he has played against Sri Lanka at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Just take a look at this one over by Bandara. 2 fours and 4 booming sixes. Afridi is busy setting the fireworks going. Now that is what one-day cricket is all about. Show us what you got, Shahid (from cricinfo game commentary):
38.1 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, This is too easy now, Bandara flights it outside off and Afridi jumps down the track yet again, tries to go over cover but the thickish outside edge flies away over point for a four. Boom boom.

38.2 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, change of angle matters a little now. It's tossed up and Afridi arrives, even before the ball is delivered, and creams it down the ground for a blistering four. Straight and hard - the best way we guess. Boom boom.

38.3 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, Shot of the day must be, a flat-batted six to beat all flat-batted hits. Flatter this time and he charges again, tonks it sensationally through extra-cover for a six. Boom boom boom.

38.4 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, And this is bigger, much bigger. Thrash, bang, wallop. Similar formula, down the ground and blasts it way over extra cover for a huge six. That's massive. Thunder bolts flying around now.

38.5 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, Miscued and that's six more, he tries to whack it over long-on but the thick edge howitzers over long-off for another six. The fielder can't get to it.

38.6 Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, What an over. Ends with a flourish, down the ground and plasters it back over the bowler's head for a huge hit. 446666 - the second most expensive over in one-dayers. Only behind Herschelle Gibbs. Blitz, boom, bash, bosh. Bring them on.
Thanks to the Afridi blitzkrieg, Pakistan, the team that lost to Ireland in the first round of the World Cup, has beaten Sri Lanka, the World Cup finalists. An indication of how sorely Pakistan missed Afridi in their first two matches of the World Cup which he was banned from playing.

And have no doubts that this Afridi innings will serve as balm on his hassled teammates, the new captain Shoaib Malik and the distraught fans. Talk about timing.

Anyway, I am looking forward to more such entertainment from Shahid Afridi's blade except when he is playing against India.

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Inzamam hits back

The ongoing spat between the PCB and Inzamam-Ul-Haq is becoming more and more a case of washing dirty linen in the public. Why the two parties cannot sort out their problems and differences quietly without getting the media involved is something very intriguing. The Pakistan cricket team is already suffering with the problem of clashing personalities comprising it and instead of forgetting past happenings and moving ahead with the team building task at hand the PCB has most stupidly and unfortunately chosen to create more controversies and disparities. The committee probing Pakistan's World Cup debacle should not have, in the first place, come out in the open with such outrageous accusations against Inzamam, a player who was once the toast of the nation. Problems can be solved at a personal level too. And now Inzamam's lashing out, though totally understandable, is not helping at all.
"How they can comment on captaincy without having experienced it, is beyond me. I am no dictator. Neither was I ever autocratic as a captain. I always took decisions after consulting the other senior players and team management. The strange thing is that when the team was doing well under my captaincy no one said anything. More strange is the part that former players have criticised me in the past for being too easy-going on the field and not showing more authority as captain. And the committee says I was a dictator. The sad fact is that in Pakistan cricket, after every big defeat blame has to be laid on someone. This time it is me. But why do people forget how well the team did in so many matches. We had one bad tournament and I accept responsibility for that. But to brand me all these things has hurt me."
There, he has said it. He is chosen to be the scapegoat, no doubt, and he knows that. But given the situation Pakistan cricket is in, why look for scapegoats at all is the million dollar question. Whom is the PCB trying to appease? 

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Clear indications of things to come

A flat and hard track with no bounce to offer, the sun beating down and quality Indian batsmen at the crease looking as comfortable as sunbathers on a beach. The signs are ominous for Bangladesh. No wonder the Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar himself was so sceptical about Bangladesh's chances. And further lowering their chances was the toss that he lost giving India a chance to bat first and pile up a huge total.

And we are doing a good job piling up a huge total too: 295/3 on a shortened first day. Every batsman is helping himself to a half-century and Sachin and Ganguly are looking like they are not going to get out for ages. Wasim Jaffer, our only specialist opener, did miss out though failing to the first delivery. VVS Laxman is missing out too, having been dropped from the playing eleven to accomodate a fifth bowler. The decision was a tough one to make, I am sure but then I will also say it was a positive one to allow Kaarthick, who has done so well ever since he got into international cricket, to have a look in.

But the sad part is that a good performance by Kaarthick here will result in him being always looked ahead of Laxman irrespective of the fact the innings has come in extremely favourable conditions where any batsmen worth his salt will not have a problem scoring freely. But what can you do about it. Cricket is a competitive game and there should be no room for emotions in selecting a team representing the nation. I have a suggestion for Laxman though: he needs to start learning wicketkeeping!

Another news is that Ishant Sharma the 18 year old lanky Delhi pacer will be filling in for the injured Munaf Patel. Should be exciting to see how he fares if he does feature in the second test.

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Poor Inzi

Inzamam haughty? I can't believe that could be possible. And yet that is what he is being accused of by a three member committee appointed by the PCB to look into Pakistan's World Cup disaster. Of course we will never know the real truth of what exactly hapenned for him to be called so(for all we know, these allegations could be a result of dirty politics and personal egos), but the soft-spoken fellow seems so affable and easy-going that him being haughty is something that has never crossed my mind. And as if that was not enough his attitude is being held responsible for Pakistan's debacle in the World Cup. Sounds like scape-goat hunting to me. Apparently this is what Ijaz Butt, the head of the committee opined(From Cricinfo):
"Inzamam's attitude was haughty and that of a dictator and more than one incident proved that. Inzamam should have been removed from the captaincy. As a player he was world-class but his attitude was haughty during and before the tournament. When the Pakistan Cricket Board sent a selector with the team on tour to South Africa in January-February this year, Inzamam did not involve the selector in team selection"
Now I am a big fan of the burly Inzamam-Ul-Haq and this treatment to a player who has been such a great servant of Pakistan's cause for more than a decade is very distasteful. Even considering the allegations are true, I dont think the PCB has the right to be so cruel to a man who has contributed so much to the game of cricket.

If Inzamam is haughty then this three member committee seems haughtier to me. The PCB has already made itself look quite funny with the way the doping issue involving Akhtar and Asif was handled and this time too the way they have dealt with Inzamam is blatantly outrageous. Surely, Inzamam deserves better. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Finally some test cricket

After the disgusting farce that was the World Cup, test cricket is looking much much more attractive to me. And finally India is playing some test cricket, the opposition being Bangladesh. Bangladesh could beat India in a one-day match but in test cricket there is no doubt as to who will be victor. The Bangladesh captain himself is almost sure of defeat. What more need I say?

Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh are joining the Indian team for the test matches and with them bring a wealth of experience. The Bangladesh team, in contrast, is young with not much test-cricket experience to boast of. This may not be the most interesting test cricket series after all, but then it is test cricket and I am all pumped up for tomorrow's game!

One thing that would be interesting to watch out for in tomorrow's game is who fills the opener's slot alongside Wasim Jaffer. With Virender Sehwag not playing the Indian team again faces the age-old problem of finding opening batsmen. I am putting my money on Ganguly. He will be all pumped up after his success in India's last test series against South Africa that resulted in his comeback. And against a mediocre Bangladeshi bowling attack he should be able to do well in the opener's slot. And he is a popular man in Bangladesh too. Infact some Bangladesh fans were even dissappointed that he missed out on the one-day series. He has his interest in Bangladseh too:
"I don't consider Bangladesh as a different country. I captained in my first Test here. So Bangladesh will always be special."
I am sure Ganguly will want to make it a little more special for himself by getting a couple of centuries here.

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Bashar makes all the wrong noises

When was the last time I heard a captain giving up hopes even before a series started and even expressing it blatantly? The Bangladesh captain, Habibul Bashar, seems to be doing just that. Some of his comments sound weird to me. You hardly ever expect a captain to say such things:
"The Indians are a better side. They may even win the two-Test series 2-0. Sourav and Sachin are top performers. We will try to get them out quickly. The Indians have adapted to the conditions well. They are tough opponents. But I would like to say here that all teams become equal when a match starts."

The last sentence sounds more like an afterthought. Bashar spoke his heart out and then checked himself in the last moment.

Anyway what a comment to make about a touring team! It may be true that India is due ti win 2-0 but then knowing the truth and expressing it so openly are two different things. After all there is the Bangladeshi team morale to consider. And about the comment on Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar; they are two senior members of the Indian team left out of the squad under the garb of "rest". Must have been humiliating for the two. And the Bangladesh captain welcomes them back with fear and respect?

Contrast this with what the Australian captain might have said under similar circumstances. Ponting and the whole Australian team of champion sledgers would have gone on harping about how Ganguly and Tendulkar have become non-performers and how tough it is going to be for them to be accepted back among their team-mates after being practically dropped from the one-day team. They would have chewed on any remaining self-belief in the two and tried to put them under colossal pressure. Psychological tactics, Mr.Bashar. The game actually starts well before the first ball is bowled.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni - back to star status

Dhoni has had quite a roller-coaster journey through his cricketing days. But most of the times he has been travelling uphill. A greenhorn Dhoni within months captured the imagination of Indian and other followers of the game and in the process even managed to conquer the top spot in the ODI list of batsmen. Mysore Sandal Soaps, a company which was suffering losses of late, roped in Dhoni for their commercials and almost immeditely started seeing huge profits. Such was the influence Dhoni exercised on the minds of die-hard Indian cricket fans(including yours truly, though I've still not switched to Mysore sandal soaps).

In the home series against Sri Lanka before the World Cup Dhoni enthralled the audience with some atrocious hitting resulting in huge wins for India. Then came the World Cup. The whole Indian team underperformed and who bears the brunt? Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Fans(wrong word, maybe) vandalised his under-construction home causing security fears to his family. Such is the influence Dhoni exercises on the minds of die-hard Indian cricket fans(oops...wong word again). A success and a failure cause such extreme reactions among the common public.

And now with his post World-Cup success in Bangladesh one female fan managed to breach security and give him a hug and even plant a kiss on him. So Dhoni is back to being a star? You can never say that for sure. Two ducks in a row for him combined with two dropped catches and his house is going down again. If you can't believe anyone can be so crazy about one man then this video is for you:



Nice player, huh?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ICC Test rankings

Thanks to a dismal World Cup India maybe ranked below Bangladesh in the Maruti Suzuki ODI Cricket Ratings issued by ESPN STAR Sports, but when it comes to test matches Bangladesh are no match to the Indian team. India are ranked fourth in the ICC test rankings and if these rankings are any indication of a team's abilities then Bangladesh have a very tough task ahead in their coming test series against India. They are ranked 10th which is way below the Indians.
    

    Team                   Matches               Points             Rating

1 Australia                      43                       5807                   135

2 England                        47                       5344                   114

3 Pakistan                       38                       4092                   108

4 India                             38                       4056                   107

5 Sri Lanka                      36                       3686                   102

6 South Africa                 42                       4274                    102

7 New Zealand                28                       2602                     93

8 West Indies                  33                       2378                     72

9 Zimbabwe                    15                        415                       28

10 Bangladesh                22                         48                          2


Again compared to the Maruti Suzuki Individual Player ODI Cricket Rankings, the test ratings are far more favourable towards the Indians with two players featuring in the top 10: Rahul Dravid(ranked 8th among batsmen) and Anil Kumble(ranked 3rd among the bowlers).

Batsmen:

        Name                           Country

1 R.T. Ponting                         AUS
2 Mohammad Yousuf            PAK
3 K.P. Pietersen                     ENG
4 K.C. Sangakkara                   SL
5 M.E.K. Hussey                     AUS
6 M.L. Hayden                        AUS
7 J.H. Kallis                               SA
8 R. Dravid                              IND
9 Younis Khan                        PAK
10 A.G. Prince                          SA


Bowlers:
      
        Name                             Country

1 M. Muralidaran                     SL
2 M. Ntini                                  SA
3 A. Kumble                             IND
4 S.M. Pollock                           SA
5 M.J. Hoggard                       ENG
6 S.E. Bond                                NZ
7 S.R. Clark                              AUS
8 Mohammad Asif                  PAK
9 A. Flintoff                              ENG
10 Shoaib Akhtar                    PAK

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Rain kills a chance, India takes the series

So the third match in the three match series against Bangladesh has been called off due to incessant rain. India hardly gets to win a match nowadays and when we have a match coming that we are sure to win, down comes rain to wash away all our bright plans for a rare celebration(just let me know if I am getting over-critical of the Indian team)! Luckily we had managed victories in the first two games and have therefore ensured the three match series is ours. How many years it has been since we have seen the Indian team strike a pose as in that pic on the right.

Actually, the washing away of the match will not have just dissapointed the victory-starved fans but also some of the players who would have gotten a chance to play in the final match. Robin Uthappa or RP Singh or both, for example, might have featured in the last game and what better forum to display their wares than against an under-strength Bangladesh team. In Indian cricket, especially, one century, regardleess of the team you score it against, will book you a place in the squad for atleast an year to come. RP Singh and Uthappa should be ruing their fate and with good reason.

To top it all atleast 3-4 Bangladesh players(Mohammad Ashraful, Shahadat Hossain Rajib, Abdur Razzak and Farhad Reza) are apparently incapacitaited by some sort of viral fever in the Bangladesh camp. Tackling Bangladesh is easy enough compared to the other teams. But a Bangladesh team with 3-4 players out is just candy for the taking. Not just RP Singh and Uthappa but even the others poor-performers such as Sehwag and Mongia would be smashing their heads against the walls in frustration.

Ofcourse, the test matches are still there. But with Sachin and Saurav coming back into the side, not many other newcomers are going to get a chance. And Dravid was talking about using the series win as a spring board. I can only hope that happens.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Now, whom are we to believe?

A month and a half ago during the Word Cup in the Carribean, a bombshell dropped on the tournament with the news of Pakistan Coach Bob Woolmer's sudden death. The world first thought it is a death due to natural causes. And then came the shocking news that Bob Woolmer was actually murdered. And now England's Scotland Yard , after the whole world believes Woolmer was murdered, says there is no evidence pointing towards a murder. Now this is getting too heady for me.

The question is that how is it possible for such a high profile investigation carried out by a team of well trained and professional policemen be so fundamentally wrong? Beats me. If I remember well the Jamaican police had in sure terms termed Bob Woolmer's death as a due to manual strangulation. They had even found samples of poison in Woolmer's body. And now it was not a murder at all? Something fishy going on here. Could it be that the cricket world is trying to hush up the story for fear of negative publicity to the game? Alright. Maybe I am going a little too far. 

But as a fan of the game I would very well like to believe the death was not a murder at all. Clumsy and greedy cricket administration has brought enough negative attention. The game can do without a murder to boot. A death is sad and bad enough.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Shastri's warning to Bangladesh

India have taken the Bangladesh series 2-0 and can afford to take the third match lightly. But we will just not do that says Ravi Shastri, the Indian team Manager and in strong terms too:
"We are aiming at a 3-0 result. So there will be no let up. Bangladesh should not expect any mercy from us"
Now thats a pretty agressive statement to make and the right one too. Bangladesh meanwhile, already hurt by the series loss at home, will, I am sure, be further buoyed to lift their performance levels by that statement and rightly so.

After their World Cup victory to India every Bangladeshi would have fancied his team’s chances to run away with the tournament against India. Some fans were even warning India for having to face the consequences of leaving out Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly:
“We would have thought India would field its best team against us. India need to be reminded that we won the World Cup match, not them.”
Now that comment alone captures the kind of emotions that were running throughout Bangladesh before the Indian tour began. And needless to say they would be hurting by this tame series loss to India further fuelled by Shastri’s "no-mercy" call. These happenings might as well have an influence  on the Bangladeshi team and I definitely expect them to come into the third match with a lot more vigour in a quest to conquer some lost pride.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Indian Cricket League

Remember Subhash Chandra? He is the head of the Essel Group which are in turn the owners of the Zee network. He was the one who had come up with plans for an Indian Cricket League right after the World Cup. I had almost forgotten about that. But apparently Subhash Chandra has not been sitting quiet all this time. Plans are on for a tournament to be conducted around September-October of this year.

This will surely be very very interesting. Not only will the games themselves be interesting but also the reaction of the BCCI to this venture. But Chandra has some pretty exciting plans running which I think would in the long run prove good for Indian cricket. If everything goes right six teams will compete in the tournament with each team consisting of two Indian internationals, four overseas players and eight juniors. Chandra is of the opinion that the tournament could help in building the Indian bench-strength which has always been found wanting. Of course we know he is looking for more than that. Something greener maybe. But when the Ranji format in domestic cricket is surely not being very effective in churning out competent players capable of competing in international conditions, I don't see any harm in trying out something new.

Even better news is that Brain Lara, Shane Warne and GlennMcGrath are likely to take part. Young junior cricketers can definitely do with some lessons from such masters of the game. I am looking forward to this league happening and finding out what it can offer. With a prize money of US $1 million involved I am sure many others are looking forward to the league too.

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Australian Government does not want the Zimbabwe tour

Every now and then we are reminded of cricket being more than just a sport accepted only for its entertainment value. Money, politics, foriegn policies, personal ego and haywire fans all come together as a package with any international sport particularly so with cricket. Needless to say these foriegn elements, though unfortunately unavoidable, take a lot of the sheen away from the sport itself. The way the World Cup was conducted with the ICC trying to milk money out of everything that happened in the Caribbean and the way it resulted into being a frustrating and uninteresting affair serves as proof to the above fact.

And now a country's government steps in to put a halt to an international sporting affair. The Australian Prime Minister has chosen to stop its cricketers from touring Zimbabwe. All we want is a game. Nothing more, nothing less. But then as I said above these things are unavoidable when a sport reaches a level where it can affect the foreign policies af a Government. The Australian Goverment may have their own reasons. And this is the reason the Australian PM gives:
"I don't think it's fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of young sportsmen. It's much better, in the end, for the government to take the rap. I hope the rest of the cricketing world understands that, and it would be a very good idea if the rest of the cricket world adopted the same attitude towards [Robert] Mugabe's regime. I'm not going to stand around and allow some kind of aid and comfort be given to him by the greatest cricketing team in the world visiting his country."
Fine enough. You have your own reasons. But that comment about 'not allowing the greatest team to visit Zimbabwe and offer it aid and comfort' does seem a little arrogant to me. What if Australia was not the greatest side? Would it have been appropriate for them to tour Zimbabwe then? That comment made it look like Australia was doing a favour everytime it toured another country. Sounds like misplaced pride.

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Good win for India

Now this win against Bangladesh is what I call a convinving win. Finally after decades(let me know if I am exaggerating) of waiting we have a convincing win to boast about. After the disappointment of watching the Indian players struggling to earn a victory against Bangladesh in the previous match of the series, we have managed to win without giving the opposition even a sniff of victory. 

The victory margin was a humble 46 runs(it would have been much more if not for some late hammering by Mortaza) but then atleast Bangladesh never looked like they would win at all. And unlike the first match the bowling really struck. Zaheer Khan , our best bowler, looked much better than the last match. But what an amazing debut match for Piyush Chawla! 3 for 37 in his debut match. Everybody knows how badly in need the Indian team is for a new quality spinner in its ranks and I fervently hope Piyush Chawla will be able to fill that gap.

The other awesome individual performer was ofcourse Gautam Gambhir with a classy knock of 101 runs. With all the harping going on about the importance of singles after the previous match, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid did just that.

However it is disappointing to see Virender Sehwag still unable to regain his fabled Midas' touch. Cricket is a team game after all and one good individual performance here and there will not do good. The whole team needs to be in top gear all the time if we are to be any good.

So with this win we have clinched the series as well. And dare I say we will get the series 3-0. As for the test matches I think India should be winning hands down.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Afro-Asia cup

Remember the Afro-Asia cup that in August of last year ended in 1-1 draw with one match drowned in rain? The cup is happening again on the 5th of June this year and the teams are announced. 

Africa squad:(looks more like the South African squad to me)
Graeme Smith (SA, capt)
Steve Tikolo (Ken, vice-capt)
Johan Botha (SA)
Mark Boucher (SA, wk)
Elton Chigumbura (Zim)
AB de Villiers (SA)
Herchelle Gibbs (SA)
Andrew Hall (SA)
Jacques Kallis (SA)
Makhaya Ntini (SA)
Thomas Odoyo (Ken)
Peter Ongondo (Ken)
Shaun Pollock (SA)
Vusi Sibanda (Zim)
Hiren Varaiya (Ken)


Asia Squad:
(Where is Kumar Sangakkara?)
Mahela Jayawardene (SL, capt)
Sanath Jayasuriya(SL)
Virender Sehwag(Ind)
Upul Tharanga(SL)
Sachin Tendulkar(Ind)
Mohammad Yousuf(Pak)
Yuvraj Singh(Ind)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Ind, wk)
Harbhajan Singh(Ind)
Chaminda Vaas(SL)
Shoaib Akhtar(Pak)
Lasith Malinga(SL)
Mohammad Rafique(Ban)
Mohammad Asif(Pak)

The Asian team seems far stronger. But you can never say. Anyway the players will have a lot to play for more than just pride: the prize money. The total prize money for the tournament is $100,000, with the winners of each match getting $25,000. The Man of the Match would get $5000 while the Man of the Series stands to get $15,000. 

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Friday, May 11, 2007

A day of wicket-keepers

India have somehow beaten Bangladesh. Thanks to a classy pertnership between the wicket-keepers, Dhoni and Kaarthick, we got out of a potentially dangerous situation at 144/5. It was not convincing alright. But then I'll take it. I am feeling a little better now that India have gone one-up in the series against Bangladesh after they cruelly got us kicked out of the World Cup(in hindsight, maybe we ourselves got us kicked out).

It was cricket in its classic sense. Nice competition and some great individual contributions. Actually I didn't like the 'nice competition' part. Bangladesh have improved a lot as a one-day side but if India should be competing against the top teams, I still feel we should have beaten Bangladesh a little more convincingly. One wicket during the Dhoni-Kaarthick partnership could have easily killed our chances of a victory. Anyway I shouldn't be expecting too much from a side that could not even go through the first round of a World Cup.

And the Indian quickies were pathetically ineffective. Not one of them could pick up a wicket. Yes, the pitch was slow but those figures of 7-1-54-0 which happens to be that of our strike bowler, Zaheer Khan, are unpardonable. Lots of work ahead for our new bowling coach, Venkatesh Prasad.

By the way there are some very interesting stats about the game over at cricinfo. One is about the number of singles Dhoni and Kaarthick scored which was responsible for the hard-earned victory. But the other one is more interesting:
Dhoni has now made 15 fifty-plus scores in ODIs. Among Indian wicketkeepers, only Rahul Dravid has more - he has 18 scores of more than 50 in games in which he kept wicket. These two are well ahead of the pack - among Indian wicketkeepers, the third place is shared by Surinder Khanna and Nayan Mongia: both had two fifty-plus scores as wicketkeepers.
That paragraph above goes to show how important Dhoni and Kaarthick are to the Indian side. A couple of years ago, with the kind of wicket-keepers that we had, this win would have been impossible. 

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A team hassled like none other

About the only other cricket team that seems to be in a worse mess than the Indian team seems to be the Pakistan cricket team. They lost to green-horns Ireland in the World Cup and did not progress to the next stage at all. In contrast Bangladesh, to which India lost, is atleast a test side.

But apart from the disastrous show at the World Cup the poor players have got to contend with a lot more. Their coach Bob Woolmer was murdered half-way through the World Cup and their captain, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, announced a sudden retirement. Younis Khan, to who the captaincy was offered, refused it while lashing out at the Pakistan public for their harsh reaction to the team's misfortunes.

And that was only the tip of the iceberg. Just when the continuous hassling of the Pakistani players with regard to the murder of Bob Woolmer seemed to be slowly coming to an end, out came a revelation that Mushtaq Ahmed, their bowling coach, had passed on two bottles of Champagne to Woolmer before he was murdered. And now investigations on the matter are on.

If these problems are not enough there seem to be discipline problems among the players too with the opener Imran Farhat's blatant unhappiness over his non-selection into the Pakistan team. Farhat, apparently, called up the selectors to voice his disappointment in pretty harsh terms. Talk about adding fuel to fire.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What better than a sting operation on Indian cricket!

Already the public ire in a cicket crazy nation(India, that is) is focussed on the players, manager, coach and everyone else associated with any level Indian cricket. And what better way for a TV channel to cash in on the situation and gain some eyeballs than a sting operation on what is happening in the Indian dressing room.
'Headlines Today', the news channel has come up with just that! Ah, such shrewdness! These people never miss a business oppurtunity, do they? No one knows the truth of course. Just some very misty and unclear facts, a lot of spicy toppings and the gossip is ready to be splashed on every TV screen and every print media out there(hmmm...this includes this blog, I suppose).
And what are the findings? The same old things actually with some added masala that a sting operation offers. It seems the coach, Greg Chappell, and the senior players had some serious disagreements(anything new?). And Ganguly and Sachin are not in very good terms with Dravid. Apparently they are hoping that he fails so one of them could take on the mantle of captain!
Ofcourse, I don't know and neither do care what happens in the dressing room as long as we are doing well on the field. But I have to say it is laughable to even think that such childish thoughts could be running in the minds of responsible and highly regarded cricketers playing for the nation. This so called sting operation looks like a lot of nonsense to me. Just a claim for 2 minutes of fame.

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Dates and fixtures of India's Bangladesh tour

Thu 10
1st ODI - Bangladesh v India Shere Bangla National Stadium Mirpur
Sat 12
2nd ODI - Bangladesh v India Shere Bangla National Stadium Mirpur

Tue 15
3rd ODI - Bangladesh v India Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium Chittagong
Fri 18 - Tue 22
1st Test - Bangladesh v India Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium Chittagong

Fri 25 - Tue 29
2nd Test - Bangladesh v India Shere Bangla National Stadium Mirpur
____________________________________________________________
I think we will win the tests with considerable ease. It is the one-dayers that we will have to watch out for. We have found that out the hard way after all.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A lot of talk about Gilchrist's squash ball

Looks like there is a lot of talking going around about Gilchrist and his little squash ball adventure. He had revealed after his amazing century that resulted in a hat-trick of World Cups for Australia that he had a squash ball in his glove that ensured a better grip and now there is lot of hue and cry going on about the legalities of what he did. Not exactly the legalities but apparently it was unethical for Gilchrist to have done it. Atleast that is what Kangadaran Mathivanan, the Sri Lanka Cricket secretary believes : (From Cricinfo)
"We are of the opinion that it was unethical for Gilchrist to use a squash ball to give unfair advantage," Mathivanan told AFP. He said Sri Lanka could call on the ICC's cricket committee for stringent application of Law 42 on fair and unfair play to ensure only the approved protection equipment was used. He said that SLC would discuss the issue before deciding whether to raise it in London.
But then the rule-makers reportedly feel "It is no different to wearing inners, etc".

I dont know about the legalities of the issue but I certainly feel ICC needs to make some strict rules about what type of safety equipment cricketers can wear. If the squash ball was no different from glove inners then Gilchrist could have as well used those. Maybe the rule needs to be out before someone can think of how to misuse its non-existence. Something like what Greg Chappell and Trevor Chappell did in the famous 'under-arm bowling' incident.

But of course nothing will change the fact that the Lankans were outplayed by some brilliant batting by Gilchrist. Squash ball or not.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Bangladesh have never sounded more confident

India sure has something to prove here. A small win will not do. We need a convincing and crushing win.
It's amazing how one match can turn around opinions and outlooks so drastically. If this India's tour of Bangladesh had happened before the World Cup there would have been reports of Dravid saying 'we are not going to take anything for granted' and the Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar making comments about how 'the team is looking to slowly improve and they will be looking to learn a lot from the series'. But then one loss to Bangladesh in a World Cup and the tables have turned.

Ashraful wants to stretch India now! This is what he says:

"We can beat the best, we have shown that in the past, and if everything clicks we can expect something good out of this series. They will come hard at us as they probably lost out on a Super Eights spot because of us. But they
could find themselves stretched here."

Actually, given his neat performance at the World Cup(especially the 87 against South Africa), Ashraful can afford to say that. Bangladesh is a good team and gaining on some confidence will do them a lot of good.

But here's what I think. We will come back a lot harder than Bangladesh expect and I think we are going to make this a very easy battle and it will be back to the 'we are not taking anything for granted days'. It is more a hope actually.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Whats happening in Indian cricket

Volatile times these are for Indian cricket. Senior player being 'rested'(read as dropped), BCCI's political intents, players' contracts, fans' ire and lot of talking too is happening lately. 

Round up of events concerning Indian cricket:

*Kapil Dev states the obvious. He feels Sachin and Sourav are not 'rested' but dropped.

*India ranks below Bangladesh.


*Dhoni has a swimming pool in his new home and his neighbours hate it!

*Serious preparations
for the Bangladesh tour begin.

*Sachin Tendulkar to be a comic hero! (He'll feature as 'Master Blaster)

*Meanwhile BCCI wants to put across a no-confidence motion against Malcolm Speed.(Vested interests?)

*Ad makers feel the 'Tendulkar' brand will not easily erode.

*BCCI and players negotiating contracts.

*And from somewhere there is an injury scare for Sachin.(Plenty of time to heal though!)

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Who benefits from the World Cup?

Guess who benefits the most from the World Cup. Not Australia...not Sri Lanka. Of course the ICC too did benefit from the World Cup, not in terms of reputation(who cares about it anyway) but they surely gained in terms of pocket weight.

But there is another bigger beneficiary: the BCCI! Surprising huh? Apparently the BCCI is contemplating on moving a no-confidence motion against Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, for the shabby way in which the World Cup was organized. Talk of vested interests.

We all know how greedily Sharad Pawar, the present BCCI chief, is eyeing the post of ICC chief. And we again witness here another huge drama unfold designed and choreographed for the achievement of Mr.Pawar's fantasies. Fair enough anyway. Pawar is a politician and not anything more can be expected of him. But this comment coming from the BCCI literally had me in splits:
"We are not that satisfied," Niranjan Shah told the newspaper. "It is becoming more and more bureaucratic. My board is of the belief that cricket is a simple, enjoyable game, but that is not how it appears at present.

"The ICC has so many staff members. It is unnecessarily employing so many people and that costs the other members. The ICC should move away from the bureaucracy and become more simplified. They should be concentrating more on the game."
Ho Ho Ho...ICC is making cricket too beueaucratic, huh? BCCI regards the game as "simple" and "enjoyable" huh? ICC should be concentrating more on the game, huh? Look who's talking! This must be a joke! Niranjan Shah should be coming out tomorrow screaming: April Fool!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

India settles below Bangladesh

Alright, It's now official. The Indian cricket team is worse than the Bangladesh team. We are minnows. And dont ever dare to call the Bangladeshis minnows because they are placed above us in the Maruti Suzuki Cricket Ratings issued by ESPN STAR Sports. Infact Bangladesh is two spots above us. India is 9th while Bangladesh is 7th. Luckily we are atleast above Kenya!

Guess who is at the 8th place? Pakistan ofcourse. Its funny how one bad tornament can push a team so low in rankings. Actually its ridiculous. I am sure the Indian team is much better than the Bangladeshi one and yet we are placed below. And on the basis of what? Two or three matches? Sounds pretty skewed to me. I'll never believe these rankings again.

Maruti Suzuki ODI Cricket Ratings:
Australia             (98 points)
South Africa       (92 points)
Sri Lanka            (82 points)
Kiwis                   (73 points)
England              (62 points)
West Indies       (59 points)
Bangladesh        (42 points)
Pakistan             (40 points)
India                   (38 points)
Kenya                 (14 points)

Looks like Zimbabwe dont even figure on the top 10. Now, thats sad for a once challenging side. And as expected there is no Indian among the top 10 in the individual batting as well as bowling rankings.

Individual rankings(Batting):
Matthew Hayden (184 points)
Jacques Kallis (179 points).
Ricky Ponting (176 points)
Kevin Pietersen (169 points)
Abraham de Villiers (164 points)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (160 points)
Mahela Jayawardene (155 points)
Scott Styris (151 points)
Michael Clarke (147 points)
Sanath Jayasuriya (145 points)

Individual rankings(Bowling):
Glenn McGrath (195 points)
Muttiah Muralitharan (188 points)
Nathan Bracken (181 points)
Shane Bond (177 points)
Shaun Pollock (173 points)
Andrew Hall (165 points)
Lasith Malinga (161 points)
Chaminda Vaas (156 points)
Mashrafe Mortaza (150 points)
Shaun Tait (144 points)

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Oh..so thats how you score a century!

It was wonderful to just watch Gilchrist hammering away in a near perfect display of sublime slambang cricket in the final against Sri Lanka. Especially so since he was coming into the game after some pretty unimpressive performances throughout the tournament. But then when team needed him most Gilchrist responded with a breathtaking 149 of 104 balls with 13 stunning fours and 8 clean sixes. And as Jayawardene later said he actually did make an in-form Hayden look clumsy at the other end. So what's the secret of this timely comeback? A squash ball!

From Cricketzone:
Every time Gilchrist hit a six, he gestured towards a point on his gloves the reason for which he was prepared to share with the media at the end of the day. "Before the World Cup, I actually practised indoors and tried to improve my grip with half of the squash ball inside my gloves. It was a friend of mine, Bob Mueleman (former Western Australia player), who said that if I felt okay with it, I should gesture that I had got it right which is what I actually did in the middle."

The ploy clearly paid off with the 35-year-old stumper-batsman hitting the highest knock in a World Cup final, bettering his captain Ricky Ponting's 140 not out against India four years ago.
When the going gets tough, just trust Adam Gilchrist to come up with something.

And one more thing. Gilchrist made another interesting comment:
"It(the low scores in the World Cup) was frustrating for me. I had made a few low scores and couple of 40s without quite nailing a big one. So high are the standards set by guys in the dressing room that if you don't do that well, you actually start putting pressure on yourself and wondering if you really belong there. So in that sense it was a relief."
Pretty interesting, right? People talk about cooling down and not putting pressure on yourselves. But going by Gilchrist's words(and he does know a thing or two) pressure is actually a good thing. It is only how you take it and handle it that matters. You could either let it motivate you or dismember you. Quite a lesson in there for the others.

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