Monday, August 29, 2005


The fourth test at Trentbridge went the way of England who managed to cross the finishing line despite the efforts of Warne and Lee. From the start, the Aussies were on the backfoot with no McGrath in the line-up after picking up an elbow injury. At last, Gillespie was put on the bench and Shaun Tait was given his first cap.

In many ways, the dismissal of Tait in the Aussie second innings typified the state of mind of the tourists. That was the last ball of the over and all of a sudden Tait goes to the wide of the off stump and tries to connect. The Harmison delivery is right on target and the Aussie innings are over leaving England plenty of time to score 129 runs. Michael Holding remarked that the batsman might have been stung by something. I am not saying that Tait would have scored runs or that Lee would have made a century. What I want to press here is the total lack of application from the batsmen. Of course, the English bowlers have been relentless and superb.

The outburst of Ponting over the use of a substitute fieldsman in place of the injured Simon Jones was unwarranted. Would the Aussie captain have complained if the run out did not took place ?

The summer is not quite turned out the way for the Aussies but one gentleman named Shane Warne who was in the news for all the wrong reasons before the tests can hold his high. He not only took wickets but also scored runs when people like Hayden, Martyn and Gilchrist found it extremely difficult to score.

The summer is turning out to be a fairy tale for Andrew Flintoff who seems to do everything right at the moment. A few other Englishmen like Trescothick have redeemed themselves after poor shows against the Aussies in the past.

The English, however, need to win the fifth test to recapture the Ashes after a long interval. The Aussies also need a win to level the series and retain the Ashes. It is the fear of losing the Ashes that may force the Aussies to come up with something special.

Friday, August 26, 2005


As a student of Economics, I had to go through several models of economic development. Each model has its merits and demerits. There is no one universal model that fits all countries. Each country has to follow a development strategy based on its strengths and weaknesses.

Here my intention is not to talk about Economics; it is about cricket. Ever since Australia began to dominate world cricket, everyone is fascinated and enamoured by the cricketing strategy followed down under. Sri Lanka started the trend by getting the services of Dav Whatmore who is now the coach Of Bangladesh. Whatmore's tenure was marked by Sri Lanka triumphing in the 1996 edition of the World Cup. Since then the island nation has always relied on the talents of the Aussies and at present Tom Moody is in charge. India for the first time engaged a full time coach in the form of John Wright who comes from a country that is situated very near to Australia. Now India have, after a lot of hype and heartburn, entrusted the job to an Australian proper, Greg Chappell. Even the West Indies have an Australian to revive their sagging fortunes in international cricket.

It is not just the coach who comes from Australia, the support staff in the form of physios, the psychiatrists, and also the consultants all belong to Australia. Surely, this is one form of BPO that is rarely noticed.

Things went to such an extent that countries with diverse cricketing cultures as England and Inda jumped into the bandwagon to start Cricket academies modelled after the original one at Adelaide. Rod Marsh, the Australian is put in charge of the academy in England.

In India the craze for anything foreign is well known and well documented. An Indian author comes of age only when honoured with a foreign award or offered a hefty advance by an international publisher. Not that I am not in favour of having Greg Chappell as the Indian coach. What I am against is the belief that the Australians can do wonders with our teams. If that is the case, then why are John Buchanan and company are unable to come up with any answers on the present tour to England.

The post is in response to the interview given by Bob Simpson( a 'super coach' from Australia to 24,2005) .On being asked about the change in cricket culture since his days, he repied ”Even the Pura Cup players will play on until they are 38 years old. There are problems there because you need youngsters coming through. It used to be said in New South Wales that if you did not make the side by 20 you would never make it. But the old guys are holding on longer and the average of players going into the NSW team at the moment is about 26. That is a huge difference. If you look at the cricketers who are just below the test level, most of them are 30. If young players are playing beneath their level they may not develop the skills to go to the next stage.” Of course, like any other Australian he replied in the negative when asked about the older players in the present Australian team.

Even if Simpson does not admit it, the fact is that most of the present members of the Australian squad are just too old and the bench strength is also not consisting of talented youngsters. So everything connected with the Australian cricket system is not fit to be copied. Even innovations of today become obsolete by tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Normal service has resumed with the wins for Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Woods has not appeared as dominant as in the past but a win is what matters the most. But when it comes to Federer, the aura of invincibility gets to become stronger with each win. The Swiss had a tough time against Ginepri in the semifinals while Roddick put out Hewitt in the other semifinals. So the final promised to be a great one.

As was the case in the last two Wimbledon finals, Federer appeared too strong for Roddick. The American just could not take his game to a higher level as Federer simply shfited gears at will. What I have observed is that Federer is motivated at the prospect of facing people like Roddick, Hewitt and Agassi. Roddick, on the other hand, simply loses his momentum at the sight of Federer across the net.

Kim Clijsters won over her countrywoman Henin-Hardenne after quite a while. It is always surprising why she is not able to repeat these performances at any of the majors.

Monday, August 22, 2005


The decider of the Afro-Asia cup was disrupted by rain and the teams shared the trophy. The team from Asia managed to level the scores in the second match after being pipped to the post in the first. In all the three matches, there was one player who was consistently good-Zaheer Khan. There were yorkers which one rarely saw after the heady stuff in the ICC Champions Trophy at Nairobi where he uprooted the stumps of the great Steve Waugh. He bowled with purpose and deservedly was named the Man of the Series.

Waqar Younis expressed displeasure over the omission of Khan from the Indian team that tours Zimbabwe. The left-armer might have bowled badly in the Indian Oil cup in Sri Lanka but his performance in South Africa deserves the credit.

Consistency has never been the forte of Zaheer although no one can question his ability. His temperament has always been suspect especially after the caning at the hands of Ponting and company in the finals of the 2003 World Cup. So this performance came as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one.

Was Khan merely reminding the selectors of their folly?I am of the view that with the pressure of playing for the country gone, Zaheer was unburdened. The public anger over a failure can be very high in India. It is not easy soak all the pressure and deliver.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


The Aussies are really under the hammer with a defeat and a hard fought draw. For the first time in a better part of a decade the Aussies have had to admit the superiority of their rivals. Their tactic of 'mental disintegration' does not seem to have, at the moment, any impact on the English.

The Aussies have admitted their problems in so far the swing bowling of Harmison and company. They also have admitted the lack of pace of their bowlers with the exception of Brett Lee. Even Warne was rendered ineffective the second time the English batted in the third test.

The West Indies teams of the 1980s were thought to be invincible, but now the Caribbean teams are one of the weakest. The same applies to the Aussies as well. Most of the players who have been the architect of many a victory in the past are on the last legs of their careers. The new talent has not been coming up despite all the talk of having an academy. Further, it does not make much sense to blood players when they are approaching thirty. In the recent times, Ponting and Michael Clarke have the distinction of breaking into the side at a young age. A certain Shane Warne also came into the side at a young age before being sidelined.

The next two test matches are going to decide not just the future of some key players but also the future of cricket. No longer the rest of the cricketing world needs to be afraid of the Aussies. The victories of the Aussie teams have been the result of the superior talent and also the way in which their opponents accepted defeat even before the fight.

In this context, the comments from Buchanan about the flaws in the English team seems to be in a bad taste.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


There is nothing wrong for the cricketers to make money out of their popularity. It is also not wrong for them to plan for the future once they quit the game. But now-a-days many Indian cricketers are busy making retirement plans. Is this the way of the cricketers expressing their insecurity in the wake of their non-performances.

I am talking about the restaurant of Sehwag which comes in the aftermath of a similar venture of Zaheer Khan. Of course, Tendulkar was the trend setter and Ganguly responded with his own eatery in Kolkata. Now where does it leave the other members of the Indian squad? Rahul Dravid is not expected to set up a hotel while the oldest member of the team, Kumble is also involved in other business. Harbhajan and Yuvraj might be tempted to offer Punjabi dishes while Dhoni might be successful in having a bar to offer milk and milk products.

The timing of the Sehwag venture was very curious unlike his timing on the cricket pitch these days. For a moment the media overlooked the failure and took us to the hotel. Surely, the cricketers know how to make the media play into their hands! It is time the glamour boys of Indian sport concentrate on the game.

Friday, August 19, 2005


The first match of the Afro-Asia Cup is over with the Africans winning a low scoring encounter-a rarity in one-dayers now. The match once again exposed the frailities of the teams from Asia when facing the seaming and bouncing ball. That is not the reason for this post.

The telecast of the match was on Zee Sports which lost out in the bid to secure the rights from BCCI. The television presentation was led by a lady-a standard offering since the heady days of the 2003 World Cup where Mandira Bedi flummoxed people like Tony Greig and Barry Richards with her lack of knowledge on cricket. The same story here. The presenters also were able to change their apparels in between the two innings. This is again not the reason for this post.

The presenters had the company of Kapil Dev and Waqar Younis. The presenters were firing one dumb question after another. Pity that two greats were subject to such torture. All this in the name of demystifying cricket and taking the game closer to the people. Waqar Younis was asked about his entry into the Pakistan team. Wagar told the story about how Imran asked him to join the team to Sharjah after a few bowls at the nets. Then Kapil was asked about the kind of selection policy in India. Kapil responded by stating that a different policy is followed by India. The presenters were insisting to know why a selection like Waqar's does not ever take place in India. There have been many instances in the past when youngsters with no first-class experience fast tracked into the Pakistan team-most such instances took place when Imran was the captain. I wondered about the likely reply from Kapil. The great all-rounder did not bat an eyelid and replied that it was possible in Pakistan because the country has dictatorship. In India a different selection policy is followed on account of democracy.

Does this mean that Kapil as captain was not able to have players of his choice while Imran enjoyed the ultimate authority as captain. Such an observation left me totally bewildered. Is it a six or a an outswinger?Well said Sir.


The doping episode of Neelam J Singh has panned out along familiar lines. Firstly, the athlete was caught when she didn't need it for the competition. She put up a dismal performance at Helsinki. Secondly, she pleaded her innocence as soon as she landed in India. It was typical of any sportsperson found caught cheating.

In the last couple of years, there has been a spurt in the number of Indian athletes caught with some illegal substances in their bodies. This is not to say that doping is a new problem. This has existed in some form. Even at the junior level, the athletes are given 'tablets' to improve their performance. They are not caught because of the lack of adequate and honest testing procedures.

Always athletes who do well in international competitions fade away after coming back to the country. Most of the recent national record holders have been found guilty of cheating. The recourse to drugs is the personal gain from a medal or a record and the lack of any punishment. Take the case of Sunita Rani who had her Asian Games medal taken away after the involvement in doping at Busan. She got her medal back on technical grounds. The people in charge of running the show in India such as Suresh Kalmadi proclaimed it as a national victory. Now where is the said athlete? She was in the wilderness for quite a while before participating once again. Her performance was well below her personal best.

There is doping in Indian athletics and one cannot deny it. It will not go away until we have people like Kalmadi at the helm. Any one found guilty should be punished.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


There was a great joy in the Australian camp as Brett Lee successfully negotiated the last ball of the match from Steve Harmison. It was as if Australia won the match. Australia had just managed to live another day. How the mighty have fallen! The same people were calling the series one-sided even before it commenced.

The innings from Ponting was truly great for himself and his team. Before the last day of the match, many started to question the ability of Ponting to lead the team. There were few suggestions that Warne could have made a better captain. That is something that will always hurt the champion leg spinner. But to his credit, Warne has never let such disappointments get the better of him. He always gives his best as is evident in this test with both the bat and the ball. There is Anil Kumble who has a similar experience being an also-ran even with such a splendid record.

The Australians were never in the hunt for a win. They realised the futility of going after the target of 423 runs and played sensibly. It is this change in the attitude of Ponting and company that eventually saw them ward of the English challenge. Ponting received tremendous support from Warne and Clarke. Lee also rose up to the occasion and survived the threat posed by the Lancashire hero Flintoff. All the English bowlers performed to their best with the exception of Giles. Harmison was also below par through out this test match. Simon Jones and Flintoff looked threatening and Hoggard also created quite a few scares for the Aussies.That is perhaps the reason why the English failed to seal the issue in their favour. There were also a couple of umpiring decisions that went in favour of the Aussies- close leg before decisions. Martyn got a rough decision and that perhaps evens out the score of the Umpires.

The first three test matches have been really exciting as far as neutral spectators like me are concerned. There is no way test cricket can die if such matches are played. The last few overs were better than in any one-dayer. There were fielders surrounding the batsmen to take any chance. There was as many as seven slip fielders in the closing stages of the match.
The English are mightily disappointed at the outcome of the test. Now, can they overcome this result and land the shots in the next test or will the Aussies find their feet and turn around the English summer in their favour.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


There was very little action on the third day with rain keeping the players inside. In the time that play was possible, Warne helped his team avoid the follow-on. Geraint Jones was very kind to return the favour by messing a stumping. On the first day, the Aussies allowed Vaughan to strike good with their shoddy fielding. Now, Warne took the opportunity with both hands. In going this far, Warne has taught a lesson to the superior batsmen of his team.

The fourth day is also not expected to be good, weatherwise. Even then, the match can go either way with the English in an advantageous position. The big question is will Warne finally score his first hundred.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


The third day of the third test promises much with England in the box seat. The Aussies have staggered at the blows inflicted by the English.With the exception of Warne, none of the other batsmen showed much inclination to stay at the wicket. Giles, who was considered by many as a non-performer showed all the guile that makes a spinner a difficult proposition.

The English total was extended thanks to good contributions by Flintoff and Geraint Jones. The wicketkeeper was under some pressure to make runs and he responded. The other Jones -Simon, continued to trouble the tourists with his incisive bowling. Hayden and Langer flattered to deceive after a good start. Ponting appears to be brought down to the earth by a combination of good bowling and the burden of captaincy. Martyn is getting the runs and so is Gilchrist.

In the past, the English gained a dubious reputation of injury prone at the start and in the middle of the Ashes. Now it is the turn of the Aussies. The wheel has turned against the Aussies.

It is interesting to speculate over the follow-on. Will the English enforce it and how shall the Aussies respond to this unfamiliar situation. Is there a possibility of any miracle here?

Friday, August 12, 2005


I like any other Indian who knows a bit about cricket and spin bowling, did never accept Shane Warne. It was largely borne out of the belief that India alone could produce quality spinners. It was unthinkable for a foreigner and a white man to be able to make the ball do tricks.
The debut of Shane Warne was not auspicious, coming against India where Ravi Shastri and Tendulkar took him apart. Warne returned with figures of one wicket for more than 150 runs. Later, Warne talked about the nightmarish experince of bowling in India. Every batsmen fancied his chances facing Warne. This reinforced the belief that Warne is something of a hype.

The exploits of Warne when dealing with opponents like England, New Zealand, South Africa was something that was attributed to the inability to play spin. However, his performance in Sri Lanka was a revelation in more ways than one. It came against players who had the home advantage and also the supposed prowess in playing spin. Warne had a bagful of wickets coming shortly after his ignominious exit from the World Cup of 2003.That performance helped in a large way to neutralise the Murali effect and Australia triumphed 3-0.

Australia lost the second test of the ongoing Ashes at Edgbaston but Warne bowled beautifully in the second innings. The ball to dismiss Andrew Strauss was a gem. The 'ball of the century' stuff may be somewhat overhyped but there is no doubting the ability of the man. He also took his team to an unlikely win with a sterling contribution with the bat. Warne is a good slip fielder who held his ground in the midst of outstanding slipmen like Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh.

I heartily congratulate Warne on being the first bowler to claim 600 wickets in test matches. It is good to see a bowler with a clean and undisputed action climb up the summit. Looking forward to more zooters etc.


The first day of the third test belonged to Michael Vaughan. He managed to push Shane Warne into the background. That is no mean task when the Aussie got his 600th wicket in test cricket-the first man to do so.

McGrath returned to the side and Brett Lee resumed his normal service by hurling thunderbolts at the batsmen. But McGrath did not create much of an impression with the normally reliable Aussie fielders including Gilchrist had a day off. The pitch was not giving any assistance to the bowlers. That does not, however, take the credit away from the efforts of the English skipper. The victory at Edgbaston seems to have reduced much of the pressure and this showed in the shots he played. If the present form continues, the Aussies have reason to worry about with their fourth bowler-Gillespie not finding his rhythm and range.

For a change, Kevin Pietersen could not make a good score. Have the Aussies sorted him out? The rest of the series could provide us with an answer. The Lancashire faithful are to be expected to turn out in large numbers with the local hero Andrew Flintoff to come next in the batting line-up. Does Freddy have it in him to do a repeat of the last test? That could well be the deciding factor in the third test.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


The third test in the current Ashes is very interestingly poised with the English on a high after the win at Edgbaston and the Aussies suddenly appearing vulnerable and seemingly out of their wits.

Nothing seems to have gone right for the Aussies ever since the win at Lords. McGrath's injury seems to have given the self-belief that the English lacked. Now with Brett Lee doubtful, things have become very bleak for the tourists. Warne is a great bowler and he displayed all his tricks in the second test. But then the rest of the bowlers went for runs. It is highly unlikely for Gillespie and Kasprowicz to get the English batsmen out for low scores twice in the match.

The batting machine is also not in top shape with most of the batsmen not firing. The unexpectedly hostile bowling from Harmison and company has created doubts in the minds of the Aussie batsmen.

Ponting does not want the posterity to remember him as the captain who surrendered to the English. A good test match is on the cards with the both sides keen to have the psychological edge.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Recently, I watched an interview of Marvin Hagler on BBC. He was nicknamed 'marvellous' for his brilliant record in the ring. He was asked about his preparations before a fight. Hagler replied that he simply focussed on the fight and nothing else. He shut out everything out of the mind, including in his own words, the girls also. All the pent up feelings were then released on the hapless opponent. This is what is called as 'tunnel vision' by experts.

It is this lack of such mental preparations that have proved to be the greatest deficiency of the Indian cricket team and the finals of the Indian Oil cup was no exception. The Indians put up such an inept display in the finals and the matches leading to the finals, that one doubts their mental strength. On the other hand, the Sri Lankans played as if the script was written for them.

Mahela Jayawardene was out of touch for quite a while but then the Indian bowlers allowed him to score runs freely. For his efforts, Jayawardene got th Man of the Match as well as the Man of the Series awards. The Indians don't like to be ungrateful guests to their Lankan hosts. Russel Arnold was out of the team and he also took the opportunity with both hands. Muralitharan always has this habit of troubling the Indians in both the versions of the game and again Tuesday was not different. People have forgotten the mauling that Sidhu gave him in a test match. Worse was the inability to cope with a part-time bowler-a spinner(if he can be called one) like Dilshan Tilakaratne. Even a good player of off-spin bowling like Ganguly was deceived by him.In a previous match Maharoof appeared as menacing as McGrath to the extent that Javagal Srinath called him 'Sri Lanka's McGrath'.

The bowling of Zaheer and Pathan was reminiscent of the stuff dished out in the World Cup final of 2003. The fielding was not impressive with question marks over the keeping of Dhoni. There were times when the commentators were surprised at the technique of the keeper.

It does not help to have a high profile coach if the players themselves are not sure of their responsibilities. The Indians could benefit from the display put by the English at Edgbaston versus the Aussies. They displayed a spirit that refused to die without a fight.

Monday, August 08, 2005


The second test at Edgbaston might have proved to be a heartbreaker for the Aussies and an occasion to rejoice for the English. But in my opinion this match has the potential to turn the current cricket thinking on its head.

In the first place, the Aussies are not as unbeatable as they are thought to be. Very often, teams accept defeat and then the Aussies are very adept at mind games. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer have not done much on this tour so far to back up their big talk. McGrath and Warne seem to be the only exceptions.

The 'present' team under the leadership of Ponting has only inherited the winning record that goes back to the heady days of Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. Ponting appeared clueless when the bowlers were heaved over the top by most of the English batsmen. Ponting is not in the same league as his predecessors.

Even the teams under Taylor and Waugh faced defeat at the hands of determined opponents, especially bowlers. Allan Donald at his peak was more than a handful. The spinners from India made a mockery of the reputations.It was more often the expertise of McGrath and Warne that made the difference. What is needed to defeat the Aussies is some exceptional individual brilliance like the one shown by Flintoff and Harmison. VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh also made the Aussies bite the dust with their showing.

The Aussies are brittle in the batting department with Gilchrist not able to strike form. Ponting is always suspect against class bowling. Hayden is someone who has to count himself extremely lucky if he is given any more opportunities in the series. It is one thing to knock a triple hundred against the hapless Zimbabweans and quite a challenge to face the grenades of Harmison and company. Even an ordinary bowler like Ashely Giles was made to look menacing. Damien Martyn was once made to sit out of the team as a punishment for a rash shot. In both the innings, he just threw his wicket away. There is no solidity in the middle order in the form of the Waugh twins. It is a pity that an accomplished batsman like Mike Hussey is not even in the touring side.

In the bowling department, the absence of McGrath was something that hurt the Aussies the most. The English batsmen were feeling totally liberated and just made merry.It is time to think about the future of Gillespie and Kasprowicz. The bowlers are just showing the signs of aging. The time for new faces has come.

In the end, the Aussies might just reatin the Ashes but the signs are here for a change.

Monday, August 01, 2005


As expected, India won the second match and again Rahul Dravid had to lead the way. The others continued to disappoint. Yuvraj and Kaif showed some pluck that too against a none too experienced bowlers. The Windies managed to trouble most of the Indian batsmen. There were a lot of misses and near escapes with a lot of the defensive shots off the backfoot taking the ball precariously past the stumps. The Windies were truly let down first by the inept batting and then by the pathetic display in the fielding department.

Raina has shown some promise but it is too early to sing praises. Sehwag is still waving the bat like a magic wand that cannot cast any spell on the bowlers and the spectators. It will take some ask for the team to meet tougher opponents with such attitude. It is time the selectors took note of the lackadaisical attitude of players and showed them the exit door.

Laxman's luck is truly wretched. He does not get an opportunity to play the one-dayers and when there is an opportunity, injury defeats him.