Thursday, September 22, 2005


Sunil Gavaskar has an unenviable record in taking on the best of the fast bowlers of all time. Many time a long innings from the original 'Little Master' saved the day for India. The only one classic innings I remember is the one played at Bangalore which was his last appearance in a test match. I could not watch his other innings live.

Here I am not interested in telling the world about the fantastic record of Gavaskar. During the second day of the second test at Harare there was a comment from the great man that prompted this post. He is known for his political correctness(- a quality that is perfected by Sachin). But this one had me stumped.

Maybe Gavaskar was reacting to the media criticism over the quality of the hundred scored by Ganguly in the first test at Bulawayo. It was argued in a large section of the media that the hundred came against a very ineffective bowling attack. Gavaskar on the contrary, argued that a hundred is a hundred, irrespective of the quality of the bowling. He also pointed out the fact that only two hundreds were scored by the Indians in the first test when the other batsmen could not against a weak bowling line-up.In order to support his argument, Gavaskar cited the 380 scored by Matthew Hayden against Zimbabwe while the rest of the Australian batsmen could not score even a double-hundred in the same match.

I agree with Gavaskar that a hundred is a hundred, no matter the opposition or the venue or the situation. But here the case involves a player who has consistently struggled against all opposition in both the long and the short versions of the game. The player concerned gave the impression that this hundred gave him the freedom to do whatever or say anything. It is only after scoring the hundred that Ganguly 'disclosed' the proposal for his stepping down from captaincy. This is when the credentials of the Zimbabwean attack came to be discussed. In the second test the same batsman could not prove his supporters right!

There is no belittling the contributions made by Ganguly but now the time has come for a change. This is where I find it ridiculous for SG(Sunil Gavaskar) to bat for another SG(Saurav Ganguly).

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I have to first apologise to the students of English language for the way the title of a famous poem by the American poet Walt Whitman is used. For starters, Whitman wrote the poem on the death of the American President, Abraham Lincoln.

I feel the recent events surrounding the Indian captain Saurav Ganguly have also saddened my heart. He was petulance personified in disclosing before the media about the proposal of Greg Chappell. The coach, it is alleged, wanted Saurav to step down as captain in view of his rather poor form in recent times. Now what was the response? The captain responded with a century against the opposition. So far so good, but the problem is that the other team happens to be Zimbabwe. There is no denying of the fact that Bulawayo is one of the friendliest of the pitches for the batsmen and that the quality of the bowlers is also of a rather friendly type. Of course, the record books will not show any of these things.

The timing of the disclosure by Saurav left a rather bad taste in the mouths of his fans like me. What takes the cake is the allegation that Saurav called on Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya to complain about Chappell. This action is typical of the way Indian politicians respond when stripped of their posts or denied of undue favours. Usually, they start new parties. There is no such likelihood in this case.

What the whole incident has done is to reduce the standing of the captain. It has given a stick in the hands of the known Dalmiya and Ganguly baiters like Rajsingh Dungarpur. It has in one instance, thrown the stellar contributions made by Ganguly as a batsman and more importantly, as a captain, to the dustbin. For once, the magical timing that once made Ganguly a delight to watch has deserted him. Surely, it is like a drowning man clutching at straws.

Friday, September 16, 2005


India won the first test without much trouble. There was no resistance from the home team with the sole exception of yet another innings of substance from Tatenda Taibu. Hope the innings from the Zimbabwean skipper will bring some sanity to the Indian camp.

Team India is now in a bad shape as is evident from the events relating to Ganguly. Laxman also sent out feelers about the lack of trust in the team.

Now I am happy to inform everyone that Dheeraj Jadhav was able to take the field albeit as a substitue fielder.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


India expectedly finished the third day on a commanding position, albeit coming against a team as weak as Zimbabwe. Ganguly used all his experience and ability to score a hundred. Wonder what this would to his and the team's confidence in the coming months. The last time he scored a century, it was different. It defined the Indian performance in the tour to down under.

Yuvraj once again proved his doubters right. He has shown a spectacular lack of ability playing spinners of all kinds. What is bothering the team think tank in having Kaif in the playing eleven. Kaif has been given the raw deal even when performing creditably in the test matches. This backing of Yuvraj by Ganguly is somewhat unjustified.

The Indian bowlers had their opponents of the mat with Irfan Pathan in particular showing a liking for the Zimbabweans the second time also. At one point, Zimbabwe were well on the way to beat their lowest test innings score of 54. But they finished the day past that score. Looks like a four day test and the media in India shall be all over the place with the victory ignoring the recent dismal show.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The day two of the first test ended with India taking a lead with seven first innings wickets in hand. Laxman and Ganguly are at the crease though having scored their runs in contrasting styles. Both batsmen are in a way on trial. While Laxman scored his runs fluently with some signature shots, Saurav was playing for life. He is just a pale shadow of his glorious past when spinners were despatched over the boundary with disdain. But here we have the Indian captain who was showing extreme caution to the Zimbabwean spinners.

Earlier, the innings of Zimbabwe was terminated with Pathan cleaning up the tail. Poor Harbhajan toiled in vain to get his 200th wicket in test matches. He is not the bowler that he appears on Indian wickets. Forget what people like Sidhu say about the cause, such as the Kookaburra ball. Wonder what Shane Warne could have done with Indian balls! Here we had Warne who was spinning the ball a mile on English pitches while Harbhajan could not achieve any turn of significance on a slow Zimbabwean wicket.

Sehwag and Gambhir got out after giving a good start against a none-too impressive attack. Dravid was his usual self before getting out uncharacteristically. This where I feel that batsmen of other teams are far superior to the Indian batsmen. Remember the record score of 380 posted by Hayden versus Zimbabwe not too long ago. Attapattu, the Sri Lankan captain has perfected the art of scoring double hundreds when playing the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

The decision to keep Kaif out of the playing eleven is just ridiculous. Maybe, it is the only way of giving Ganguly the opportunity. Finally, what about Dheeraj Jadhav, the man who replaced Sachin?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005



The Ashes have been reclaimed by England and it may mark the beginning of the end of the Aussie dominance over world cricket. With stalwarts like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath certainly on their last tour and people like Gillespie and Kasprowicz being on the way out, it is hard to think of replacements. Make no mistake, England can never even think of taking away the mantle of 'world's best'. They have to beat all sides under all conditions to emulate the Aussies or the Windies of an earlier era.

Despite rain, the fifth test was eventful till the last. The English managed to upstage their rivals, although Kevin Pietersen has to thank his stars for the dropped chances. It was ironical that the man who gave his everything to keep the Aussie flag flying, Warne dropped a sitter. This is what makes cricket, for that matter any sport, a cruel business. Just a night before, Agassi was outlasted. There were no fairy tale ending for the men in the baggy green.

As expected, Warne and Flintoff were the 'Men of the Series' and many would have felt happy if the Compton and Miller trophy was also shared by the same two. It is not to belittle the efforts of Flintoff who gave a dream performance. He remarked during the presentation ceremony that it(the Ashes victory) was all yet to sink in. Flintoff has mellowed down since his shirt removal days at Mumbai.

For few days the English and their supporters will enjoy their moment under the sun. Who can complain?

Sunday, September 11, 2005



The fifth test is interestingly poised with the Aussies bowled out for 367, six runs short of the English total. Flintoff bowled like a man possessed, with Hoggard giving him tremendous support. Between them, the two shared nine wickets.

The umpires offered light to the Aussies but the offer was declined. The tourists decided to bat in the gloomy and near dark conditions to put the pressure on the English. Probably, they were trying to make up for their rather unwise decision on the second day when the light was much better.

Now it has become a rather difficult issue for the English to bat under such conditions for a second time. McGrath would be relishing the prospect of having the ball and make the best of the conditions. I would be surprised if the English would decline the offer to stay in their dressing room. Now it is just a question of one innings for each team to clinch the issue.

Speaking about McGrath, he joined Shane Warne in tallying up 32 ducks in test matches.


The big one-the final of the US Open is to be contested between Andre Agassi and the defending champion Roger Federer. In the semifinals, Agassi had to fight off a determined challenge from Robby Ginepri. For a second match in a row, Agassi had to go all the distance over five-sets. On the other hand, Federer got home in just four sets. Of course, it was not a cakewalk for the world number one, with Hewitt offering a good challenge, though not consistently enough. It was more tight than what many expected.

Kim Clijsters won the womens' crown by brushing aside Mary Pierce. There was no need for any injury break this time round for the Frenchwoman. The Belgian was in command right from the start to take home her first Grand Slam title.

Few would bet against Federer in not extending his hold over the trophy for another year. But Agassi remains the sentimental favourite and also the crowd favourite. A great match is in prospect with both men expected to raise the level of their game. Will it be a repeat of the Australian Open where Federer simply blew away Agassi off the court or will the American just do it for a last time.



The third day went much in the same way as the second day with rain playing the spoilsport. In whatever play that was possible, the Aussies finally looked like finding some of their class. Langer scored a typically gritty century not before getting another blow on the elbow from a Harmison delivery. It is not a bad occasion to register his 22nd century and also in the process overtake Don Bradman as far as overall career test runs are concerned. Hayden finally made a score of some substance but he played very cautiously. Pressure has a strange effect even on the best.

Ponting was expected to make a big score but Flintoff removed the Aussie captain on an otherwise pedestrian day for the English bowlers. The English simply ran out of ideas and the rain actually helped their cause. There was also one instance where Damien Martyn nicked a delivery into the hands of the English keeper Gerraint Jones but there was no appeal of conviction. The umpire disallowed even as the replays told otherwise. Nasser Hussain in the commentary box recalled the Melbourne test where the then keeper James Foster did not appeal for a knick from the bat of Steve Waugh.

The Aussies have to score their runs quickly and take a lead of 150 runs and then put pressure on the English. The English would be happy to let the weather gods bless them with more rain.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


The last Grand Slam of 2005 has thrown in some surprises. Few expected Andre Agassi to reach the semi-finals. The Las Vegan missed Wimbledon due to injury and suffered an early knockout in the French Open. The comeback in the match against James Blake was simply terrific. The same goes for his semifinal opponent Robby Ginepri who took the hard path to reach the last four after going through five-setters. But, I give Agassi the edge to reach the finals on account of his experience and the fact that Ginepri might be in awe of his opponent. Make no mistake, Ginepri is not one to take a backward step in a slugfest as was the case in his match against Coria.

The other semifinal is very nicely poised with Hewitt and Federer battling it out once again. The big question is whether the Aussie can reverse his fortunes in the face of the Swiss onslaught. Federer looked highly efficient and his best in disposing off David Nalbandian.

In the womens' side, Mary Pierce took out Dementieva to reach the finals. The Russian seemed to have the match in her pocket until Pierce took an injury break. This changed the course of the match giving victory to the Frenchwoman. The long injury break prompted the Russian to question the tactics of her opponent. It is not outside the laws of the game to avail an injury break, but it should not be used as a strategy. For long, this has been the subject of debate. (Cricket fans all over the world can take their thoughts to the outburst of Ponting after being runout by a substitute fielder in the test match at Nottingham.)

The Belgian Kim Clijsters could stave off the challenge of Sharapova over a three set affair. The finals can reach a high with both Clijsters and Pierce hungry for the ultimate glory. The Belgian is looking for her first ever major while Pierce wants the same- after a while.

I am going for Andre Agassi to go all the way even in the face of the claim from Federer. That is the best this 35 year old can do for another 35 year old.

Thursday, September 08, 2005



At the end of the first day of the much awaited fifth test at the Oval, the honours were shared between the two teams. England promised much, especially the stand between Strauss and Flintoff. The all-rounder from Lancashire looked good for a hundred, a potentially series deciding one but McGrath had the last say.

Strauss made another hundred, the seventh of his short test career of 19 matches. He does not possess the elegance or the grace of left-handers such as David Gower but he is effective. The substance makes up more than the style. He looked good to bat the rest of the day until one Warne came up with the solution.

Warne continues to amaze with his stupendous display in an otherwise mediocre display by the tourists. He bowled Pietersen who appeared clueless. Australia have managed to keep themselves in the match and the series by taking seven English wickets.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Again it is that time when everyone says that India could not do it in a final. Team India is labeled a 'choker' for the lack of success on the big day.

I feel much fuss is made out of the fact that India loses in the finals. The team members and the captain take refuge in the excuse that they have after all reached the finals. Of the 19 or 16 finals that India played in, there is only one victory. But in all this statistics, one thing is cleverly and conveniently ignored. In the two most recent cases, the third team involved in the competition was too weak, making India a certainty in the finals. Of course, there were some anxious moments given by the West Indies and Zimbabwe. It was not a cakewalk to the finals for India. So no big deal in reaching the finals.

The media and the fans expect much from the team without taking the reality into account. The performance in the one-dayers in Zimbabwe was inconsistent and patchy to say the least. Ganguly struggled with the bat and now stronger questions are going to be asked about his place in the team. Dravid was one who was a big factor in the tremendous showing in the one-dayers upto the World Cup of 2003. Now in Zimababwe, he simply could not put his bat to the ball. He was out to spinners, a rare occurrence.

The bowlers were the biggest disappointment in the finals with Nehra and Pathan caned to all parts of the park. Harbhajan makes a mockery of the confidence the captain has in him.

All this brings one thing to the mind, “the sum of the parts may not be equal to the whole”.



The time for talk and speculation is over. The battle lines are drawn and the soldiers are ready. Now it is just a question of who is going to blink first. So far no quarter has been asked or given. I am talking about the fifth test of the ongoing Ashes. Never in the last decade and half, the last match held the key. Theoretically, England seem to have the advantage with just a draw needed to get back the famous urn or at least the replica.

The pressure is on both sides. The English have the burden of the whole nation with the Trafalgar Square booked and double-decker bus rides on the cards. There is also a talk of some the cricketers being included in the Queen's new year honours list. Australia are under enormous pressure to retain the Ashes. Ponting does not want to be the Australian captain after Allan Border to lose the Ashes. It is as much required for Ponting the batsman as well as the captain to win the Oval test.

That is where I feel Australia can go in for the kill. Most of the players are certain to play their last match on the English soil and that would definitely be the incentive to put up a great show. England have to soak in all the pressure and put in the finishing touches to a great summer.
The injury to Simon Jones might not prove as important a setback as was the absence of McGrath in two test matches to the Aussies. The time is right for Flintoff to put in another performance that would place him alongside legends like Ian Botham. Vaughan has to prove that his team is capable of winning against the big teams and not gloat over the wins over teams like Bangladesh.

Let the better team win.

Monday, September 05, 2005


“Cricket is one of the most depressing topics for Indians today”.-Smriti Irani.

Now who is this lady? She is a television actress and a politician belonging to 'the party with a difference'-BJP. For the uninitiated, she has been one the by-products of the Saas-Bahu(mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law) daily soap operas that are currently dominating the mainstream 'entertainment' channels in India.

What is the standing of this person? She was chosen by a party to contest the last Parliamentary elections because she was a woman and also because her husband belongs to a minority community. More importantly, the party wanted to cash in on her television popularity. Luckily, she was defeated heavily. Make no mistake, the Indian voter has the knack of sending actors to the highest offices in the country. Taking her role as a politician seriously, she made some comments on one of the Chief Ministers of her party. Faced with trouble, she retracted in the same fashion as any other politician or actor. Her stint so far in politics has coincided with a slide in her fortunes as an actress.

It is people like her who give cricket a bad name. I agree that the Indian team is not doing well. But that does not give anyone the right to talk derisively about cricket. People who have no liking for sports and games consider them a waste of time and money. That is typical of the Indian society.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


It is after a while that I am writing on something other than cricket. The reason is the huge time difference between my part of the world and New York where the final grand slam of the year is staged. Part of the disinterest also seems to be due to the absence of Vijay Amritraj and company as the telecast is provided not by EspnStar but by Tensports.

For the Indians, this year has been a special one with the splendid show put up by Sania Mirza. Her next opponent is Sharapova but that has not in any way reduced the interest. No one predicted Sania to come this far and now she has nothing to lose. Go Sania go. At the beginning of the year, she stated her aim to break into the top 50 and now she has done that. Of course, staying there is the difficult part. One has to run faster to stay there.

Most of the favourites have progressed with the exception of Roddick. That came as a surprise with the American expected to do well on the artificial surface that favours big servers and power hitters. Speaking about big serves, the match between Agassi and Karlovic was a master class by the Las Vegan. Age has not diminished the ability to return. It was something that Agassi used to good effect while dealing with the likes of Becker and Ivanisevic. Of course, Karlovic is not to be bracketed with the German and the Croat though.

Federer and Hewitt are on course to renew their duel while Nadal cannot be discounted. In the womens' section, the ouster of the defending champion Kuznetsova in the first round was not more than a statistical entry. The Russian has done very little since winning in New York last year.

The Indian interest continues with Paes and Bhupathi in the doubles. Paes has stuck to one partner-Martina Navratilova while Bhupathi seems to have perfected the habit of doing well with any partner, with Hantchukova this time round.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


The fourth test has gone in favour of England and for the first time in more than a decade and half the English are not going to lose the series, although the Ashes may not come their way. The unexpected revival of English cricket has coincided remarkably with the slide of the Aussies.

Ponting was not at all justified in his outbursts after he was run out by a substitute fieldsman. Now Glenn McGrath has added his thoughts to the issue. McGrath voiced in a radio interview that the fielding of substitutes by England was not in the 'sporting spirit'. Now, very few cricket watchers are unaware of the unsportsmanlike conduct of McGrath and many of his teammates.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and McGrath were involved in a verbal scrap in the historic run chase of the West Indies after the Aussie hurled some verbals at the West Indian. No one can forget the outburst of Michael Slater at Mumbai on the Aussie tour of 2001. Steve Waugh was quite renowned for his verbals. So what is the sporting spirit that McGrath is cribbing about?

When the Aussies are winning, the incidents are labelled 'mental disintegration' and their supporters call it 'playing the game the hard way'. But when the Aussies are at the receiving end, they are whining. Grow up, Glenn it is like the pot calling the kettle black.