Monday, January 30, 2006


By the end of day two, the home team further strengthened their position. Having dismissed the Indian team for a low score, Pakistan scored at a rate more than 4.5 runs per over to have a lead of 180 runs with eight wickets and three days left. The openers Butt and Farhat made half centuries. Younis Khan and Mohd. Yousuf are at the wicket but the biggest threat is likely to come from Akmal, Razzaq and Afridi. With the pitch showing signs of easing up, the Indian bowlers could not pose any danger the second time round today.

Ganguly was looking good before a reckless shot caused his dismissal. Yuvraj was not too happy at the leg before decision. Replays showed how the ball hit the pad first before brushing the bat. Dhoni was not comfortable with the pace and the bounce. Pathan took advantage of the dropped chances and scored valuable runs in the company of Kumble and Zaheer. Mohd. Asif bowled well over a long spell.

Barring a miracle, there is very little chance for India to save the match let alone winning it.


The Australians were led by Adam Gilchrist at Perth to a victory over the Sri Lankans. This further consolidates the position of the home team as far as the points table is concerned. Gilchrist came into his own after a long time taking apart the Lankan bowling attack. There is no better sight in world cricket today Gilchrist makes big runs. This should sound a warning to the rival teams. There was even talk that he should be dropped from the one day squad. After the century on Sunday, Gilchrist was quite ecstatic and jutifiably so.

The Lankan batting is heavily dependent on Jayasuriya and when he fails, the team scores limps towards respectability. Sangakkara is the only other batsmen who is able most of the bowling attacks and he too fell for a small score. Jayawardena is a run machine when it comes to the subcontinental wickets and Attapatu feasts on docile attacks. The bowling is also no great shakes either excepting Vaas and Muralitharan.

The match between Sri Lanka and South Africa should decide the second finalist that takes on Australia. It is difficult to hope for a victory to the Sri Lankans on a pitch such as Perth.


The rotation policy employed by the Australians has come in for a bit of stick. Surprisingly, Steve Waugh wants it scrapped when it was during his reign as captain, it was introduced. It is true that the 'rest' given to the players is not justified in the light of the amount of cricket played by the Aussies after the Ashes.

In the entire episode, the resting of Ponting was quite ridiculous. The captain of the Australian team was not allowed to take his team out to the middle on the Australia Day. I believe this was the result of poor planning. The selectors did not want to take the blame and so Ponting was rested even for Sunday's match against Sri Lanka. Imagine the reaction if a Sachin or a Sehwag were to be rested for a match that had to be played on January 26th or August 15th. It is not possible to know the reaction in Australia sitting somewhere in India.


In the end, Roger Federer kept intact his record in Grandslam finals and went on to win the Australian Open. Marcos Baghdatis kept the Swiss on the backfoot for the first two sets and then in the third and the fourth sets, it was all one way. Perhaps, this win was the most difficult for Federer considering the opponents he had to face, especially during the second fortnight. Maybe, there is now a belief that Federer could be beaten.

Nothing can be taken away from Baghdatis even after the defeat in the finals. He is one who is going to achieve greater things in the future.

Mahesh Bhupathi combined well with Martina Hingis to win the mixed doubles event. This is the sixth one for Bhupathi and with a different partner.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


At the end of the first day, the home team is ahead with the big guns of the Indian batting line-up back in the dressing room. The strategy of having a lively wicket for the last test of the series after two batting friendly tracks has almost paid off for the Pakistanis.

The hattrick in the very first over of the match was sensational. The exploits of Pathan were followed by the good work of Zaheer and Rudra Pratap Singh. However, somewhere along the day, the Indian bowlers forgot their lines and Akmal and company took their team score to some respectability. The keeper of the home team is someone who is clearly relishing the Indian batting. In fact, most of the Pakistan wicketkeepers have had this habit in the past also. But none of them were as spectacular as the current gloveman.

The Indian batsmen were unable to capitalise on the good work of their bowlers and lost four wickets for less than hundred runs on the board. Saurav Ganguly has a lot on his plate. His performance with the bat will not only help his team but also give him a new lease of life. The same goes for Yuvraj who is rated highly by the team management. Dhoni has to do something special with the bat to compensate for his shoddy keeping.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The ladies final has turned to be an anti-climax with the forcible retirement of the favourite of Justine Henin-Hardenne in the second set. The first set was won by Mauresmo and the Frenchwoman was leading in the second set.

Indians have a lot at stake with Paes and Damm playing in the doubles finals today.


There have been reports in the media that Saurav Ganguly could be included in the playing eleven for the third test at Karachi at the expense of Harbhajan Singh. There are two aspects to this decision. It is a surprise that Ganguly is considered inspite of the opposition from the likes of Chappell, Dungarpur and Dravid. The second relates to Harbhajan. The off-spinner has till now not much success on pitches outside India. Blame it on the pitches or on the ball, the record speaks for itself.

The thinktank have to include Ganguly in the third test. They don't want to repeat the mistake that was committed during the third test at Ahmedabad. Now with all the hot air about the green top at Karachi, there is a need to give an opportunity to Ganguly. If, he fails to deliver, then Ganguly has his cricketing fate sealed. Perhaps, this is what Pawar and company had in mind when a strong case was made for the inclusion of the former captain in the side to Pakistan.

Call me anything but there was a bitter taste in the mouth in the aftermath of the decision to have Ganguly on the bench for the second test at Faisalabad. There was very little logic to play five bowlers where even 10 bowlers would have failed. There was a one point agenda- make Ganguly sit on the bench. Chappell and Dravid are too keen to please their masters, especially when big brother, Dungarpur is present with the touring team.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Roger Federer is through to the final of a grand slam once again. It is not surprising; what is important is the somewhat stiff opposition that the Swiss had to face . Haas and Davydenko had taken the champion to a distance that was unthinkable last season. In the semifinals, Kiefer looked good for two sets and then the resistance faded.

Federer has to face the 'new kid on the block' Marcos Baghdatis in the final. The Cypriot showed his mettle by beating Nalbandian after being two sets down in the semis. But Federer is in a different class. Of course, Baghdatis has nothing to lose. The pressure is on Federer.

In the ladies side, the final features the Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne and the Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo. The Belgian starts the favourite and her opponent has to do something extraordinary to win her first major.

The Indian fans have a lot to look forward in the men's doubles with Paes and Damm taking on the top team of the Bryan brothers. In the mixed doubles Bhupathi and Hingis are into the finals with Paes losing out.

In the womens' doubles, the Chinese team have won over the favourites. Looks like the Chinese have begun to make their mark in tennis-a racquet sport.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


At stumps on the second day, India put up 110 runs on the board for the loss of Sehwag. Dravid and the others in the batting line-up have to bat really well to take the match beyond the home team. Dravid was in his usual composed self while Laxman appeared shaky at times.

The home team pushed towards the 600 mark thanks to the hitting from Afridi. Inzamam also got to his ton despite being troubled by a bad back. The Indian bowlers had to suffer with Shoaib Akhtar also in the mood for some runs. For a change, Kamran Akmal did not trouble the Indians and the scorers.

The Indian team management and the bowlers seem to lose their heads when confronted with the likes of Afridi. He is someone who has the habit of feasting on the Indian attack, be it in the tests or the one-dayers. Other teams have sorted out the threat of Afridi by bowling short stuff moving away to the off. There was no attempt from any bowler to test the patience of Afridi. For a while, it seemed that Afridi had to find a way of giving his wicket away and the Indian bowlers were just going through their motions.

Irfan Pathan has completely lost his plot as far as the bowling is concerned. He is on the verge of becoming an useful lower order batsman having the ability to bowl. It is really hard to understand the logic behind his loss of pace. If he cannot bowl fast at this young age, then something must be done. I believe it is the faulty advice from the experts that has done this. Fast bowlers cut down on the pace in order to reduce the stress on their bodies after playing for a long time. Pathan has not even played for more than a couple of full seasons!

The debutante, R.P.Singh bowled commendably to bag 4 wickets. Zaheer Khan got the wicket of the Pakistan skipper with a terrific delivery.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Finally, someone(Mukul Kesavan, Cricinfo Magazine) has the courage to defend the performances of teams like India on home turf which is something that is routinely derided by the media. Actually, a win is a win and much is made out of the 'poor' record of India abroad. It is also sad that the records of players is also put in that kind of a perspective. This is unfair when desi media also joins chorus with the likes of Peter Roebuck in calling the pitches in India to be unfit for 'good' cricket.

The last time Australia came to India the test at Mumbai was won by the home team although the tourists had the series already in their pocket. Predictably, the home team won with the help of spinners relishing the conditions. The Indians also happened to play the Aussie bowlers well on a pitch where good strokeplay was difficult. Roebuck went on for days calling the pitch something where the ball jumped like fat on a hot fan. It is interesting to note that a non-regular bowler like Michael Clarke got 6 Indian wickets.

If a Ricky Ponting fails on the Indian wickets, as in 2001, it is put to badluck or worse bad wickets. But if an Indian batsmen fails to negotiate the short pitched stuff, then it is put to poor technique to worse to the lack of commitment. If an Indian spinner fails in Australia or England, then fun is made of his record. But the same yardstick is not applied when a pace bowler fails to deliver in India. What is detestable is the total unanimity with which Indian media and the so-called tellyexperts call for the immediate revamping of the pitches in India.

People fail to recognise that cricket is not the only sport nor India is the only country that seeks to take advantage of the familiar conditions. Davis Cup matches are played on surfaces which benefit the home country. India contested a final which was played in Sweden. Typically, the event was held on clay which was meat and drink for the home team which had most of the best in their ranks. Of course, grass would not have mattered for the likes of Mats Wilander and company. But then the Swedes did not take any chance with Vijay and Ramesh Krishnan being good players of grass. Every effort is made in football to make the visiting team uncomfortable.

It is no doubt that a good team has to win on all surfaces and a good players has to score runs and take wickets on all kinds of pitches. There are very few teams in the history of cricket who have done this. The West Indies teams led by Clive Lloyd was the one team feared by their opponents at home and away. There are very few players who have done consistently well under all conditions.

I don't agree with the view that poor umpiring is something that takes the gloss off wins in a home series. All umpires in the past have displayed various degrees of prejudice and bias and so the scores even out for all the teams. Now with the neutral umpires that is a non-issue.


The first test between India and Pakistan ended in a draw with the sides unable to complete two innings. This was a sort of an anticlimax coming after all the talk of preparing a greentop to make the Indian batsmen struggle. The bowlers became insignificant with most of the batsmen having a whale of time.

What I found interesting on the days leading to the test were the torrents of advice and predictions coming from the former players across the border. Imran Khan led the way with the others following suit. None wanted to be left behind in the whole exercise of psyching up the Pakistan team to take the rival. The last time round when India went on to win the series, Akram was roundly criticised for giving advice to Indian players such as Pathan. Now the leftarmer did not want to miss any photoop or otherwise to show his loyalty and patriotism. However, with the mighty stand forged by Sehwag and Dravid, everything changed and Akram talked about the presssure on the Pakistan team. Imran Khan was busy giving tips to Sami before the match and the way the bowler was ineffective, the tips were not really useful.

The saving grace from the last tour was the absence of Sidhu from the commentator box.


After three matches, all the three sides are equally placed with a win and a loss each. There is an interesting aspect to the three matches wherein the side winning the toss finished on the losing side. First it was the turn of Sri Lanka and then South Africa turned the tables on the hosts. Today, the Sri Lankans beat the Proteas comfortably. Predictably, everyone questioned the wisdom of Graeme Smith in asking the Sri Lankans to make first use of the wicket .

The captain has to take all the flak in such a situation. Nasser Hussain was quite assertive of this fact during the rain break in the run feast in Pakistan. He reminded the decision at Brisbane where the Aussies were asked to bat first and that set the tone for a disastrous Ashes campaign. If I remember correctly, Azharuddin won the toss and put England in which resulted in Graham Gooch getting a triple in the first and a ton in the second innings.

Surely, the captain has a lot to think about.