Sunday, May 28, 2006


After the fourth match in the current one-day series in the Windies, the captain of the home team was speaking about the ‘comment’ of the Indian coach. India won the first match of the series at Jamaica and the coach came out with the statement that the Windies have ‘forgotten the winning habit’. Brian Lara asserted that the comment was ‘sly’ and that his team was out to prove the Indian coach wrong.

Having read many times about a similar comment made by the then English captain Tony Greig that his team would make the visiting Windies team ‘grovel’, I wondered about the possible repercussions. The West Indians were out to prove a point and they beat the English convincingly. A number of batsmen of the English team agree that the bowling faced was the most hostile. While the present team does not boast of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, there was always a possibility of hurting the pride of the home team.

In the past decade, many former players and greats of yesteryears felt that the poor showing of the Windies was in part due to the lack of the pride playing for the country. But the sly remark of the Indian coach may have brought the sense of pride and that is a strong enough cause of worry for the Indians in the forthcoming test series.


In the aftermath of the loss of the fourth one dayer in the Windies, there was a lot of debate and discussion about the possible reasons for the loss suffered by India. In a particular television news channel, viewers were asked to vote via SMS the ‘culprit’ responsible for the loss of the series. Not surprisingly, the main accused was the Chairman of the Selectors, Kiran More. The second position was taken by Greg Chappell and the Indian skipper, Rahul Dravid came third.

One other point the viewers made was the non-inclusion of Ganguly, the much maligned man of Indian cricket, at least for some. It is not surprising since the left-hander happened to be the biggest match winner in one-dayers, with the sole exception of a certain gentleman named Sachin Tendulkar. It was foolish to say the least that there was a gross error of judgement in not taking Ganguly for the one-dayers, especially with the absence of Tendulkar due to injury.

The argument of Chappell and company that Ganguly was past his prime, when it came to running between the wickets and in the field, did not cut much ice when players handpicked and groomed fell by the wayside. Just imagine Ramesh Powar fielding the boundary. In a match, Powar slid and allowed the ball to touch the rope for a four. Ganguly could not have done worse. Further, Ganguly’s bowling would have been useful, even as another ‘experiment’.

Ganguly has become a pariah and the enemy number one for a large number of people. Harsha Bhogle has, in his scheme of things, has already made Ganguly retire. If Chappell is a true professional, then why should not be there any accountability? People have used the same justifications to sack Ganguly.

It was a well known fact that the Windies were a very weak team. New Zealand and South Africa completed clean sweeps while India are struggling to keep pace. With the kind of cricket displayed by India so far, the win the test series is still going to be a dream.

Thursday, May 25, 2006



The home team won with just the last ball to spare in the third one dayer of the current series. Incidentally, this is the first international match to be played at Warner Park. All the three matches have been very close ones, each going to the last over. But that does not hide the truth that the Windies outplayed India in the third match.

Sehwag and Kaif took their team to a strong position after the early dismissal of Dravid. But the other batsmen could not sustain the tempo and the innings of the tourists ended having posted a not so impressive total. The last 15 overs of the Indian innings just produced 42 runs. The slow bowlers like Samuels and Gayle proved to be difficult to score runs off. The absence of the in-form Yuvraj was very much felt.

Needing to score just under 250 runs in 50 overs, the home team was not expected to be stretched. But the Windies managed to do that despite the sterling knocks from Sarwan and Chanderpaul. These two have been thorns in the Indian flesh in the past, and this time was no different. Sarwan has an exceptional record against the Indians, which does not quite match his record when it comes to teams like Australia. The same is the case with Chanderpaul who has never shown his dislike for the Indian attacks.

Initially, the Indian bowlers were treated with disrespect with the exception of Agarkar. Pathan seems to be in a trance as he went all over the park. Harbhajan once again showed the control he has over the Caribbean batsmen. Powar was taken to the cleaners by Sarwan and with this showing, it is time the management takes a new look at the Mumbai off-spinner.

With the team being considered as a strong contender for the world cup in 2007, India ought to outplay an opposition as mediocre as the Windies.


The Indian team for the test matches does not have any surprises except for the inclusion of V V S Laxman and the non-inclusion of Ajit Agarkar. Probably, the last minute decision of Sachin to miss the tour gave the batsman from Hyderabad another tilt at test match glory. I am a big fan of Laxman but with the theories and ideas of Greg Chappell, it was always doubtful.

I have never been a supporter of Agarkar. I have always felt that the Mumbai bowler gets the opportunities just because he comes from a particular part of the country. But in the three one dayers, he has been a revelation. He bowled exceedingly well and a test slot was awaited. But the selectors led by the irrepressible Kiran More sprang a surprise by excluding Agarkar from the test side. The last time Punjab bowler V R V Singh was in the team, the selectors did not know about the injury he was carrying. Hope this time he is fully fit. I reckon the obsession with this bowler is more to do with the kind of influence that a particular gentleman wields in the present dispensation. The inclusion of Powar is baffling, to say the least. Maybe, that is something to do with the representation from Mumbai.With Kumble and Harbhajan, the Mumbai spinner will only sit on the bench. Wasim Jaffer will return to the test team to open the innings and that will spare us from the ‘sacrifices’ made by Dravid while opening the batting.

Raina has been included in the test squad following his impressive performances in the shorter version of the game. After a long time, the selectors have shown some sense in picking a second wicket keeper in Dinesh Kartik. Since it is a four match series, it is wise to have some contingent plan.

Lastly, the timing of the announcement when the one dayers are still to be played is curious, as always is the case with the current selection panel.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Greg Chappell has been in the news ever since he was appointed the coach of the Indian team. The spat with Saurav and the subsequent events have been well documented. A supposed injury caused the Aussie to show a particular finger. It is also well publicized the desire of Chappell to make India the second best team in the world. The wins over Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan, especially in the limited overs game has enhanced the reputation of Chappell. A lot of coverage has been given in the press about the ‘processes’ and ‘experiments’ that contributed to the success. However, the same could not help India save test matches, one in Pakistan and one in India.

I was going through an interview that Chappell gave to Rohit Brijnath in Sportstar (May 20, 2006). Chappell believes that India has to get good results in test matches by 2006. In case, India is not able to achieve this objective, then in Chappell’s words “ we’ve got wrong people”. When persisted with the question, Chappell says “ at the end of the day the players have got to play. It could be a reflection on the selectors, it could be a reflection on the system in India that produces cricketers, it could be a reflection on a lot of people”.

Chappell, who has earned the reputation of being honest and candid, does not think anything about the role of the coach. If the players have to play and the selectors have to do their jobs, then what is the coach going to do? In that case, it is not justified to employ someone who does not want to be accountable.



The sequence of chasing targets has come to an end thanks to a most inept display. I don’t like to underestimate the strength of the Windies, but that team from the Caribbean is mediocre to say the least. If the Indian team cannot come up with a convincing display against such opponents, then all the ‘experiments’ and ‘processes’ do not mean anything.

In recent years, most of the touring teams to the Caribbean have been victorious in both the versions of the game. The home team has been outplayed on a number of occasions. The only saving grace has been the batting of a few individuals. In the first game, the Indian line up nearly threw it all away, before scrapping a win. Now, in the second game, a target of less than 200 runs seemed beyond the superstars.

With the kind of money, the players ought to respond in a more professional manner. It would serve the team better, if the players concentrate on their game.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


I read the write ups of Ms. Sharda Ugra with interest. But I don’t agree with her views on Asia (India Today, May 15, 2006) getting the chance to host the cricket World Cup in 2011. Her argument is that since cricket is by far the most popular sport in the subcontinent, the event should have gone to some other country where cricket can be popularized.

Ms.Ugra cites events like the football World Cup that have been hosted in South Korea and Japan in 2002 and that South Africa gets the chance to host the same in 2010. It is true that FIFA has tried out to reach countries of Asia and Africa. But let us not forget that the first world cup in football was held in 1938 and only in 2002 the world body decided to take football outside the traditional venues! The same is the case with other sporting events.

It is the money and the popularity that influence such decisions today. Windies gets to host the world cup in 2007. England hosted the first three editions and another in 1999. It is Australia that has hosted only one in 1992. But Australia has so far hosted the Olympic games and the Commonwealth games twice each. Australia has so strong sporting culture and traditions that the average Australian would not be unhappy to lose out this chance.

India now excels in very few sports on a world level. Cricket, even though played only in a handful of countries is the most popular sport. So there is nothing wrong with Asia getting the chance to host another world cup.


India won the World Championship of Cricket in 1985. The year also was eventful for me. I entered into college leaving behind uniforms and the school bags. The Indian victory came just before I sat down to write the class 10 examinations.

With no television, one had to depend on newspapers and occasionally on the radio. In the recent weeks, I saw all the action on television, courtesy, ESPN and Star Sports. Behind the win, the Indians did the ‘basics’ right.

Srikkanth played shots all over the ground and he was not afraid to take to the air, something that coaches at the junior level despise of. Ravi Shastri batted and bowled like a true champion of champions. Kapil Dev bowled well and played an important knock like the one against New Zealand. Sunil Gavaskar and Azharuddin batted well.

All the bowlers had their moments and were ably supported by the fielders. The fielders covered the large grounds in Australia well and took most of the catches. Basically, everyone contributed his might. The team did not rely on an individual and that really made all the difference.

This win and the victory in the World Cup in 1983 was the reason why I follow cricket till today.


In the end, India pulled off a win with just one ball to spare. India made heavy weather of the target having been comfortably placed at one point, with the good partnership between Dravid and Kaif. Dravid batted like a dream while Kaif’s was a scrappy one.

The decision to field first after winning the toss continues to baffle me.The decision could have been prompted either with the confidence of chasing well the targets or the inability to face the ball on a wicket that was green. I don’t expect the team think tank to be defensive in their approach while being confronted with a wicket that offered assistance to the faster bowlers.

The Indian bowlers were taken apart by Chris Gayle who seems to relish this attack. The other destroyers of Indian attacks like Chanderpaul and Sarwan could not make a big contribution and that kept the Windies total within the reach of India. Lara has never played a spectacular knock against the Indians and that is a cause of worry, since the left-hander wants to make it big in his final stint as captain.

The win should not take away some of the concerns for the Indians. Irfan Pathan was not effective. It was only Agarkar and Harbhajan who could control the runs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The test match between England and Sri Lanka at Lord’s finished as a draw. England was on the front foot for nearly four days. The weather and the dropped catches saw Lanka save the match from a certain defeat. Of course, Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain played the innings of his life. He made a 50 in the first and got a ton the second time round.

In the first innings, the Lankans were thoroughly outplayed, with both the ball and the bat. The bowling was not penetrative and the English made merry. Trescothick, Strauss, Cook, Collingwood all made runs. KP made a big hundred and Flintoff carted a few shots over the boundary. Matthew Hoggard and Mahmood then used the conditions well to make the Lankans follow on.

In the second innings, most of the Lankan batsmen contributed with the bat. Just as the dropped catches made a draw possible, an umpiring error could have proven costly for Sri Lanka. A ball from Flintoff brushed the pullover of Jayawardene and the umpire gave the batsman out, caught behind. There was justice in the end, with the draw.

Monday, May 15, 2006


There was surprise and awe in the deeds of a four year old. Here is Buddhia Singh who at only four years can run for kilometers. The fact that he hails from Orissa is more cause for cheer. There are very few sportspersons from this state. In cricket we had SS Das and Debashish Mohanty and in hockey there are Dilip Tirkey and others. But Buddhia has the potential to become the biggest athlete from the state and the country. Well, almost.

Buddhia comes from a very poor family, so poor that at one point his mother contemplated selling him for mere Rs.800 (less than US $20). In comes Biranchi, a Judo coach who takes with him Buddhia. The little wonder is ever since with Biranchi.

Even as Biranchi was showing to the world the potential of his protégé, there were calls that the child was exploited. A few Public Interest Litigations were also filed in the Courts, ostensibly to protect Buddhia. Some doctors alleged that the diet given to Buddhia and the training methods adopted by Biranchi were causing great damage to the frail Buddhia.

A week ago, Buddhia was to run a distance of 70 kilometers in an attempt to set a record. But the heat of May took its toll and after a grueling 65 kilometers, the boy had to be taken away for medical treatment. As the media and the coach were rejoicing over the record, Buddhia was taken away for a medical check-up after instructions from the state government. A team of doctors came up with the opinion that the running could cause severe damage to the body of Buddhia. The government warned of action against the coach.

The coach dismisses all the allegations saying that they are a part of a larger conspiracy. Now, what does the future hold for Buddhia? Is he going to disappear after promising a lot ? What do the experts and the government plan to ensure a good future for Buddhia?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I am fed up with the ‘second best’ thing. The dislike is partly because it was the name of a theory that I could not comprehend for a long time. A lot of media coverage was given over the ‘efforts’ of the coach and the support staff to take India to the second spot in the list of the cricket playing nations.

Now, the ‘second best’ bug has bitten the entire television fraternity. Every channel was proud to report the ascension of Rahul Dravid to the second position in the list of the best test batsmen.

When are we going to come out of this fixation with rankings and statistics? The last time we were fixated with this ranking business is when the media reported on a daily basis the rank of Sania Mirza.


In recent days, everyone, that is, the players, the media and the administrators have been showing concern over the ‘burnout’ caused by too much cricket. Even a newcomer like Dhoni is also concerned and has offered a solution. Dhoni wants the team management to come up with a rotation policy. With an Australian at the helm, ideas also sound different.

Sehwag wants the authorities to ensure that the players get extended breaks between matches. For the last one season, Sehwag has been spending more time in the dressing room, rather than at the batting crease !

I fully agree with the view of Sunil Gavaskar over the issue of too much cricket. The players are much better looked after now in terms of the money. The fact that they represent the country should be motivational enough. Playing 100 days out of a total of 365 days is tiresome, to say the least.

The Indian cricketers are a pampered lot and their views on the burnout issue only reinforces that belief. Look at the tennis players who slog it out on a daily basis. The same is with the footballers. Let us for a moment think about Leander and Bhupathi. They give everything for the sake of the country in Davis Cup in the midst of the packed schedule that modern tennis is. Yet, never have they complained.

Things like ‘patriotism’ can sound old fashioned and even jingoistic to the Indian cricketer of the present day.