Thursday, December 28, 2006

IS THIS NOT INDIAN CRICKET?

First it was the startling decision to send Irfan back home from South Africa that raised the hackles. Then came the news that the selectors were keen to send Ishant Sharma, the Delhi bowler to South Africa as a replacement for Irfan. The news channels provided all the information about Ishant and even carried interviews of coaches and players.

But by the afternoon, things settled down and the Board came up with the clarification. It was decided not to send Ishant to South Africa after all.

In one day, a player nearly made it to the Indian team and in the end, did not. This is Indian cricket. Who writes these kind of scripts that can put the best to rest?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

'ROY' COMES OF AGE?

For someone who got a chance to be back in the test squad only due to retirement of Damien Martyn, it was a last chance at a test glory for Andrew Symonds. He could do little in previous test outings. So despite his fielding skills, Symonds could not command a place in the test team.

The early dismissals of the likes of Ponting, Clarke and Hussey must have filled the English hearts with joy. The credentials of Symonds, the test player were in question and there was sufficient pressure. The setting was similar to the 2003 World Cup encounter between Pakistan and Australia. That day, Wasim Akram and company put the world champions under pressure by taking 4 wickets for few runs on the board. Then Symonds took charge with a hundred. Today at the MCG, the situation was similar and the response from Symonds was also similar.

This knock not only would help the Aussie cause in this test but would also hopefully secure a permanent place for Symonds in the team. That would not too bad for someone who in the last tour to England was ‘disciplined’ by the team management and his contract was in doubt.

SS DAS

Anyone remember Shiv Sundar Das? He used to open the innings for India in test matches. He was promising. The ‘critics’ harped on the soundness of his technique. But something went wrong and Das lost his place in the Indian team. The opener could not make runs even at the domestic level for his team Orissa. He was even stripped of Captaincy.

But in the ongoing Ranji match at Cuttack against Jammu and Kashmir, Das scored a triple century. This is the first time that a batsman from Orissa has achieved the distinction of scoring a triple ton in first class cricket.

Since cricket is a team game and also due to the fact that Orissa is one of the weaker sides, the efforts of players like Das don’t get the attention that a player from the more fancied sides gets.

It is unlikely that this effort can force the Indian selectors and the think tank to consider Das for future encounters. Even Das also might have this thing in mind. In that context, the triple hundred is all the more worthwhile.

A RECORD FOR STRAUSS

After Shane Warne announced his retirement from international cricket, a cartoon appeared in The Hindu. It showed a batsman running happily back to the pavilion after being dismissed. The batsman is happy to become the 700th wicket of Warne.

In the test match at the MCG, it was Andrew Strauss who became the 700th wicket. Unlike in the cartoon, Strauss showed little joy. But unwittingly, he also went into the record books along with Shane Warne. Indian cricket fans belonging to my generation remember till today the bowler off whom Sunil Gavaskar scored his 10000th test run. By the way, the bowler was Ijaz Fakih of Pakistan. Strauss has joined the club of players who have contributed to great cricketing records over the ages. The feat of Garry Sobers hitting 6s off successive balls in an over will always be remembered alongside the name of the hapless bowler, Malcom Nash. So is the case with Tilak Raj who was bowler when Ravi Shastri emulated the efforts of Sobers. So Strauss should not feel unhappy. He is great company.

Batsmen are not happy to give their wickets away and Strauss is no exception. Till that point, Strauss was playing without any discomfort. His dismissal led to a procession of English batsmen back to the pavilion.

A FAIRY TALE

Days after announcing his retirement from international cricket, Shane Warne could not have chosen a perfect place for his 700th wicket. It was achieved on his homeground-the MCG. Incidentally, this is the 100th time that a test match is being played on this famous ground. His achievement overshadowed for once the capitulation of England, not for the first time on this tour, though. The 700th wicket successfully managed to relegate another 5-wicket haul from the champion leg spinner into the background.

The Aussies were eager to see Warne play for the last time at the MCG and were all expecting their team and the most liked Melbournian (at least for some time now) to create history. The homecrowd was not disappointed with Warne getting his due and the visitors bowled out for a paltry score.

The whitewash, the first time since 1921(correct me if my facts are wrong) is a strong possibility. England is well and truly beaten.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

WHAT A STORY!

RAVI SHASTRI, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,

WARNE, WARNE, WARNE, WARNE,WARNE, ANDREW STRAUSS

That is a whole lot of wickets.


RADICAL INDEED!

Irfan Pathan is sent back home to enable him play the Ranji Trophy matches for the purpose of regaining his bowling form and confidence. This is, surely, a radical part of the process started by Greg Chappell. It is true that Pathan was not able to bowl so far on the tour to South Africa. But was this step warranted?

It may be the first time that a player has been sent home for poor form. There were instances in the past when players returned midway from tours due to injuries or ill health or even ‘stress’ related issues. We also had the case of Sidhu who returned from India from a tour to England for undisclosed reasons. But the Pathan episode is different.

From a player who once was regarded as the successor of Kapil Dev, this is a mighty fall.

Monday, December 25, 2006

BOXING DAY TEST

The Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxing. It is about getting gifts or boxes with gifts in them. In terms of boxing, the Indians have to land the knockout punch at Kingsmead in Durban to shut the Proteas out of the series.

The tourists have to be alert in warding off the threat from the home team. The South Africans are not in the same league as Australia when it comes to resilience, but this test can separate the winners from the pretenders. A win for India settles the series, while a win for the home team could make the third test interesting.

Ganguly and Laxman batted with a lot of purpose in the first test; they have to perform well in the second test. Sachin and Dravid have to post big scores to take the match beyond the reach of South Africa. Sehwag and Jaffer have to provide a good start while Dhoni has a lot to prove.

In the bowling department, Sreesanth, Zaheer and Kumble bowled superbly in the win in the first test. Looks like Munaf is going to be included at the expense of V.R.V.Singh. But Munaf does not have the pace to worry the batsmen.

A win would be a lovely gift.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

THE REDS ARE COMING

The Indian economy is facing the onslaught of the Chinese manufacturing juggernaut. There is another Chinese threat that cannot be taken lightly. In the recently concluded Asian Games in the Qatari city of Doha, no team from the subcontinent managed to reach the finals of the hockey tournament for men.

The eclipse of India followed by the decline of Pakistan was marked by the ascent of other teams from Europe and Australia. Then towards the 1990s, South Korea became a serious contender at least in the Asian scene. Now, China has taken a ‘long march’ towards displacing the traditional superpowers of Asian hockey. All the while people like K.P.S.Gill were busy finding excuses and scapegoats for the sad story of Indian hockey.

The progression of China is something that shows the attitude of the people towards sports and games. Indians should never feel let down by the lack of success in the sporting arena. It is not in our genes to excel in sporting activities. We don’t have many role models in this respect. The lack of sporting culture is reflected in the fact that the top sporting recognitions in our country are named after mythological heroes like Arjuna and Dronacharya.

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WHAT A MESS!

Indian athletics is in a mess. The controversy over the alleged doping offence of Seema Antil had barely died that the Santhi Soundarjan affair has put the sports officials in the dock. If the athlete was found to be in contravention to the rules, why was he/she sent to Doha?

A news channel first broke the story with the catchy headline that screamed how ‘a man won a medal in the women’s’ section’. The officials were quick to pass the buck around and pleaded their ignorance, as is their wont. Revelations came out that the athlete was considered ‘unfit’ for jobs meant for women. With all the evidence, it is a shame that the athlete in question was allowed to participate in the meet.

The felicitation of the Tamil Nadu government was something that appeared to be ludicrous, even by the Indian standards of governance. The state government went ahead with the presentation even after the scandal broke out. This is the worst attempt at populism even by the lofty standards of Dravidian governments.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

INDIA IN SOUTH AFRICA

“INDIA HAVE TO KEEP THE HAMMER DOWN”

This the view expressed by former South African fast bowler, Allan Donald. The aggression from the bowlers, especially, Sreesanth paid off and now it is time for the others-the big guns-Sachin, Sehwag and Dravid to fire to strangle the Proteas. It is the never-say-die attitude that has served the Aussies for so long and the Indians can take a leaf out their book.

The success at Jo’burg was nothing short of a miracle. A draw was also not expected considering the lackluster display in the shorter version of the game.

Sreesanth was a revelation. He may not have the pace of a genuine fast bowler. He is aggressive and that intent was refreshing. The six off Andre Nel and the subsequent dance movements made a statement.

The veterans who were seemingly past their use-by date, Sourav, Laxman, Kumble and Zaheer all had their contributions to the victory.

The victory was not based on the efforts of an individual. The whole team added to the to final outcome.

After a long time, the sum parts of the Indian team have become the whole.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ASHES UPDATE

WHAT A LOSS!

There are few instances in the history of test cricket that a team lost after putting up over 500 runs in the board and still end up the loser. The Ashes win by England in 2005 was not a fluke. It was the result of some great cricket played by a bunch of determined cricketers from England. But the loss in the second test made that victory look like a fluke.

The moment Giles grassed the chance offered by Ponting, the match and with it the entire series slipped out of English hands. Ponting has been scoring runs by the hundreds and he made the most of the let-off. Michael Clarke came good with a ton after a long time. Hussey only added to his growing reputation. It is really baffling that the Aussie selectors ignored a player of such class and caliber in the last Ashes. Gilchrist contributed with a knock of substance after a while.

Collingwood and Pietersen rendered the Aussie big guns like Warne and McGrath ineffective. Hoggard was the lone English bowler to cause difficulties to the home batsmen while Flintoff bowled well in patches. The burden of captaincy is having the effect on the free-flowing brand of cricket played by the Lancastrian. Flintoff was one of the architects of the last series between the two teams.

In the second innings, the English batsmen were on a mission to lose their wickets and the match. Warne bowled as only as he can and picked up four wickets. The wicket of Pietersen gave fresh energy to Warne. The ball was similar to the ball bowled to Mike Gatting in terms of effect. Pitersen does have this habit of coming up with shots that border on overconfidence.

The Aussies scored the runs with Ponting and Hussey once again shared the spoils.

Duncan Fletcher erred in not picking up Monty Panesar. Giles mostly bowled a line that was once famously desribed by the Indian commentators as ‘negative’. Moreover, Giles did little to justify the supposedly superior batting talents.

The English have to salvage some pride in the remaining matches.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ANOTHER DOPING LET-OFF

Another doping case has been resolved on a ‘technical’ ground. Shoaib Akhtar and Asif Mohammad were let off with the enquiry tribunal not finding any intentional use of banned substances. The authorities were blamed for the players were not properly warned or advised about the WADA stipulations. Can the ignorance of the law be held as an excuse for breaking it?

In a curious coincidence, the President of Pakistan predicted that Pakistan would win the cricket World Cup in 2007. So is there anyway that the exoneration of the two bowlers came at the behest of instructions from the top? The ICC and the WADA can actually allow Pakistan to field drug tainted players on the back of the ‘war against terrorism’ argument.

Only a couple of days ago, Dick Pound expressed his unhappiness over the way in which Cricket Australia imposed a one-year ban on Shane Warne following a diuretic use during the World Cup of 2003. It seems Pakistan is ready with the justification for the let-off given to Shoaib and Asif.

Now what is Bob Woolmer going to do? It was widely reported that the drug tests were carried out in the first place at the insistence of the coach. Moreover, there were reports about a fight between Shoaib and Woolmer. In case, the PCB decides to include Shoaib in the team, things could take an interesting turn with the fast bowler not having cordial relations with the captain, Inzamam.

What is Imran Khan going to say? The former captain of Pakistan was all in favour of the firm action taken by the PCB. But with the bans revoked, what does Khan now have up his sleeve?

It is time that the whole anti-doping policy be revamped with most of the offenders escaping.

NOT A WHITEWASH

What if India lost the one day series 4-0?
There are some positives to come out of the series.

It was not a whitewash as some would like us to believe. A whitewash would have meant a 5-0 loss. But it is now only 4-0.The raingod save us from that ignominy.

No Indian batsman except Dhoni aggregated even 100 runs. But that is to be expected when the team is in the process of rebuilding and experimenting.

Sachin is still in fine touch as evident from the last match where he scored a half-century. But he was not even a shadow of his best in the other matches.


Sehwag looked burdened with the captaincy due to the injury to Dravid. The selectors realized this and gave the test match captaincy to Laxman.

Dinesh Karthick was suddenly elevated to the pantheons of Indian cricketing greats following the innings in the 20-20 match. His fielding was also top class.

Jaffer was the best equipped to cope with the bouncing and the seaming balls but he could not last long at the crease to demonstrate his talents and skills.

Irfan Pathan averaged better with the bat than with the ball. But he is still to get opportunities for we want him to be a Kapil Dev.

Harbhajan was expected to spin the Proteas out but he was hit out of the park. Of course, he still is a fine bowler in Indian conditions.

The selections of Saurav Ganguly for the test matches and the late inclusion of Laxman for the one-dayers were construed as something of signal to Chappell. But the experimentation continues.

To paraphrase the great Shelley, if winter is here, spring cannot be far behind.