Thursday, December 20, 2007

VERBAL BOUNCERS

Harbhajan Singh is not too worried over the inclusion of Brad Hogg in the Australian squad. The statement of Harbhajan does not make much sense since the off-spinner does not have any record of repute bowling away from India. Even in the recent series at home in India against Pakistan, Harbhajan looked anything but threatening. Looks like he relishes the idea of ‘mental disintegration’ rather than do his bowling do the talking.

Even the normally sensible Kumble also seems to have taken up the challenge of speaking out his mind. Shane Warne did not have much success against India and the leg spinner was the first to admit his inability while bowling to the likes of Sachin, Rahul and Laxman. So Kumble’s assertion that the home team would miss Warne is not on the mark.

Not to be left behind in the statement race, Shoaib Akhtar took time out from his search to find any takers for his Mumbai film career to give some valuable advice to the Aussies. Shoaib wants the home team to include Shaun Tait just to scare the Indians away. Is Tim Nielsen listening?

The coach of Pakistan Geoff Lawson (an Australian) feels that Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke are capable of taking the responsibility of the spin department. Wonder why Lawson did not think of any such innovative ideas whilst in India! The Pakistan team did not feel the need to field a specialist left arm spinner when the faster bowlers were not able to make any impact on the Indian batting.

Cricket is slowly degenerating into slanging matches that are a regular feature of boxing contests.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

THEIR WAY, OUR WAY!



England failed to qualify for the forthcoming edition of Euro and so on expected lines, the coach Steve McClaren was fired. The failure came even when the English team boasted the likes of Beckham, Gerrard and Lampard in the line-up. The Football Association was under pressure to find a replacement and a number of names were mentioned. But the FA offered the top job to Italian Fabio Cappello.

India failed to get past the first round of the cricket World Cup losing to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The solitary win came against Bermuda who can’t claim to have any kind of cricketing pedigree. The team had the presence of players like Sachin, Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. As expected, the high profile coach Greg Chappell quit the job. After a lot of near misses, the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri decided to entrust the coaching job to Gary Kirsten.

The English FA did not have the reason to feel embarrassed like the way the BCCI did when Graham Ford decided to let go the job after expressing interest. Of course, Scolari turned down an earlier offer, something that can comfort the coach hunters of the Indian cricket team. The choice of Gary Kirsten was surprising to say the least. Kirsten was a tough opener with a more than a decent record, but he has no previous coaching experience. It was strange when the well-respected Dav Whatmore was not even called for an interview. It was pretty clear that the choice of Kirsten was largely the handiwork of Sunil Gavaskar.

Cappello has won major trophies with all the clubs that he has managed across Europe. There is no doubt over the credentials of the Italian. The only problem that the new England coach might face is the English language.

The shock elimination of England at the qualifying stage made the FA look for a genuine coach and not someone who appealed to the personal biases and prejudices of a few individuals. There is a lesson here for the BCCI.

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WHY RAHUL DRAVID?

The recent form of Yuvraj Singh has compelled the selectors to include the left-hander in the test squad on the tour of Australia. With Sachin, Saurav, Laxman, Dravid and Jaffer being certainties, a spot for Yuvraj calls for a bold choice or a gamble. Many wise people have voiced the view that Yuvraj can be accommodated in the middle order only if Dravid is asked to give company to Jaffer at the start of the innings. Even the great Sunil Gavaskar has endorsed this view.

The idea that Dravid should open stems from the fact that the Karnataka batsman is the most competent when it comes to facing fast bowling on bouncy pitches. More importantly, Dravid opened the innings once before in Pakistan. So that makes Dravid a sort of a ‘natural choice’ for the role of the opener.

If Dravid is indeed compelled by the team management to open the innings, things could take a turn for the worst for the Indian team. If one cares to remember the last tour to down under, it was Dravid who was a crucial factor behind the team’s good show batting at one drop. With his confidence low, not only the team but also the batting of Dravid could suffer.

Why Dravid? The answer is pretty simple and straightforward. Dravid does not have many powerful backers among the former players and the media. In fact, Dravid is someone who can be dispensed with ostensibly in the name of larger interests.

The success or the failure of the team in the batting department depends mostly on the performance of Dravid.

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CHEQUERED FLAG

What a splendid day with Narain Karthikeyan finishing at the top in the Chinese edition of the A1 Grand Prix.

Karthikeyan did not have a time to remember during the one season in Formula 1. He managed to earn some points in the infamous race at Indianapolis where only four cars participated in the race. His contract was not renewed after the season and suddenly the media started to write about other Indian drivers.

Karthikeyan is right to say that he still has age on his side as far as Formula 1 is concerned.

May this win be the first of many.

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CAN THEY DELIVER?

Coming after the wins at home against Pakistan, hopes are high as the Indian team travels down under. The last series between the India and Australia resulted in victory for Ponting and company. Of course, the last visit by the Indians resulted in a series where the honours were shared.

The batting of the Indian team looks stronger. Sachin can be expected to add considerably to his tally. Laxman is always a good bet against his favourite opposition. Ganguly’s show against Pakistan is going to cheer up his fans. Yuvraj is in great form. Sehwag is back in the team. Jaffer appears sound at the top of the order. But the biggest worry comes in the shape of Dravid. The Karnataka batsman did not appear his usual self in the recent series. The run-ins with the selection panel chief seem to have had the impact on the batsman.

Apart from Zaheer Khan and Kumble, the bowling department does not inspire any confidence. The selectors have done the right thing in letting Agarkar sit at home but have erred in picking Harbhajan Singh. Pathan has lost the pace and his swing is only a thing of the past. Ishant Sharma is a dubious choice and even more surprising is the case of the inclusion of Pankaj Singh.

The choice of two specialist wicket keepers in the touring party is a bit of a gamble. If that were a necessity, then is it right to pick Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik?

It remains to be seen if some of the greats of Indian cricket deliver where it matters most.

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