Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Making All The Right Noises

Sharad Pawar after becoming the BCCI President makes all the right noises. It is to be seen how much of it actually bears fruit.

Here are some of the key points:
1) There will soon be a website for the BCCI.
Please pretty please, make sure that this at the very least is achieved if nothing else. Of course, hope to see the BCCI constitution up there. While we are on that matter how about providing a link to my blog from there ;-) ?

2) The finger controversy is too trivial a matter to warrant a full fledged inquiry.
Thank God for that. We don't need any more moral police than we have already.

3) The ICC Champions Trophy should be staged in India in October 2006.
Please I repeat PLEASE make sure there are no matches scheduled for Chennai in October !!!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The AllRounder Issue

Here are a few excerpts from Harsha Bhogle's column in the Indian Express. When Harsha writes, India reads. Which is why, I find it a pity he doesn't write even more candidly on the crucial issues in Indian cricket. But here are a few gems on the selection of Ganguly in the Indian side and in particular as an all-rounder. What kind of all-rounder was it again ? Batting or bowling ? I tend to forget, anyway here goes:

Producers of films faced similar problems too and came up with a solution that works for them. When they have a star with a small role to play, he cannot be top of the credits nor can he, therefore, be the third or fourth name. Some get by with a “guest appearance or special appearance” but my favourite is where the title sequence reaches a climax, the music, the drums, reach a crescendo, the screen goes momentarily blank and then suddenly gets filled with “and above all, Dharmendra!”

India’s selectors seemed to have done that; picked 14 and “above all, Sourav Ganguly”.

Hehe, amusing stuff. Here's more though and this is the crucial part:

The same committee that was bringing in fresh air has succumbed. They have displayed their weakness by calling Ganguly a “bowling all-rounder” or a “batting all-rounder” or both. They could have called him a reserve wicket keeper and wouldn’t have been much further off reality. The last time we heard something as funny was when Shane Warne said he took a diuretic because his mother asked him to.

That is so aptly put and yet makes me roll on the floor in laughter. Oh the brilliance of the man (Harsha that is, not Sourav)

Chappell's Middle Finger

A huge deal has been made out of Chappell's middle finger over the last couple of days in the MSM in India. And I must say he has done a fair bit to add fuel to the fire himself.

We all know what happen right ? The middle finger shot was screened by several media channels over and over. Initially, Chappell and the Indian management had this to say on the issue and I quote from Cricinfo:

"I vehemently deny making any gesture towards anybody. I did not gesture either towards the media or to the public" Chappell told Cricinfo after the team reached Mumbai. "I have not seen the pictures clearly, but from what I have seen an image has been captured through a window. I don't keep track of every movement of mine, but I certainly know I did not make any angry gestures towards the public,"

"I'm not saying that the hand that was shown was not mine," said Chappell. "But even if it was, what is being shown is a mischievous and malicious interpretation of what happened."

Well, all was fine. No one should have bothered about what the media or the crazed fans had to say. But then today this happens and I quote from DNA:

Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell has admitted to making the obscene finger gesture to a crowd of fans here, even as the team management claimed otherwise.

"Yes, I did," Chappell was quoted as saying by an English newspaper from Kolkata on Sunday.

When asked if the gesture was aimed at the crowd, he said: "I do not think I need to specify the reason to you."

Well what are we supposed to make of it now ? Why this U-turn ? In fact if he had stuck to either line I would have been fine. I mean assuming he had made that gesture, I don't think it was like the end of the world at all. After all, the persons against whom the gesture was made were hooligans. I'm sure they were not political diplomats engaging in an academic debate with the coach. We can very well imagine what they were slinging at Chappell when the incident occurred. If someone attacks you with muck I don't think giving it back is something that is so deplorable at all, regardless of the person's stature. Maybe some people like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar would have taken it in their stride and ignored it. Greg Chappell is not like that but there is nothing wrong in giving back as it comes. After all, isn't that the philosophy that Sourav Ganguly, the one whom these crazy fans would be lining up to bow before preached ?

But this U-turn is confusing to say the least. I wish the issue is sorted out one way or the other. And the team moves on from here. I really feel for the team. Here, they are trying to prepare for a crucial match tomorrow and this really deplorable incident is marring their efforts. It is a pity that people like Jonty Rhodes are being sympathetic to our team for facing this controversy our team and trying to teach Indian fans (make it some Kolkatans) the spirit in which all this should be taken.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Zalet Bahu, Hotil Bahu, Pari Ya Sam Ha ? (11175+ and counting)

All Hail The King Of World Cricket - "Sir" Brian Charles Lara
(Image courtesy
The title is in my mother-tongue, Marathi. Simply translated, means "There have been many, there will be many, but anyone like this ?"

Well, words are deficient when I start talking about Brian Lara even under normal circumstances. Today that he has reached a milestone no man has ever reached, I am even more lost for words. What can I say ?

I salute you, O King of All Kings !! Thank you, thank you very much for all the joy provided. Please accept my humble gratitude.

Here my good friend Om on his newly created blog describes the Lara magic.
Vaneisa Baksh in Cricinfo takes a look at the Lara Odyssey. I do think she goes a bit roundabout initially (but I don't blame her - as I said when one talks about Lara he/she can suddenly suffer from an inability to handle words) but she finishes off quite beautifully - I'll leave that for you to read
George Binoy takes a look at some of the milestones in Lara's career.

Will Keep this as a sticky post and add more as and when I get it.

A Milestone

Sachin Tendulkar becomes the World's most capped player playing his 357th ODI. I really don't know how much importance to give this stat. But an achievement nonetheless. Pity he failed miserably on the big day on the big stage.

Your thoughts ?

The Revival

Dileep Premachandran pens a superb article describing the revival of Shaun Pollock as a World class opening bowler.

Well, certainly he has done very well this series. Didn't look too dangerous in the Super Series though.

To Be Appreciated

In the calamity that struck at Eden Gardens yesterday, it is important to identify as many positives as possible. One such was the sixth wicket partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif. It is weird that while people are most eager to slam them for a run of poor scores, their good efforts today were not even acknowledged, let alone applauded.

It was on the same wicket that Sachin Tendulkar scored 2 off 15 balls and Rahul Dravid scored 6 off 33. Do not give me the excuse that the wicket had eased out. Yuvraj, in particular played along with Dravid and had to face a stern test at the start of the innings. Yet he survived that. And he and Kaif put on 81 runs in 17 overs by all means a good rate given the situation. It is another matter that Kaif got out attempting a shot he can never play well.

Also, when Dhoni came in he too found the going extremely tough. Further reinforces the fact that the wicket didn't really ease out. It was just a clear case of Yuvi and Kaif putting their heads down where the top order couldn't.

I'm quite surprised and saddened that even Yuvraj's wonderful 100 at Hyderabad didn't receive the due credit in the media and the blogosphere. It was one of the most beautiful innings in most demanding circumstances. I'm sure if Sachin or Sourav had played an innings like that their devotees would have shouted their throats hoarse in praise.

I feel confident that these two are going to play a huge role in the future of Indian cricket. Yuvraj, in particular I believe is the chosen one. I think he will in due course be India's number 4 in both forms of the game. Kaif will play the supporting role and perhaps some day go on to be captain.

Of Lotteries

Lot of people in India believe this India South Africa series is a lottery. The results certainly back them. But I am confused as to why it should be.

One cannot deny the fact that on every occasion, the team winning the toss has fielded first has gone on to win pretty comfortably. Well maybe a little less than comfortably in Hyderabad and a little more than comfortably in Kolkata for South Africa.

But fact is it was not as if the toss had rendered the rest of the match worthless. Now consider Hyderabad. A little bit of seam movement early in the morning, nothing to make a hue and cry about. But we lost 5 wickets in that. In Kolkata, well certainly much more grass, but again as Yuvi and Kaif showed that once one took some time to settle down, one could certainly score and score pretty quick. Their 81 run stand came in 17 overs. So certainly a wicket where if one could survive the first few balls, one could go on and score. Yet just the fear of seeing a green wicket saw our top-order comprising Sachin and Dravid to crumble like a pack of cards.

Even Bangalore was not a 170 wicket. Fact is South Africa can't play on spinning wickets for nuts. I'm sure even if India had batted first that day, we would have won on that wicket.

Oh well, as I write I think I can conclude that yes, this series is indeed a lottery but not based on the toss of the coin but on the nature of the wicket. We have a very interesting situation indeed. India cannot play on seaming wickets, South Africa cannot play on spinning wickets and the scoreline is as much a reflection on the wickets prepared as it is on the two teams !!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shocking !

What !! Pakistan have declared !! Inzy after getting a hundred. This is really really sporting at the same time really shocking. It leaves England in with a chance. Knowing this English team, they will definitely go for it. And they will always have the draw option to fall back upon if things don't go their way. Plus, they will always have the benefit of bad light. If they feel they stand a chance of losing, they will take it. If they feel they are winning they will choose to play on in the dark as happened in Karachi. Really, this is an EXTREMELY strange and perhaps overambitious decision by Inzy. After all, draw this Test and the series cannot be lost. There have been very few moments in this Test at which point England looked likely to dominate. If it were up to me, I'd take the draw and back my boys to win the series in Lahore. Be it 1-0 or 2-0. As is stands, in this particular test, a draw is still the favorite but Inzy has brought the other options into play with his declaration !!!

Update: Just as I finish posting, Akhtar strikes in his very first over !! Trescothick, who could have been a key player in the chase is clean bowled. Boy, this is going to get exciting !! It's Pakistan on the attack straightaway. Will England counter attack ?

Update: England reeling at 32/4. Now I guess the draw is out of the picture. With Freddie and KP at the crease it is DO or DIE !!

World's Greatest All-Rounder

Jacques Kallis ? NO.
Chris Cairns ? NO.
Andrew Flintoff ? NOT AT ALL.

You are living in the past, mate, if you are thinking on the above lines. Move over Andrew Flintoff. You are no longer the greatest all-rounder in the World. For, on the horizons, about to set the stage of World Cricket alight is an all-rounder of unprecedented ability. So much so, that the selectors who have given India this once-in-a-lifetime gifted player, themselves are not sure if he is a batting all-rounder or a bowling all-rounder. In fact so difficult is this classification that he could have easily made it as the best batsmen except that he has some slight problems facing balls targeted at his body and those outside off-stump. Also he could have easily made it as the team's top bowler except that he has just 25 wickets from over 80 games. But as an all-rounder he is definitely an unparalleled phenomenon.

Andrew Flintoff, shut up, dont giggle. What ? Why are you rolling on the floor laughing holding your sides for ??

Big Deal

Read here for the deal that might have happened to ensure Sourav Ganguly's selection in the side.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One Year Down The Line

Well today is the first birthday of Outside Edge. Can't believe it has been one year since I started blogging about cricket, having being exposed to the blogosphere in my Web Mining class. Well, living as I was at that time in Midwestern United States cut off from the cricketmania that is generally prevalent in India was definitely a major factor in motivating me to start this blog. When you are out there shivering in sub-zero temperatures in the corn fields of Iowa, you do tend to explore every possible avenue to stay in touch with the game.

Over the past year, this blog has evolved along with me. Initially, I commented on virtually every topic related to cricket I found interesting. I took a review of all matches going on. At times, I scheduled time specifically to blog, like half an hour every morning or every evening or whatever.

Now I am more selective in my posts. After all, the mainstream media is there for the usual match reviews. And blogs such as Prem Panicker's Sightscreen cover pretty much every news article with thorough analysis and critique anyway.

Of course blogging is not all so easy. If you want your blog to be read and your readers to keep coming back you have got to offer them some unique value. Blogs like Will Luke's Corridor of Uncertainty are legends in the cricket blogging circle. But there are innumerable fans blogging on cricket out there. So I realised that the best way to go about it is write what you feel straight from the heart and write it immediately. Thinking through, planning an article does not work with me on blogs on most occasions. You will find this reflected in my recent posts as compared to my earlier ones. Hell, I have hardly "covered" a single match in the recent Ind-SL series. Of course the great beauty of blogs over conventional journalism is that I don't need to. People know about it courtesy the MSM of course. All I need to do is add value (my opinion) wherever I deem it worth.

What I can confidently say however, for a cricket fan, blogs are a MUCH more valuable resource than mainstream media - not for news, but for insights and analysis. Clearly, the presence of so many varied minds pouring out their opinions has the great advantage of putting forth the story from all possible angles.

I would like to thank all of these, some of whom inspired me and all who helped me to keep this blog going. A blog without readers and comments is like a match in Eden Gardens with no people to watch. It is just unthinkable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My Country's Captain

Today is a golden day in the history of Indian cricket. Rahul Sharad Dravid has been finally given the ultimate honour of leading his side in a Test match as a skipper in his own right and not by default. Here is what the chief selector has to say on Rahul's appointment:

"Rahul [Dravid] has done wonderfully well for us whenever given the opportunity including in Pakistan last year. Given how well he has done recently [as captain in the ODIs] it is important that he be given the opportunity [in Tests]."
Finally he has been given due recognition for his own worth of leading the side, not because Ganguly was injured/suspended/didn't feel like playing. Also with the news that Ganguly will probably be in the side for the same series is sufficient evidence of the fact that the selectors realise that as of today Dravid is better suited to lead India than Ganguly as captain alone even if Ganguly makes it to the side as a batsman. That realisation has come about a year later than it should have but better late than never.

After a long time, I proudly and respectfully look up to my country's captain and that is a great joy.

I fail to understand why such a muted celebration. I remember the great drama when Sachin regained captaincy in 1999 when he had gone away with his family to a hill-station and no one could trace him. Most newspapers have just printed the story with as few words as possible and even Prem Panicker's blog normally such a wonderful source of cricket insights is quiet about it. Let me be the one to take the lead in getting the chamapgne flowing, in congratulating Rahul and ushering in the Dravid era in Indian cricket.

From Prince To Pauper ??

Don't beg, Kapil tells Sourav.

Looking Ahead

The selectors have certainly got it right in appointing Rahul Dravid captain for the 3-Test series against SL. This is a forward-looking, progressive move, when they could have easily got caught in such crap theories like SG is the most successful captain, he won the last series 2-0, he had a hundred in that series etc. All that is fine point is this is the era of Rahul Dravid. The Sourav Ganguly era is over. In fact, I do think that the anarchy that the BCCI finds itself in would have given the selectors a freer hand in making their choice. God let there always be anarchy if it is going to produce such beneficial outcomes.

Having said which there was this ridiculous decision to prepone the selection for the first Test against SL. By newspaper accounts it was done so as to pick Sourav Ganguly in the side so as to assuage the angry fans in Kolkata who were threatening to disrupt the match there. So now, a great precedent has been set to hold Indian cricket hostage to the whims and fancies of irrational fans. I wonder whether the Mumbaikars will take a cue and follow a similar strategy to get Ramesh Powar included ?? After all, if it works for the gander, it works for the goose doesn't it ? And who is to say you are allowed to hold the country hostage only for superstars ??

Well now, coming to the team itself. One point of contention would be the choice of seamers. As of now, only Irfan Pathan is the unquestionable choice. Agarkar has done well in ODIs recently, but should that translate to a spot in the test side ? I would like to see Agarkar under the new management. I for one believe he was not used optimally by the SG-JW duo. Then is the more intriguing case of Zaheer and Balaji. Both were in the team for Zimbabwe. Should they be retained ? Surely Zaheer has done enough in the Duleep trophy to retain his place. But fact is I just don't like that guy. I don't trust him. Simply because innumerable times in the past, he has done well to come back in the Indian side only to let us down at crucial times bowling medium pace. Balaji, I like his attitude and his ability to swing the ball both ways. But he is always under a injury cloud. And he hasn't done anything great in the Duleep Trophy.

Ashish Nehra, insallah, is out of question.

The challengers to Zaheer and Balaji will be obviously RP Singh and Sree Santh. Well, more RP than Sree Santh people would say based on stats. I tend to disagree but whatever. Point is, is the time ripe to give these youngsters a spot in the Test squad ?

I do think that maybe however much I hate it we have to retain Zaheer Khan now. And Balaji too. Anyway, I believe we will be playing only 2 pacers in the test.

Oh meanwhile, here is what my team would look like:
Rahul Dravid
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Sachin Tendulkar
VVS Laxman
Sourav Ganguly
Mohammad Kaif
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Irfan Pathan
Ajit Agarkar
Zaheer Khan
Anil Kumble
Harbhajan Singh
Murali Karthik
Yuvraj Singh/Balaji/Dinesh Karthik (depending upon what kind of backup they want)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Examination By Fire

This is likely to be an examination by fire for this English team that is considered by itself and others to really have what it takes to be the best in the World. Of course, the Ashes has been won, but then India had defeated Australia at home too. It didn't make them the best team in the World.

England are 1 down and facing a mammoth total of 462 on a track that is past its best and likely to aid spin later. Moreover England can't afford to even think about a draw if the series is to be won. Should be rivetting stuff.

I back Strauss to come good. He has at least one big innings every series, usually in the first half. If it so happens there is no reason to believe that this series is done and dusted

Update 1: England 44/2. Strauss and Vaughan gone. Sad, but great to see Rana among the wickets. I like this hardworking cricketer. He has bowled an unplayable ball to Vaughan. Btw, sad because I am supporting England this time because I want the series to remain alive

Friday, November 18, 2005

Missing Thorpe

I do believe that England's success in the Ashes came despite the decision to drop Graham Thorpe, not because of it. And clearly, they missed him in the first Test against Pakistan especially on the final day.

Thorpe has been by far England's best batsman against spin and in subcontinental conditions over the past decade or so. Also he is a crisis player. Hussain is spot on when he says that Thorpe is(was) a "situational" player. Here again, he might not have contributed too much in the first innings but I can bet he would have made a difference in chasing down 198. Remember the twilight heroics in Karachi five years ago ??

Well, as good a player Kevin Pietersen is, he is no replacement for Thorpe. He is more in the Freddie mould and now England have 2 good players in that category. Well one good one, one almost-great one. But they haven't yet found anyone to fill the vast void left by Thorpe. I thought Collingwood might be able to do a similar job but he hasn't stepped up yet. I don't think he has the quality to ever be as good as Thorpe but at least he is similar in makeup. Now why is that man Mark Butcher nowhere to be seen ? I do think (and did so before the Ashes) England have gone too far towards blooding young and attacking players. An old experienced head in the middle who can work the ball around is what is missing.

The fact that they won the Ashes despite all this is indeed hugely creditable. They carried a passenger in Ian Bell throughout the series. Well, then every other player put his hand up sometime or the other, but now that hasn't happened. In fact, England are extremely fortunate that Marcus Trescothick is going to stay on despite personal problems back home. Because as it is, Strauss is gonna miss the last test to attend the birth of his first child. Vaughan is under an injury cloud. Though he sounds hopeful imagine an England taking the field in the last Test without Strauss, Tresco and Vaughan ?? Hard ain't it ??

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Can he inspire a generation ?

Read this piece on Chris Gayle appearing in the Trinidad and Tobago Express and Cricinfo.

I had earlier hoped that Ramnaresh Sarwan would be the chosen one who would lead the West Indies out of their rut. But his batting has come a cropper in Australia for the second time. I dunno if he has it in him to maximize his potential against the best of the best.

Now first Brian Lara and yesterday Steve Waugh talk of Gayle as having the potential to be a leader in every sense. Not just on the field of cricket but as one who can inspire a generation of the West Indies kids to try and rediscover their lost glory.

Of course it is acknowledged that as of now he seems just a COOL guy - the ultimate dude who knows to give the ball a good thwack, immensely talented but not one to think too much about his game, let alone that of others. But if these great legends see something in him, I am willing to go with them !!

Osman Samiuddin on Mohammad Yousouf

That guy whom we used to know as Yousouf Youhana. Elegant but irritating. Madly talented but mostly quite useless. Here Osman Samiuddin pens a beautiful piece that is nevetherless filled with scathing criticism against the classy batsman.

It is well known that I have a particular dislike for players who maintain good individual records yet contribute very little to their team's successes. Yousouf is one such. As Samiuddin mentions in the article, in the last 5 years he has barely played a couple of innings worth note. He has piled on the runs against the minnows and generally been extremely pointless against the big boys. Even his hundred against India at Multan that reduced Pakistan's defeat margin some bit, was played in such a Heaven-couldn't care less about the team manner.

And the innings he played in the second knock of this Test deserves the harshest possible criticism. A job which Osman has already done for me. Excellent stuff.

The Prince Struggles

Is it just a temporary lapse or is another glorious career nearing an end ? Brian Lara's latest scores in international cricket have been nothing worth writing about - in the 3 innings in this series so far and the Super Series he has not reached 40 - but then just prior to that he was scoring 4 hundreds in 5 tests - so you can never say can you ?

The Man Goes On

Glenn McGrath refuses to spare anyone. This time against the West Indies 23 overs 4 wickets for 31 runs. Pathetic.

Pathan Worries

Irfan Pathan is the toast of India at the moment with a fine all-round performance in the Sri Lanka series. However what worries me is that while defending moderate totals against fair teams he tends to be tonked around for a few early on. It happened in the final against NZ last month and now against South Africa today. Also if he gets a poor decision given against him (while bowling that is) or when a catch is dropped off him early he tends to lose it somewhat. This happened again yesterday (poor decision) and had happened in the IndianOil Cup Final against Sri Lanka (dropped catch). In such situations he tends to go from bad to worse every over in his first spell. Hence it is a point for Dravid to consider - to perhaps use him differently, change him quickly and bring him on later etc.

Could be I'm judging too soon, but I don't think so

BREAKING NEWS - Ganguly talks sense

Read here.


England v Pakistan

England continue the habit of figuring in grand test matches. After almost every Ashes Test became an affair to remember, this first Test against Pak will also be one to cherish for long - well not fondly, for the English fans but certainly by the Pakis and the neutrals alike, particularly those who are the true conoiseurs of the game.

For this is Test cricket as it is supposed to be isn't it ? The old-fashioned way I mean. As far as the wicket goes - a little bit of help to the seam bowlers early on, lovely batting conditions on Days 2,3 hint of deterioration on Day 4 and back to making things difficult for the batsmen on Day 5. And as far as the game itself goes, this one had it all too - a good start and a collapse by Pak, a determined effort by England, a valiant fightback by Pak, a refusal to give in easily by England and finally a miraculous heist on Day 5 by the home side.

198 was never going to be so easy - historically it hasn't been, and it should not be. In recent times, the undesirably large dominance of bat over ball and wickets that stay true too long had made such totals look very simple as compared to what they were in the good old days. This particular instance was like a bolt from the past. It has been over 12 years since Pakistan has succesfully defended a below-200 total but doesn't it seem just like yesterday when Waqar and Wasim were weaving their reverse-swinging wonders ?

Australia v West Indies Day 1

West Indies just not good enough to compete. Period.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Harbhajan's Revival

Dare I suggest that Harbhajan's revival as a bowler and his great performance in this series and the fact that Rahul Dravid just took over the captaincy is more than a mere coincidence ? Oh of course, how could I forget ? This is my blog and I shall bloody well say what I feel here. This is not someone else's forum where the Ganguly police are waiting to capture you if you even utter a word against his performance.

Yes, it is not coincidence. It is simply that Dravid has handled Harbhajan much better than Ganguly. He has utilized him as an attacking option rather than a defensive one. So even though Harbhajan has picked up only 6 wickets in 6 matches he has always looked a dangerous bowler likely to pick wickets and the batsmen have been scared of him. At the same time his economy rate if anything has improved slightly. Did you guys notice the return of the lovely loop that had been missing all this while ? The way he pulled batsmen onto the front foot and forced them to make the play ? Unlike in Zimbabwe where the batsmen with the greatest ease in the World could turn him around the corner for runs without threat. In fact even when Dravid had taken over the captaincy in Sri lanka I had begun to notice a difference (a positive one) in Harbhajan's bowling - unfortunately it did not last.

Poor naive Bhajji almost destroyed his career by his outburst against Chappell earlier this month. It is to Chappell's credit that he has not allowed that to hamper Harbhajan's chances and that he has stayed extremely professional - perform and you are welcome, don't and you are out mantra. In fact Chappell has done his best to help Harbhajan technically - neither Bhajji nor Ganguly was intelligent enough to recognize the benefits of Harbhjan going round the wicket which GC did in no time - I had mentioned this too earlier.

Bhajji you should be smart enough to know what's good for you and not get too emotional for after all you are a very very good bowler and India needs you to perform well.

India v South Africa Preview

India will look forward to carry their great run into the series (as will South Africa). I would put the Indians as favourites because I don't think South Africa quite have the ammunition needed to win on the subcontinent. It will be a crucial game tomorrow not just because it is the first game but also because it is the only day game and hence dew will definitely not play a part. India have a fair record at Hyderabad. In 2003, they beat NZ by a huge margin scoring 353 with Sachin and Sehwag both getting hundreds. In 2002, they beat Zimbabwe chasing a competitive total with Yuvraj and Kaif coming to the party. In 1999 they beat NZ by an even bigger margin scoring 376 !! Sachin scored 186* - this is the only day game here in the last 10 years - so could be a fair indicator of how things are likely to go.

In 1996, during the Titan Cup when the 2 teams clashed here, the Proteas had beaten India quite convincingly and it is that effort that they will hope to repeat.

For India, will they stick to the policy of the last few games ? playing 5 bowlers and fielding first ? Or will they look to start off the series batting first like they did in Nagpur ? Interesting choice that. I do think Sree Santh will have to sit out with RP Singh doing so well. And maybe JPY. Interesting to see if Gambhir gets a go. I would think not.

For South Africa interesting to see if they play their new offie Botha and if so how Dhoni takes to him.

England v Pakistan

Excellent fightback by Pak today. Although some might say they blew it after losing the last 7 wickets for 75 runs that was to be expected really - what with Youhana off form, a liability in Hasan Raza in the order and the tail not really contributing much. It was all pretty much down to Butt and Inzamam and what splendid knocks they played. Pakistan should always play Butt - he is the one young player with genuine talent I can see come out of there - why they kept dropping him last year against India playing players like Taufeeq Umar is a mystery to me really.

Great praise needs to be accorded to Andrew Flintoff for his super bowling effort again. 8 wickets in the match and a 45 is a stupendous effort. Of course he may be needed to play a crucial innings tomorrow with the match very well poised. I do hope Kaneria becomes a factor because that would be Pakistan's best chance.

A great effort by Pak to stay in the match till the fifth day after they looked down and out at the end of Day 2 - once again an ideal example to show why Test cricket is the greatest - so many subplots, so many opportunities to claw back - I do think in the end however it will be Pakistan's first innings total that might just let them down.

The Aussie Middle Order

Brad Hodge is going to make his debut against the Windies. Interesting. Katich has been sent away after a recent run of poor scores. His brave efforts of the past year have been forgotten. Even after the inexperienced middle order proves to be a vulnerability, the selectors refuse to acknowledge their error in dropping Martyn. Now Katich faces the axe. What is it about the lineup that lookes so settled not so long ago that is causing this hectic chopping and changing now ? Up until 2004, Ponting, Martyn, Lehmann and Waugh seemed to be well-set. Then Waugh retired and Symonds first and then Katich replaced him. Clarke got a chance when Ponting was injured and Katich had to make way for Lehmann. Then Lehmann was dropped and Katich came back in. Then after the Ashes, of course we know what happened. Disturbing times ?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Duleep Final

What a crying shame that the final of the Domestic Championships is not covered LIVE on TV anywhere. Anyway the West Zone (that's my Zone) require just 17 to win with 5 wickets in hand and it is the forgotten man of Indian cricket - Parthiv Patel who is taking them home.

Good job, Parthiv and go West ! Show that Sourav Ganguly's side its place.

Update: YIPPEE !! Duleep Trophy Champions 2005 - WEST !!

More Praise For Rahul Dravid

It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Rahul Dravid - some may say sometimes I am irrational and excessive about it. Here is an article in Mid-Day giving more fulsome praise to the man written by none other than Mike Fereira - one of the country's billiards champions, ain't it ? Or was it snooker now ?

Thanks, Ruchir for the link.

Update: I tried to find posts in which I have praised RD to provide links to them but I realised almost every other post reeks of it in some way or the other, so gave up the idea.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Shoaib fails to impress ... again

The fact that I feel Shoaib is extremely overrated is no secret. Today once again, he failed to impress. On the same wicket on which Flintoff, Harmisson and Hoaggard had done a super job. My co-blogger Zainub with whom I had a debate about the utitliy of Shoaib a short while back seems to admit that Pak's bowling performance today was pretty pedestrian.

Of course, Shoaib still has a chance to come back with a bang tomorrow and I would love to see it - after all, a contest is what we all want ain't it ? But why do I get the feeling it is not going to happen ??

Not fair to single out Shoaib for today's performance of course - Sami, too didn't do much (I thought he had turned a leaf in India) and why the hell is Shabbir in the team ? Yeah he got the wicket of Collingwood but seems pretty innocuous (of course when your top two are so innocuous is there any point in blaming the third seamer for that ?)

The Ganguly-Dravid handover

Well it seems like a misnomer that. Handovers take place between mature individuals. Here Ganguly was acting more like a child holding on to a toy rather than a responsible and mature leader realising his time was up and handing over the reins in a dignified manner.

Well anyway, call it snatching the captaincy from Ganguly and "handing it over" to Dravid. Now, a couple of people in a Yahoo! Groups I visit ( pointed out that this particular "hand-over" was sort of similar to the Taylor-Waugh one or the Hussain-Vaughan one. Of course, Dravid has a lot to prove to be talked of in the same breath as Waugh and Vaughan - but even at this point, certainly there are telling similarities but some major differences.

I would like to consider these 3 on the following parameters -
1) The kind of team inherited: It seems fair to say that Hussain, Taylor and Ganguly had to pretty much build their teams from scratch. Well less so for Taylor than the others. Vaughan, Waugh and Dravid got more settled teams. Again, more so Vaughan than the others - Waugh did not have the best of starts only managing to draw a series in the West Indies and looked in trouble early in the World Cup 99 (remember the losses to NZ and Pakistan and having to win all matches in order to stay in ?) before embarking uponone of the greatest runs in history. Ganguly almost managed to destroy the team he worked so hard to build but then that is to be expected of a little child.

2) Greatness as Individual Performances: Here the similarities are extremely telling. Quite simply, Taylor, Hussain and Ganguly were good players while Waugh, Vaughan and Dravid are/were great ones (well Vaughan has the potential to get there at any rate if some of you don't think he is already there)

3) Cricketing Acumen vs Man-management Abilities: Here there are some differences. Taylor was brilliant - probably the greatest cricketing brain in the last 15 years at least, maybe (just maybe) Waugh was not that great (well he was still pretty great) as a tactician but he shone through with his man-management, leading by example and instiling even harder the virtues of determination, positivisim, discipline and the never-say-die attitude. In the other 2 cases, the situation somewhat reverses. Hussain was a hard task-master. He built a team from a fairly scratchy lot brick by brick and was perhaps not the smartest tactically. Vaughan on the other hand has been quite immaculate with attention to detail as regards field placements, bowling changes etc. and unlike Hussain he is more of "one of the guys" type of leader. Ganguly must be given credit for building the Indian team just like Hussain is for England. He staunchly backed players he had faith in, overall got the optimum off them and gave India a new belief. However when it came to on-field tactics, he was extremely average. So far Dravid has made a positive start with regards to that. He is also coming on well as a leader of men and I think now all the young kids know that he is in charge and respect him for it. Of course, his immaculate individual performances on and off the field help. There are people who wonder if the over-analytical Dravid will be able to face the heat when things start to wrong, whether he will be able to keep the squad together, be able to keep drawing the best out of temperamental players like Harbhajan Singh the way Ganguly did ?? I think he has it in him to overcome any challenge. Of course time will tell

Friday, November 11, 2005

Another "Twist"

Don't worry - I'm not talking of twists to any "sagas" like the GC-SG one etc. I'm referring to another instance of an interview "twisted" in such a way to convey a very different meaning. Consider this article from DNA - titled "The guys know who’s in charge, says Rahul Dravid"

Now just looking at the title, one is bound to feel that here is a bold proclamation by a successul captain and a warning to his predecessor who still harbours ambitions of recovering the throne that reads "Don't mess with me" - very unlike the Rahul we know.

Of course if you go ahead and read the whole article, you realise it is nothing of that sort.

Consider this relevant extract from there and I quote:

Dravid, who deputised whenever Ganguly was injured or suspended, said he was happy to be in charge.

“If you’re given the job, then it does help to get the message across, it does help from a team’s perspective,” he said. “The guys know who is in charge. These are still early days as captain and I’m learning along the way. It helps to have someone like Greg around. He’s done it before."

Now tell me when read in context does it convey the above meaning ?? To me it doesn't. But that's the way journalism works, isn't it ?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why ?

Why do so many people HATE Yuvraj Singh ?

Ponting Speaks

These last few weeks have seen a great number of Cricket Books, mainly autobiographies I might add make their way in public domain. While the big one of course is Steve Waugh's "Out of My Comfort Zone" a large number of them have been those of the stars of this past Ashes series - Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff from England, now Ricky Ponting from Australia.

Speaking in his book Ashes Diary 2005 and about it Ponting does some good talking. I am not a great fan of the bloke and have been quite critical of him on this blog before but I appreciate his honest, forthright comments here:

Check out this extract in particular of what he felt on the day he lost the Ashes:

“The hardest thing about our defeat is that we know what went wrong — we failed with the bat, lacked penetration and control with the ball (Warne and McGrath excepted), dropped catches, bowled far too many no-balls and lost Glenn McGrath to injury for the vital Edgbaston Test. But that was WHAT went wrong; the reasons WHY we failed remain a mystery. England played well, putting us under pressure with bat and ball. Despite their excellence, we should still have been able to compete far more effectively than we did.”

Honest, yes. Forthright yes. More importantly pretty accurate according to me. Australia, all said and done, definitely had the team that COULD have competed and probably got the better of England. If you are willing to be so forthright about it, Ricky, is it too harsh of me to suggest that in answer to your WHY question I might put up your failed leadership as a possible reason ? After all, given such established resources, isn't it more or less up to the captain to ensure their optimum utilization. Can you go one step ahead and agree with the opinion of several experts that you were in fact, "outcaptained" by Michael Vaughan ?

Anyway, about Shane Warne:

Ponting said that of the entire touring squad only Shane Warne could look at himself in the mirror and know he had played to his full potential. “The rest of us have just hinted at the form we are capable of, and that has cost us the series,” he wrote.

Again, very good of the bloke to acknowledge. Of course there was talk of big disagreements between Warne and Ponting during the Ashes and it is very likely it was true. Both are of courses colossuses in their respective arts. Of course, I do believe that Warne would make an excellent captain for Australia - I know that is not likely to happen - I heard someone tell me that Ponting has gone on record to say that Warne would have to wait in line if he wants to lead Australia.

Quite indisputably I think Warne is a much more likeable and intelligent person than Ponting but I do feel it necessary to appreciate Ponting here.

Ponting quotes and news source - this DNA article.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Quick Roundup

Before going into a detailed report on my experience at the Nehru Stadium on Thursday and celebrating the great series win over Sri Lanka let's have a quick look at what is happening in the cricket world.

1) Captain Pathetic: Shivnarine Chanderpaul has justified the criticism he received from cricket experts and fans by his continued display of clueless and directionless captaincy. After conceding a lead of 225 runs early on Day 3, the obvious thing to do was to try and get the Aussies all out within a reasonable score. Just going on the defensive and waiting for a declaration is clearly not the way to go. Shiv has done just that and the West Indies are going to suffer.

Unfortunately, Chanderpaul is not the only clueless captain going around in World Cricket at the moment. As has been evident from some of my posts earlier see 1,2 and 3 I have been extremely critical of captains all over the World. I hope Rahul Dravid of India does a better job when he gets the captaincy of the Test team. He has done well so far in ODIs but we will come to that later.

2) Another Dicey Issue: After chucking, this could well go on to be another extremely dicey issue for the ICC - the question of when a fielder is allowed to start moving in anticipation of the ball. As mentioned here, Michael Vaughan has been moving from slip to leg-slip with the ball still in flight in the warmup match against the Patron's X1 in Pakistan. He seems to think it is just fine !! I remember the catch Rajesh Chauhan took to dismiss Aravinda DeSilva in 1997 and that had become a fair controversy. I think the ICC needs to come up with clear-cut legislation on this one because it is impossible to ensure under the present circumstances that the fielders are moving legally only after the ball has been struck by the batsmen.

3) Get On With It People: Some South Africans and I stress SOME here have started whining about the whole Gibbs and Boje controversy. To these I would just like to say GIVE ME A BREAK. These people seem to imply that we are deliberately preventing these players from touring thus weakening the South Africa side. The weakening part could be true but for God's sake the players are staying away on their own free will !! They have NOT been threatened by the Indian police. They are merely willing to give no guarantees. Why should they give any guarantees ? Clearly the players are not above the law of the land. True they should demand to be treated with dignity like any person but they CANNOT demand any guarantees. If they are in the clear (Boje) and have served out their punishment (Gibbs) why should they fear ? All they have to do is assist the police by answering some questions that is going to aid there ongoing investigation.

Betting is illegal by Indian laws, while match-fixing is not. So if the players are afraid that their involvement in match-fixing would cause them to be detained or punished they shouldn't be. Rememebr the action to be taken on the erring players is entirely the prerogative of the respective Boards and not the police. Hence I believe the players are just suffering from a case of paranoia. Also it could be that they consider the Indian police and law-and-order system untrustworthy. This could be causing them to ask for a probe in a neutral country. I show them the little finger if that is the case. India is a democratic country with a proper judicial system in place and you better respect it. Or if you prefer to stay at home don't whine about it.

Just for the sake of information there has been a similar precedent in the past. In 1998 Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh toured Pakistan, appeared before the authorites and answered their interrogation and it all went off smoothly. They did not sit at home like paranoid cowards as Gibbs and Boje are doing.

Oh yeah and some people are asking about what happened to the great India South Africa friendship and whether the Indian Board should not do more to ensure the participation of the 2 players. To them I would like to mention that the BCCI did inquire of the Government if anything could be done about it, though not very forcefully. Also, the South African Board and South African Government do not care too much about this issue. I can't say I blame them. It is clear that it is simply a case of 2 paranoid, cowardly individuals being afraid to bear the consequences of their doing. And it needs to be treated just like that. We don't need them here and neither should the Proteas. Let them go to hell.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pune Is Ready ...

... to host the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka. It is Diwali time and already the city is celebrating the Festival Of Lights. Now comes the big bonus - an expectation of greater fireworks from the in-form Indian team. The tickets are all sold out and the weather is perfect. Really, you can sense the excitement in the air.

The Sri Lankans practised at the Nehru Stadium yesterday and India will be doing so today. Maybe I will drop in at some time in the afternoon to see if I am in luck. Last time the Indian team was here, I was extremely unlucky - I missed the practice session and nightmarishly was out somewhere when the team virtually came to my home - yes, they had come to the Deenanath Hospital on the request of Lata Mangeshkar which is right nextdoor to the place I live and apparently they climbed out of the bus had some fun with the people hanging around before proceeding.

I did see the match however from the clubhouse and that's where I am going to be from 8 o clock tomorrow. Maybe I will try to carry something to be identified. Keep watching this space for more.

That 2001 team did not fare too well against Australia losing by 8 wickets. Today however there is more than just hope that we will beat Sri Lanka. There is strong belief. For this team has been in excellent form, comprehensively overwhelming the islanders in the first 3 games. Also India has historically done well against them at this venue. It was here in 1990 that Tendulkar scored his first fifty to take India home against Sri Lanka and in 1999 Jadeja stroked a wonderful 100 to register a comprehensive win. The Lankans look lost and while they do have a few quality players to bounce back, really the biggest worry from India's point of view is the Law of Averages.

There were some disturbing rumours doing the rounds about Tendulkar being rested for the game, but fortunately those rumours have been put to rest. Dravid, Harbhajan and Tendulkar are the only 3 players to have played in that Australia game four years ago. Agarkar played here in 1999 but I don't think any of the other players have had a game.

History favors the side batting second at this venue. It is a flat batting track which usually has something for the bowlers early in the morning. In the last 10 matches, the side chasing has won on 8 occasions. However India beat Sri Lanka batting first in 1999. The score of 286 in that game is the highest score here. So I don't expect an obscene 350-ish total. Maybe 290 if a team bats really well. 270 should be a par score and should be chaseable. Having said that the last 2 scores here have been 258 and 248. Both were chased down comfortably by Australia.

The weather here is reasonably cool in the mornings and staying pretty comfortable throughout. Again this suggests help for the bowlers in the first hour or so and a batsman's paradise as the game progresses. I do believe if India bat first, they have the quality in the top order to negate the early assistance Vaas is likely to get. I would expect a more conventional batting line-up in that case. If India field first Pathan and Agarkar are likely to get the ball to do something.

So all in all I think everything is perfectly in order. Here's hoping for a great game and an Indian victory.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Picking and Choosing

Given the sheer volume of ODI cricket these days, picking and choosing matches to skip is also a task that requries skills of great art and science. While the dead rubbers are the obvious candidates for the top players, they do not really come along that frequently. Often, the losing team wants to play its best even in dead rubbers to gain more respectability and in cases of triangular series even matches that have no influence on deciding the finalists are considered important so as to not let the other team seize the momentum and the advantage before the final.

What then is the best way ? Teams have been following rotation policies off and on. The 2001 Aussies did so famously but evidently players like McGrath didn't like it. Even today India while playing with the same set of 12 players is vigorously rotating their roles in the lineup.

The other day I thought that Ricky Ponting has had a fairly long and very successful run with Australia and in recent times been very much injury-free. I figured he would have played so many consecutive matches that his name would surely figure somewhere at the top of the list of players playing most consecutive matches. Imagine my shock then when I saw that he figures nowhere on the list. In fact he has never played 50 matches in a row. Sachin Tendulkar tops the list with 185, Andy Flower is up there - a lot of players are up there including some Kenyans but no Ponting.

This clearly indicated to me that he had picked and chosen the matches he missed with great care. I really do think there needs to be a well-laid customized plan for every player that ensures his optimum utilization while never letting the team suffer. Your thoughts ?

What's Happening

Not quite finding time to blog regularly at the moment. So trying to take a quick recap here and then will go on to more specific topics.

Down Under West Indies make an encouraging start to their tour dominating their practice match against Queensland. Significantly Hayden flops on both occasions and Powell impresses with the ball. Most important however, Marlon Samuels smashes 267 and makes a VERY strong case for an immediate entry in the playing X1. With Gayle, Smith, Sarwan, Lara and Chanderpaul sure to occupy the top 5 slots it will be interesting to see if Samuels fits in at 6 or West Indies stick with Bravo in that position. I remember writing a few days ago that Samuels' selection is encouraging and have been somewhat justified so far.

England have not got off to a great start to their tour of Pakistan. For those English fans who are so confident about a victory following the Ashes, this comes as a wakeup call. However England have flopped miserably in tour openers to come back strong in recent times - the South Africa series last year being a prime example. Trescothick was the shining light in England's dismal first inns of 256/9. Tresco scored 124*. The bowlers did pretty well - Plunkett and Udal took 3 wickets each - encouragingly so did Anderson. But after bundling out the Patron's X1 for 211 they find themselves at 39/6 in the second innings in a match that is apparently being played in an atmosphere of great frivolity.

Now coming to the big one - the India v Sri Lanka home series - since I last posted India have notched up 2 more consecutive wins. What can I say ? In Mohali the bowling effort was top-class and in Jaipur Dhoni played an absolute blinder. I am still not sure he is going to be India's Gilchrist but he seems a very talented striker of the ball. Also he seems to have a decent brain, which I admit I was not too sure of initially, and a lot of heart . Wonderful as his innings was, and great as those sixes were, I do believe the most heartening thing for me was the way he followed through and saw India home. Also the fact that he played Murali out so intelligently and with great skill. While Dravid and Sehwag were not all too comfortable against the champion offie, Dhoni was very much at ease and played the ball late. The way he destroyed the others was great. It has been a great tragedy of Indian cricket in recent times that we have been giving undue respect to bowlers of the calibre of Chandana, Dilshan, Maharoof etc. I am not trying to single out the Sri Lankans here - there are others - Shoaib Malik is one that springs to mind immediately. I do believe such mediocre medium-pacers and dibbly dobbly "spinners" have no place in international cricket and Dhoni has shown them where they actually stand. They deserve only one kind of treatment that is to be thrown out of the ground once every over and that is exactly what they got. Hopefully Atapattu has got the message and he won't ever dare to put Dilshan in front of Dhoni again.

Let us also not forget to acknowledge, in our excitement and celebration, a masterly innings by Kumar Sangakkara - that wonderful batsman and a delicate contribution from Mahela Jayawardene. That reminds me - Mahela is getting married this week - congratulations to him and will be missing the match at Pune. That reminds me - I have bought tickets worth Rs. 3000 for the Pune match and I pray we win that one to go up 4-0 .... I mean sure we are in great form but I just hope the Law of Averages does not catch up. Having said that, Pune has always been a lucky venue for India particularly against Sri Lanka - it was here 15 years ago against Sri Lanka that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first score of 50+ and in 1999 Ajay Jadeja stroked a wonderful century in a match that India won convincingly.

Going back to the Southern Hemisphere for just a little bit, South Africa take the series against the Kiwis by winning the first 3 matches - nice stuff !! And what great revenge. Last times the Kiwis had won 5-1 and I was so happy because that brought the feet of the cocky Proteas firmly down on the ground. Now the situation was somewhat reverse. New Zealand were just beginning to consider themselves as a powerful team and looking to break away from the pack and they have been brought back to Earth. The ICC rankings also reflects that after Australia the teams are very closely matched. A week or so ago, Sri Lanka were 2, NZ 3, Pak 4 and SA 5. Now SA beat NZ 3-0, India lead SL 3-0. Suddenly the table reads SA 2, Pak 3, SL 4, NZ 5. Not sure how long it will stay that way with SA touring India soon. That is going to be another exciting series. Now the battle between Dhoni and Kemp is going to be a great one. Both are giant-hitters and match-winners. Of course Dhoni has been given extensive coverage. I also mentioned Kemp becoming a force to reckon with in an earlier post. The other day I saw him hit Shane Bond (I repeat Shane Bond - yes that deadly fast bowler who has made several great batsmen dance to his music and has taken wickets at less than 18 runs so far in ODIs) for a MASSIVE 6 over long on that not only cleared the stadium, the ground and the road but kept going beyond that. Quite frankly I have never seen anything of that kind before. People in India have got to be careful if they are hanging around in a radius of a few kilometres of the wicket when he is playing.