Sunday, August 27, 2006

Humble Tribute

To The Great Sir Clyde Walcott who passed away yesterday in Barbados.

Hypothetical Super Series

Stuck in the mire of ball tampering, national honors, cheating and forfeiture and the glue that holds all this together, the Spirit Of Cricket, I thought why not move away from all this for a little while, take a breather and talk about a totally different *cricketing* issue. This is a favorite pastime of mine. To make XIs. It was around this time last year that the ICC World teams were prepared to take on Australia in the Super (Flop) Series. Although there can be no doubt that the series flopped, I rather liked the idea at that time and continue to be thrilled about picking a World XI again today to take on Australia. Let us start off today by picking an XI for Test cricket. Because that is easier and more interesting. I shall list it first and then elaborate.

Sehwag (Ind)

Strauss (Eng)

Dravid (Ind) - CAPTAIN

Yousouf (Pak)

Younis (Pak)

Sangakarra (SL) -- KEEPER

Flintoff (Eng) – VICE-CAPTAIN

Kumble (Ind)

Hoggard (Eng)

Muralitharan (SL)

Ntini (SA)

So my captain is Rahul Dravid and the vice-captain Andrew Flintoff. There was no debate in my mind about the captain. However there were several contenders for the vice-captain’s slot viz. Sehwag, Strauss, Younis and Sangakarra. But Freddie took it in the end.

Sehwag has had an inconsistent year. He had an astonishing 254 against Pakistan but other than that had pretty lame series against England and Sri Lanka at home before returning to some sort of form in the West Indies.

Strauss has also had an up and down season until the recent series against Pak but of course he had that crucial hundred against India at Mumbai.

But despite not quite being at their best these 2 were the best openers on show. Hence Sehwag retains his spot and Strauss picks it from Graeme Smith, last year’s captain who himself has had a pretty poor injury ridden year. Besides, Sehwag was the one shining success in last year’s game.

Dravid was clearly quite the opposite in the fixture last year, an abject failure. Yet such is the class of the man and his consistent form over the season makes him an automatic reselection at number 3.

Mohammad Yousouf has quite easily been a revelation this season and easily grabs the #4 spot. The incumbent Brian Lara has had a poor year (a century in Adelaide apart) and finds himself out.

Younis Khan also has had an outstanding year and although he has not vowed audiences like Yousouf with the beauty of his bat, his scores have been just as if not more impressive. He takes the place of injury-ridden and off-form Jacques Kallis from last year.

Sangakarra is the keeper batsmen. Quite clearly he deserved this place last year too. Really Mark Boucher was no competition. Well he gets his deserved spot anyway.

Flintoff – despite suffering an injury he is there. The fact that this is only an on-paper team helps. He is the vice-captain. He was quite superb as captain in India IMO. And his all-round skills speak for themselves.

Kumble – he gets his rightful place replacing Daniel Vettori. Admittedly Vettori did well in the ODI series last year but really in 5-day cricket (and assuming this match will again take place at Sydney, hence the 2 spin-theory) Kumble has to make it. Besides he has given a match-winning and historic series-winning performance for India in the West Indies.

Hoggard – Again IMO deserves his spot, despite a below par series against Pak simply because of his consistent performances prior to that. In India mainly. Hoggard is also an additional bowler replacing Inzamam from last year’s squad.

So I have shifted to a 5-bowler attack where Freddie does not have to bear the burden of opening the bowling like he did last time.

Murali – period.

Ntini – replaces Harmison in last year’s squad. Has had a good year and is continuously on the up.

So finally in the XI we have

3 Englishmen (Strauss, Flintoff, Hoggard) as opposed to 2 last year (Flintoff, Harmison)

3 Indians (Sehwag, Dravid, Kumble) as opposed to 2 last year (Sehwag, Dravid)

0 Kiwis () as opposed to 1 last year (Vettori) – which I still maintain was a quota choice

2 Pakistanis (Younis, Yousouf) as opposed to 1 last year (Inzamam)

1 Protea (Ntini) as opposed to 3 last year (Smith, Kallis, Boucher)

2 Sri Lankans (Murali, Sangakarra) as opposed to just Murali last year

0 West Indians, Brian Lara dropped from last year

The players who merited consideration were Kallis (of course), Inzamam (again, of course), Jayawardene (in great form, unlucky to miss out), Pietersen (also in good form) and Brian Lara (patchy season) among batsmen; no other bowler really came close. Shoaib has had a decent year. Asif has had 3 great tests but he is only starting out, he can wait.

So would like to know what you guys think about the team.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Absolutely SENSATIONAL is all that I can say at the moment about the now-made-public news of the offer by Darrell Hair to resign for $500000. Well pardon me for being at a loss for words just at the moment, but this will take some time to sink in before analysis.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Saga Goes On 2

Guess what? Turns out I was a bit too cynical in my analysis yesterday. Well at least as far as Pakistan is concerned, they do want the issue to be sorted out early. Can’t say the same about the ICC though whose number one priority seems to be greed as The Burnt Bail here agrees. But I fully sympathize with the Pak team in their desire to get this matter dealt with before playing. Who would want to play with the sword hanging over their heads knowing they will be branded cheats at any possible time?

Meanwhile, here is a very interesting piece by John Stern on Cricinfo. I particularly like the part where he lays down the reason for ICC’s shift to Dubai – that they need more sand to bury their head in.

Also from Cricinfo is an article by Andrew Miller where he talks about bringing the dark arts into light. I don’t quite necessarily agree with all his suggestions but I do agree as always with the pro-bowler theme. Basically, in this hedonistic era of batsmanism, anything that can assist the bowlers in any way should be encouraged. While protecting the doosra even though it is engulfed in clouds of chucking theory is one important aspect of it, the other equally important aspect is reverse swing.

After all the doosra and the reverse swinging delivery are wonderful sights. Miller talks about Simon Jones’ delivery to castle Michael Clarke in the last summer’s Ashes, according to him the most ‘orgasmic’ delivery of the series. He talks about the wonders displayed by Wasim and Waqar. He goes on to argue that “ball-tampering”, which let us face it, is clearly a practice widely followed but never officially acknowledged except on occasions such as these, is an art, a creative, even innovative art and rather than being looked down upon as cheating should be allowed to blossom openly (within certain limits of course.) Yes, I agree. Anything to get one back on those greedy batsmen. I shall always remain a bowlers’ man.

Meanwhile, South Africa have said they would be happy to play England in case Pak pull out. Sure you would, you …’s. Not for you that London is probably as much vulnerable at this time as Colombo, isn’t it? It’s not really purely about security is it ?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Saga Goes On

So now the ODI series will be on because Ranjan Madugalle is (conveniently?) unavailable for the moment looking into personal issues.

Apparently Malcolm Speed looked for other alternatives but it seems “England and Pakistan both wanted Madugalle because of his immense credibility.” Funny I never thought of him as a particularly credible person not even in the short stints of commentary he did. But such are the ways of the World

OK maybe I was being a bit too cynical about the reason for Madugalle’s unavailability. Apparently he did have this personal matter planned in advance and in fact was the match referee for the first 3 tests before handing over to Proctor. Still does not change the credibility stand as far as his refereeing goes though.

Meanwhile if Inzy is indeed banned there is bound to be loud repercussions worldwide, the merits of which is another issue altogether. So yeah, this was the best way to get this series out of the way, cool the tempers a bit and then see what happens.

Here is a question – how about Srinath, the latest entrant in the referee panel, doing the hearing instead of Madugalle ?

Also Bob Woolmer asks for the ball tampering law to be scrapped and while that may sound a bit extreme he usually has a point.
Again at first glance his suggestion that players be allowed to use all natural means to change the ball and get it to assist the bowlers might sound ridiculous at first but on deeper thought it makes lot of sense. After all he goes on to add that all bowlers in the past have tried various ways that are by today’s standards illegal to change the ball and this is unknown to umpires who have never played the game. So, isn’t this similar to the whole chucking issue where history is littered with almost all bowlers bending their arms ? Woolmer’s point about ball-tampering being similar to prohibition is one that makes a lot of sense.

Meanwhile here is a delightful story about another controversy involving Darrell Hair. Thanks Rick for the link.

Also look at this very balanced piece of analysis from The Burnt Bail.