Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Is Deja Vu?

It is what Indian fans feel when their team is going through a bad phase or when the selection committee has recently been overhauled. Yes the team got thumped, when it should have been a lot more of a contest. Yes, more was expected of the unit even though many of the vital cogs have not been in the finest of touch of late. Yes, some serious thinking needs to be done before the World Cup campaign is embarked upon. That is all well and good, but Anil Kumble and Wasim Jaffer in our one day team? If ever there was an example of taking drastic measures, this is it.

Anil Kumle is a modern day great, in every sense of the phrase. He is as cunning, miserly and aggressive with the cricket ball in hand as Glen McGrath. Granted, he can even has the potential to bat a little better than McGrath. That is where the comparisons and superiority ends for Kumble. For all his greatness, he still has not learned the art of fielding and throwing. Kumble chasing and diving after a ball is akin to an elephant attempting to dance the salsa. They don't call him Jumbo for no reason.

In all seriousness, I honestly believe Kumble is a fantastic test match bowler. He has served his country well in the ODIs he has been asked to play, thus far. However, his use-by date expired long ago. He was put out to pasture in the ODI paddock, for a simple reason - he is a liability in the field, for he cannot run, dive or throw. Why embarrass him further in the ODI arena, when he could priming himself for some real cricket action - namely Test matches?

A similar deal with Wasim Jaffer. The guy builds fantastic innings at the top of the order in the longer version of the game. He did a magnificent job of anchoring the innings in our recent win in the West Indies, but this is ODI cricket. Team India requires fast, nimble and multi-dimensional players who can turn the game, more often than not, at the drop of a hat. Jaffer was hardly able to hit the ball off the square in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy. So, how did he qualify for ODI selection before a Rohit Sharma or Gautam Gambhir?

According to Dilip Vengsarkar, Jaffer's "technique is good for hard and bouncy wickets". The Indians showed they can bat 50 overs on a "hard and bouncy" wicket two days ago at Mohali. We do not need players who can block every ball back to the bowler, whilst displaying a back-foot defensive technique that would put the writers of the proverbial textbook to shame. We need players who will run hard and put the ball into gaps from the first ball. For a team that that pioneered the role of the big-hitting opener (Tendulkar in New Zealand, 1993/94 - not Jayasuriya as is commonly thought), it seems our selectors have lost their way, once again.

My man Sreesanth makes a welcome return through the front door, but I really would have preferred to see VRV Singh selected in place of Zaheer Khan. Our bowling attack lacked experience two days ago and there is no better opportunity to give some young guys the experience of playing good, tough cricket in unforgiving international conditions. Zaheer Khan could have waited his turn a little longer.

I cannot really complain about the batting line-up, for it picks itself. However, the selectors have illustrated their penchant for the bizzare by including Dinesh Karthik as a standby for Yuvraj Singh. Effectively, Karthik is now proficient enough with the bat to take Yuvraj's place. How?

Such is Indian cricket, the important questions will never be answered. I'm already getting that sickening sense of deja vu.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Congratulations Steve Bucknor

Congratulations are indeed in order, for Steve Bucknor has now umpired in 150 ODIs. Yesterday's match between India and Australia marked only the third occasion in the game's history where an umpire has stood in his 150th one day international match.

I am not one to hold my punches. On this wonderful occasion, for a man who receives unbridled praise from all who know him, I must say that I believe he should never have achieved this landmark. Bucknor heads a list of umpires on the ICC's Elite Panel who have proven themselves incompetent time and time again. The said list is headed by none other than our good friend Darryl Hair, and apart from Bucknor, includes the likes of Rudi Koertzen and Daryl Harper.

It was interesting to note that after a year of horrendous performances, Sri Lankan umpire Asoka De Silva was booted out in a hurry. Whereas, the aforementioned gentlemen have been consistent in making blunder after blunder, but we have heard not an utterance as to why they remain on the "Elite Panel".

I am sure many cricket fans will band together to agree with me that these gentlemen have served to ruin many an exciting game of cricket due to their inaccurate and ill-judged (ill-tempered, even, in Bucknor's case) decision making. Unfortunately, with the ICC being equally as incapable of making fair and correct decisions, we cannot hope to see accurate and proficient umpires in the near future.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Real Reason For Chris Tarrant's Move

The offcial Chris Tarrant was traded to Freemantle was to get a fresh start. Yet the Match Referee has learnt that there was much more to this story and if anything, Tarrant was the victim of a football club which used one of its star players and refused to respect him.

Earlier in the month, Collingwood super star was traded to Fremantle. The reasons given at the time for the move, was “a fresh start.” Although this maybe part of the reason, The Match Referee has come to know that there was something more sinister going on down at the Magpies.

Back in the 2005 season, the Magpies were in disarray. There were injuries to key players in Anthony Rocca, Josh Frasier and Nathan Buckley, just to name a few. Now the interesting thing is that Tarrant was also suffering hand, hip and knee troubles, yet he continued to play for the sake for of the club. Without him Collingwood would have finished lower than 16th if it was possible as they would have had no target in the forward line at all.

Tarrant reportedly asked coach Malthouse if he could play further up the ground in 2006, as to add another facet to his game which had become stale after a few years at full forward. Apparently, Malthouse agreed and all was well between the two. The 2006 season came around and Tarrant was still being played deep in the forward line with occasional stints on the half forward line. The so called promise had been broken.

To add insult to injury, through out 2006 Tarrant’s team mates, namely Shane O’Bree and co, refused to pass the ball to him in the forward line. Now as all you forward line players out there would know, the most frustrating thing in the game is when you put in a strong hard lead and the ball doesn’t come to you. Now can we blame Tarrant for being slightly disgruntled? First off all his own coach broke a promise to him, then his team mates refused to pass it to him. On top of this, the media were all over his back because he simply liked to have a good time. What is wrong with that?

Tarrant has been a wonderful servant to the Collingwood Football Club and maybe the club itself should have a good hard look at itself for not treating such a star player with a bit more respect. He was there throughout 2005 when the club needed him the most. Even though other key players were out injured, he played with his injury, pushing through the pain barrier. It is about time that people stopped bagging the man when they don’t know what the full story was. He is a top player and is bound to make Collingwood and its supporters regret letting him go.

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Required: Good Performances, Not Miracles

Great point Rahul Dravid. For your openness and transparency, if for nothing else, I salute you. For, the obituaries have already been written. The Pundits have already started their chanting. The white flag has already been shown to the opposition, not by the team, but by many of their supporters.

You can cite your statistics or wallow in despair, but, the point remains - it is never over till the fat lady sings. Dravid has obviously blasted the proverbial rocket up the team, else the following comment would not have emanated from a diplomatic and phlegmatic such as he:
"We haven't had our key batsmen performing in the last few games. Some key batsmen having impressive records need to perform."
Yuvraj Singh is already out as is Agarkar, both through injury. In what could be called a blessing in disguise, the Indians may now be forced to play Sreesanth instead of RP Singh, with Mohammad Kaif coming in for Yuvraj. That leaves a much more palatable line-up comprising Tendulkar and Sehwag opening, with Raina at 3, followed by Kaif, Dravid, Mongia and Dhoni. Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel would be my bowlers. The only reason I would play Pathan ahead of Powar is due to the reported pace and bounce in the Mohali wicket. Although, if Munaf is still unfit then Powar would be a shoe-in, for mine.

I was intrigued to read Ricky Ponting's assessment that the wicket would suit his bowlers more than the Indians. How so? Have you seen how Glen McGrath has been bowling recently? Another case of mental disintegration, methinks. I must add, that I firmly believe that the combination of an on-song Munaf, Sreesanth and Pathan can overpower any batting line-up in the world. Especially the current Australian batsmen, who do not seem to be in the best form as a unit.

As Dravid suggested, I do not believe miracles are the order of the day (before the match starts, anyway). A combined approach of heads-down cricket with a generous sprinkling of flair will make it a tight encounter. After that, it will be up to one or a few of the many stars in each team to seal their team's fate.

Are you one of the hordes of Indian cricket fans who have already written off Team India, before a ball is bowled in anger? Re-think your predictions and pucker up for an exciting contest ahead. It's gonna be a big one folks. In the meanwhile, I offer up to you a visual prediction of one of the contests we have been eagerly awaiting:

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

We Are 100

I have just realised that my last post, was also our 100th. Not bad for a blog thats been in existence for less than 2 months.

Thanks a lot for your wonderful support so far guys. We've loved the experience of interacting with all that have made the effort and hope to continue to do so for a long while yet.

For our regular readers who we haven't corresponded with yet, remember you can always leave a comment or three or send us an email (link below or in our sidebar). Tell us what you like and don't like and we'll see what we can do to make your experience a more enjoyable one in the future.

Once again, thanks folks. Onwards and upwards.

PS. We're thinking of putting up a top ten list of our "better" posts, in our sidebar. Would love to hear from you as to what you think would qualify for this list. Keep the emails or comments coming.

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Who Wants To Be A Hero?

There's not million dollars at the end of this contest (probably because anybody that does take up the offer is already earning close to that amount) and you need to do it consistently. I understand most people who have the opportunity to avail of this offer have not exhibited any evidence that they understand the meaning of the word consistent, so update yourselves here.

Guess what, I actually agree with most of what X said earlier (by the by, welcome back X). The five bowler theory does not consistently work for the Indian team. This is one-day-international cricket boys. Wickets will not win you matches. Runs will.

We have been consistently beaten by the West Indies for the past year or two and we still fail to learn our lessons. There is no point copying the Australian way when you do not have the talent in the ranks, across the board. I still believe we are more talented than the West Indians, but that should not prohibit us from learning some lessons from them and desi-fying some of their tactics. The West Indians have become kings at playing 3 bowlers (4 at an absolute maximum) in a match. Why? Because:
  1. They do not have 4 or 5 specialist bowlers who can do a materially better job than the part-timers in an ODI. So why waste their time and ours by playing them, know they will get tonked around more often than not. Better to fill their spot with a batsman who will conceded the same amount of runs while bowling and probably score a helluva lot more while batting.
  2. Just like frumpy dresses, specialist bowlers went out of fashion in the 80's. Runs matter lads. Runs.
After we have finished copying the tactics of the other teams, lets get our selection right. Virender Sehwag doesn't deserve his spot in a club side at the moment. Bring in Robin Uthappa and give the kid some time in the middle. I am not convinced by at the prospect of Suresh Raina at 3, but experimentation is the name of the game, no? Try it, for a good while and see how the bloke performs. To be brutally honest with you. I wouldn't even mind seeing Kaif at 3 at the moment.

Point being, you shouldn't fix things when they are not broken, but you should bring in the piano movers when they are. Get to it Chappelli.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

5 Bowlers? I Don't Think So

It is about time that the Indian think tank take a good hard look at themselves and get the team composition right. For too long they be going with the theory that 5 bowlers will strengthen the bowling line up, but have failed to recognise that the batting is the thing that needs strengthening rather than the bowling. The team needs a fresh approach with a new role for some of its established stars as well as a path to stardom for some of its emerging talent.

Have I gone mad or has the Indian think tank gone mad? Please tell me if I am wrong but wasn’t the whole point of playing 5 bowlers so that they don’t have to use part time bowlers as the 5th option. Then why did we see Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag bowling yesterday. What was the point in playing a woefully out form RP Singh. Wouldn’t a batsman who would have been able to come in and help Raina and Dhoni towards the end be of more benefit.

For too long the Indian team has been running on the notion that wickets win matches hence 5 bowlers must be played. In my eyes, runs rather than wickets win One Day Internationals and to often the Indian batting line up have been looking venerable because of a lack of depth. How good would it be seeing the likes of an Irfan Pathan coming in number eight? In my humble opinion, Kaif needs too be added to the middle order slotting into the number 6 position. Raina the next super star of Indian cricket needs to develop in the number 3 role with Dravid at 4 and Yuvraj at 5. Of course when the time arises, the big hitters in Dhoni and Pathan can be shuffled around the order.

Who knows what is wrong with Sehwag. It has gone past the point of being funny. Yes he is a match winner who is bound too fire any day, and after this post he probably will against Australia, but surely it is about time that he is given some time in domestic cricket to recapture his form. The man looks woefully out of sorts and down on confidence.

India has four decent bowlers in Pathan, Patel, Agarkar and Harbhajan. The part time bowling of Sehwag, Tendulkar, Raina and Yuvraj complement them quite well. Now I am sure that Dravid can manage to get 10 overs out of these guys.

India’s much vaunted batting line up has failed miserably of late and the run has been going for too long. It is about time that rather than “strengthening their bowling”, they look to strengthen their batting, after all having the runs on the board is the best way to win a game of One Day cricket.

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They Commit Adultery!! Surely Not?

The Fourth Umpire provides his insight into the lives of cricketers. He writes:
"...everyone's read about and expressed an opinion on cricket's latest scandal - Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif failing a drugs test. That Shoaib would partake of a banned substance probably does not come as a surprise to many, but I suspect even the most hardened cynic would be shocked at what goes on in the cricketing world."
"...some of the things I have either seen with my own eyes, or heard about from one or more of the parties involved include:
  • recreational drug use (okay, that one's not going to surprise anyone)
  • discussion of how to start with creatine (not considered doping, although it's banned in many countries), and go on from there
  • cricketers on the phone to their wives whilst in bed with someone else (no, this is not one of the ones where I was standing in the room)
  • notes being passed between the dressing room and groupies with arrangements of where and when to meet
  • requests to officials/management to arrange 'dates' with specifical types of women
  • exchange of 'love letters' over many years with multiple women (by married cricketers, of course)"
I fear that his writing is the voicing of a common misconception amongst cricket lovers and watchers.

First things first. I consider the taxi driver who helped me get to a meeting today, a "hardened cynic". According to him, we should replace all computers, including the one that tells him the location of his next passenger, with papers and pens. Why? "Because, pens don't break down - do they?" I am not sure he realises exactly how much that computer has helped him earn the living that he does. For all intents and purposes, this man should join the Amish community.

Shock horror, shock horror. Why am I talking about a taxi driver (Don was his name, by the way) when our cricket bat/ball brandishing starts are committing sins of adultery and (shock, horror) recreational drug consumption? You will find out soon.

Let me first remind all and sundry that the above statements are mere allegations , not proven by any conclusive evidence, yet. In the case of performance enhancing drugs, its probably because cricketing authorities are years behind where they should be in relation to their testing programs. Secondly and more importantly, I ask you: what does it matter if these activities do indeed take place on a regular basis, as the Fourth Umpire implies?

I do not condone the use of recreational drugs, for I have witnessed first hand the damage they cause to the healthiest of people. Kids, do not take drugs - of any variety. However, if a cricketer stupidly decides to ignore all expert advice and evidence and consume recreational and/or performance enhancing drugs, he should be punished appropriately.

That is not the point, however. Why should we be "shocked" to learn that cricketers are any different to other sports stars. We have had plenty of instances of cricketers being caught taking recreational drugs. Cricketers in some countries enjoy the same lifestyles and vices of footballers and movies stars.
It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce that some have, and will, continue to succumb to the power of fame and peer pressure and pop a pill or smoke a joint off the field. If you thought otherwise, welcome back to the real world.

Additionally, if I was a sportsperson I would also take great offence to the addition of creatine to the list above. Creatine is not, and has never been, considered an illegal substance in the world of sport. The fact that some countries ban it, is no reason to cast a shadow of suspicion over honest people. Some countries ban women from voting, even cynical Don would not consider that an acceptable practice.

The remainder of the Fourth Umpire's list concerns the infidelity of our revered cricketers. No matter what corner of the world you live in, you will know of at least one person who has cheated on their partner/spouse. Unfortunately, it is a very common event in this day and age. We all know that. Then, why is it so "shocking" to hear of cricketers cheating on their wives?

I don't, for the shortest second, pretend that cheating on your partner is acceptable. However, once again cricketers are human beings, just like you and I. That they happen to hit or bowl a ball better than most of us is no reason to expect them to be morally or ethically superior to the rest of their species. I am sure even cynical Don has heard of the many high profile philanderers in the world of sport and is not naive enough to believe that us "normal" people along with football stars and politicians can commit adultery, but not our esteemed cricketers.

The fact that single cricketers enjoy the company of women and seek to spend time with them, away from their profession, should not be cause for concern. The girls involved, almost always, willing partake in the shenanigans. Every boy and his dog has, at some point in his life, wished to live the glamorous life - replete with groupies and good looking women. Then, why do we con ourselves into believing our cricketers are any different to the rest of us. They are living their dream and making the most of their appeal while they can. If they are unfaithful to their partners, they will eventually be found out and punished accordingly.

Even after constant reminders via the media about exalted personalities falling from grace, it astounds me as to why the cricket watching public refuses to believe that cricketers are any different from us. They only have 36 chromosomes, just like you. They only have one brain, just like you. They want to be loved and adored, just like you. Even the "innocent, simple gentlemen" that play our great game are made up of flesh and bones, just like you. Why, then, should they not be susceptible to committing the same mistakes as you?

Wake up and smell the roses, ladies and gentlemen. Even when the spirit is willing, the flesh will always remain weak.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Glen McGrath - What Is All The Fuss About?

So much hoo-haa over something very, very minor. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the media, aided by rather liberal comments from Glen McGrath himself, will not get over the fact that Glen McGrath is now bowling first change for his country.

I would understand an absence of decorum if McGrath had been forced into opening the batting or even if he was badgered into bowling leg breaks. But, is that the case? Of course not. McGrath has been asked to do what McGrath has done before and countless other campaigners have done prior.

Oft maligned Australian coach John Buchanan has provided a very reasonable and common-sense, IMHO, reason for this change in strategy: "by utilising Glenn in that way it gives us more flexibility." Of course it does, why else would a champion team try to fix what is not broken. The one-day formula has changed ever since the introduction of Power Plays. Batsman are no longer confined to attacking in the early and late parts of the innings. They now have the option of doing it in between.

For mine, the current Australian strategy makes perfect sense, although the trick is in the execution and the Aussies have struggled to execute properly at the Champions Trophy, thus far. When you have tyro's like Mitchell Johnson with genuine pace and swing, why would you waste them on the old ball? I would open with Johnson instead of Bracken and have McGrath enforcing the pressure during the Power Plays when the opening bowlers are taking a rest.

There is no bowler in world cricket who would be able to fulfill McGrath's new role, better than Glen McGrath himself. He has the accuracy, movement and patience to frustrate the pants off batsmen who may have to face him in the middle overs. Let the speed merchants blast away at the top of the order and continue to wreak havoc, of a different persuasion in the middle of the innings.

Now, if only McGrath stopped moaning and groaning and actually got on with bowling at full pace and from the heart, we would actually be able to assess if this theory is indeed practical. Pull your socks up, Glen. Time to get that ego under control.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lalit Modi - Please Sit Down

Or shut your trap. Or zip your gob. Or - you get the picture. The reason for my request, you ask? Put it down to a superbly articulate, reasonable and impressive riposte from Inderjit Singh Bindra to Mike Coward's outrageous insinuations in The Australian. In Eminem's words, the real Slim Shady has indeed stood up.

I would not ordinarily endorse an organisation such as the BCCI replying to absurd and unfounded criticisms by a particular journalist or media outlet. However, I get the feeling that Bindra's (and by association, the BCCI's) response is out of shear frustration at the innuendo, posing as comments, being published by "respected" cricket experts and journalists. It seems to me that Coward's musings were merely the final straw, hence, he copped it from Bindra - in fine style too.

This situation was calling out for a respected and reasonable member of the reigning BCCI regime to present a sophisticated and pointed response to the rubbish that has been gushing from the pens of the said writers. For this reason alone, I applaud Bindra for taking this step. I continually fail to understand why widespread panic and sinister implications must follow any announcements by non-Anglo-Australian organisations with regard to employing ingenious strategies for their betterment. This issue, however, is best left for another post.

In his piece, Bindra has allegedly admitted that Lalit Modi has often exhibited "excessive zeal and volatility". He dilutes his assessment by implying that these characteristics are only exhibited after provocation from his adversaries. I beg to differ.

Modi has made an embarrassing habit of slogging when he should be letting one pass to the 'keeper. Sensationalists such as Coward, Mike Atherton and Scyld Berry (strange how they both write for The Telegraph) have graciously accepted more fodder than Laloo Prasad Yadav could poke a stick at, thanks to ill-conceived and whimsical comments emanating from Lalit Modi.

Modi seems like a great ideas man. If all white-coated scientists were also geniuses at marketing then they would not retain advisors and consultants to help sell their inventions. Similarly, Modi needs to be kept in the background (take a leaf out of John Wright's book if you will). Sure, allow him a prominent position on the various sub-committees of the BCCI. Involve him in generating ideas for new revenue sources and opportunities. Allow him to offer his opinion on how to rankle a badly administered, toothless and thoughtless behemoth, that is the ICC. But, for God's sake, do not let him talk to the media.

The corporate world goes ga-ga over specialists. They are paid large sums to do an effective job, with efficiency. It is high time the BCCI was run like a prudent corporate entity. Hire a Media Manager and ensure that all incoming calls to Modi's phone from journalists are diverted to the new Media Manager, before Modi has the slightest chance to be tempted to blurt angry nonsense.

In the meantime, let people of the calibre of Bindra do the talking - with the ICC and to the media. He may not be everyone's knight in shining armour. He may have made mistakes in his past life, too. However, where the world is on its axis at the minute, Bindra and all of his ilk are best placed to progress the interests of the BCCI and Indian cricket in general, ambitious or otherwise (depending on the colour of your glasses).

Lalit Modi, please sit down.

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Nike Indian ODI Cricket Shirt - Available Online Now

Let us all rejoice for it has arrived. I have vented and ranted and raved on this forum for the burning desire for the Nike Indian ODI shirt to be available for the general public to purchase and adorn themselves with.

To my great surprise and through an act of pure luck, I happened upon the very item of clothing that has been raising my ire for the preceding months. The good folk at Nike have fulfilled some of my wishes by releasing the Nike Team India cricket shirt. You can have a look at it and buy it here.

Now all I want is a brand spanking new design. Nike, shouldn't need me to teach them about product branding and differentiation. Then again, stranger things have happened.

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Australians Falling Like Flies

Not the whole team yet, but to any Aussie it would seem that Indian chefs at the restaurants the Australian cricket team frequents are trying to achieve this end.

Cricinfo reports that Shane Watson has been "rushed" to hospital complaining of chest and stomach pains. Poor kid. He was probably out celebrating his fantastic performances thus far in the Champions Trophy and demolished one too many bowls of butter chicken.

John Buchanan is quoted as saying that there have been minor stomach related disturbances for the players on this trip. That is the first I've heard of any such discomfort. However, kudos must go Australian teams since Steve Waugh's days for shutting up about the food and the pollution and concentrating on enjoying their time in India and the sub-continent in general.

Coincidentally, I was just looking through the archives and pondering how tough the Australians are. After reading this news, I realised how mistaken I was. How can you call yourself tough when you can't handle a few extra bacteria in your food?

Be a man, Watto. Bite the bullet, son.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pakistani Cricket - What Is Normal?

What is normal for you? Working during the weekdays, relaxing during the weekends and trying to manage a little time for some frivolity in between. Now answer this, what is abnormal for you? A car crash? Losing an arm or a leg, maybe? Probably something that does not happen all that often, right?

On a day when Inzimam ul Haq has been forced to defend his off-field captaincy methods, his national coach Bob Woolmer tries to make us believe that the current scandals surrounding Pakistani cricket are not "normal service". Either he is shamefully uneducated about the modern history of Pakistani cricket, or he thinks we were born yesterday.

The Pakistani team we have been treated to over the past season or two is hardly normal. It has recently been a team of settled, focussed and motivated players who have managed to keep themselves out of trouble (to a large extent). This is a reformed Pakistani outfit, not one that is "normal".

Normal, for Pakistani cricket, is when star players have thinly veiled arguments with their captain/team-mates through the media; is when star players miss training camps due to dubious injuries; is when their is a new captain after every two or three series; generally, is when players make the headlines, occasionally for brilliant on-field heroics, mostly for immature/foolish/downright idiotic histrionics. I would almost be inclined to opine that the most recent Shoaib Akthar episode is more normal than anything we have seen since Woolmer has been coach.

Woolmer also touches on an interesting point in his article, something I was dwelling on when I heard this news. He writes, "I guess that my career as a coach will go down as one with its fair share of controversy and trying to explain exactly what really happened."

Does anybody, other than me, find it minutely mysterious that Bob Woolmer has been at the helm of both teams that have been involved in, arguably, the two most scandalous events that our great sport has had inflicted upon it? Only knowing the man through various media portrayals, I am hardly qualified to perform a character assassination at this point in time. However, the question must be asked: is there something lacking in Bob Woolmer that puts his charges in the wrong place at extremely wrong times?

I will leave it to you all to ponder. Until then, let us all be entertained by Pakistani cricket's "normal service".

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Match Fixing All Over Again

In what seems like an utter waste of time, the Delhi Police are taking their match fixing inquiry to foreign shores. It is, as yet, unclear what has prompted this request for information from Scotland Yard. However, a fool could hazard a guess at a possible connection between this move and the inquisition of Herschelle Gibbs a week or two ago.

Frankly, this is a waste of taxpayer funds. It is going to be nothing more than a fully paid junket for senior police officials on a quest for a truth that will never be forthcoming. The English are going to bristle at the suggestion that there was any match-fixing during the 1999 World Cup, which they hosted.

The English authorities have already issued the following statement, in their typical stiff British accents: I mean seriously, match-fixing in England? There is no such thing in our great land? The Delhi Police should impale themselves on the royal flagpole for even suggesting such an absurd and far-fetched theory. Lords is the home of the gentleman's game and match-fixing has never entered this great game, not in our country at least. Oh, by the way, these good brown men must know of our very own Lord Condon who rules the cricketing world with an iron fist that would have made Margaret Thatcher proud. Nobody would dare attempt to fix a match whilst he is on the scene. You lot should pack your cases and head on home before you are privy to a right royal flogging, just like the good old days.

We really should leave Bangladesh and Zimbabwe alone too. Poor chaps hardly seem to win a match. Why begrudge them soul-saving victories that didn't really mean anything in the big scheme of things?

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Chris Gayle - More Trouble Brewing

Its rare that current players' opinion pieces appear on Cricinfo. However, they have managed to rope in Chris Gayle for one such article. Maybe he requested an outlet to vent, for vent he he did. Sample this, with regard to that "banter" with Michael Clarke:
"Generally speaking I think that any system which penalizes someone for reacting to a situation but does not reprimand the instigator of that situation needs some sort of review."
I dare predict that Gayle may yet find himself in a lot more trouble. He has already been fined for his involvement in the debate. These comments might see him land in hotter water. The ICC does not usually tolerate any criticism of itself, it's processes or it's people. After showing it's ineptitude by only punishing Gayle without even asking a few questions of Clarke, the ICC is unlikely to go easy on him now.

Insofar as Gayle's assertion that he was not the instigator, rather reacted to the situation. I must say that his inexperience in sledging was quite apparent during the confrontation. Watching the TV you could hardly make out that Clarke was saying a word. Undoubtedly, this owes to the fact that Clarke would have some superb training in the art of stealth sledging from the likes of Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and the King - Shane Warne.

Time to pick up your game, Chris.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Michael Vaughan - Giving Up What Is Not Rightfully His

Michael Vaughan, former captain of the English cricket team (when he had two working knees) has finally acknowledged the truth and conceded that he is a long shot to play in the Ashes series in November. However, he has revealed that he will be travelling with team to receive treatment on his knee, much like Ashley Giles at the Champions Trophy.

Question 1.

Is there such a dearth of medical and physiotherapy talent in the United Kingdom that the English team have to take their walking wounded on tours in order to pamper them with the care they need to get better? One would think that the said players can receive the same, if not better, quality of care at home. Surely recovering in familiar conditions as opposed to foreign hotel rooms in an unfamiliar country, where you are constantly on the go, is a better bet? No?

Question 2.

Who does Michael Vaughan think he is? A pretty general question, I know. However, it is necessitated by the following musing of his:
"I am the first to admit that if we go to Australia and Freddie retains the Ashes, he should keep the job," Vaughan told reporters at the Groucho Club on Monday night."
I would like to kindly remind Vaughan and his supporters that the English captaincy (or that of any other country, for that matter) is a privilege not a right. The selectors decide on the captain and bestow upon him the honour of leading his country onto the field of play.

I would also suggest that it would be utter buffoonery for the English selectors to hand back the captaincy to Vaughan if and when he returns. They have taken brave, but necessary, steps into the future by selecting Andrew Flintoff as captain and they should stick by their decision (I don't agree with their decision, but thats another post).

By his own admission, Vaughan has been out of the game for a year now. If, and it's a big if, he returns surely you cannot expect him to shoulder the duties (bordering on burdens) of the captaincy and try and get his game in order again. My views are heavily influenced by the impression that Vaughan's game deteriorated significantly whence he was handed the captaincy. Sure, he was a decent captain and formed a good partnership with Duncan Fletcher. I don't think he did anything extraordinary that Andrew Flintoff or Andrew Strauss are not capable of doing. IMHO, for the good of the English team he is better utilised as a batsman who plays his part in assisting the captain on the field.

Oh, before I forget: Michael, please remember that you are not captain any longer. You are an injured player who has to fight for his place in the national team. We love you mate, for beating the Aussies at their own game - if nothing else. But, please. Don't make such foolish comments in future. You're better than that.

Continued >> >>

Cyclone Jerome Taylor Leaves Australia In Disarray

Who said the ICC Champions Trophy was a dull and dead tournament? Shame on you if you even thought about muttering words to that effect.

Two thrilling matches back to back have given the current edition of the Champions Trophy some much needed oomph. First, Abdur Razzaq single-handedly accounts for Sri Lanka (who I thought were genuine contenders for this title, mind you) and last night Jerome Taylor cleaned up the Australian tilt at the West Indies total by claiming the first ever hat-trick by a West Indian in an ODI.

First things first, I was extremely surprised to learn that a legacy left by the likes of Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, et al did not include a hat-trick in an ODI. The legacy sounds almost as incomplete as Sachin Tendulkar retiring without recording a triple hundred next to his name.

In a clear sign that experimentation is not the sole preserve of Team India, the Australians and West Indians both decided to test out a few different combinations. In a very sensible move Simon Katich was replaced by Shane Watson. This is not necessarily different on the part of the Australians, but it signals an end to the unsuccessful experiment with Katich as an ODI opener and the desire to provide a spark to the Aussie top-order that has been missing ever since Matthew Hayden's days became numbered.

The West Indies dropped Shivnarine Chanderpaul in favour of Runako Morton, a move that was slightly mystifying considering he scored a 31 ball duck in his last outing. Either way, whatever the reasoning behind the move, it paid handsome dividends and the West Indians can credit their win to Morton, for he played with maturity belying his age and provided crucial runs towards the end of the innings that ultimately proved the difference between the two teams.

Brian Lara, for all his deficiencies, seems to pull a rabbit out of the bag when it matters most. Coming in at number six (to face the spinners according to Cricinfo?), yet within the first 15 overs, played a knock that even Tendulkar would have been proud of! Calm and steady at first. Blossoming later to showcase his pure genius. Unfortunately, that may be the last we see of Lara in this tournament. He seemed in increasing discomfort, owing to a sore back.

Although uncharacteristic, Adam Gilchrist innings - almost painful, compared to what he has treated us to in years gone - may be a sign of the application that will be required of the key batsman in all the teams to eventually win this tournament. Contrary to popular beliefs about Indian conditions, the slam-bam-thank-you-mam approach is unlikely to pay consistent dividends in this tournament. Who said 300+ scores were what ODIs were about?

Furthermore, Gilchrist's, Morton's and Lara's innings also proved that a decent score can be posted on a tough/tricky/challenging wicket. After Graeme Smith's tirade a couple of days ago, I hope he and his team were watching and taking notes on how to play in-the-trenches cricket. I don't think I would be out of place in placing Virender Sehwag's name alongside Smith, too.

What does this mean for the Australians you ask? It means that they will be doubly fired up for their next game against the Poms. They will most likely thrash them with 25 overs/8 wickets to spare. Hence, do not read too much into their next game.

Their real test will be against India. With McGrath's role being reduced to that of a trundler in this match, it will be interesting to see what role he plays against India. I would bet a fair amount that he will open the bowling, for the Tendulkar factor - if nothing else. Although, the Jaipur wicket is not quite as challenging as the Brabourne, I still think the Indian spinners will be the key against the Aussie batsmen.

I will definitely proffer more after the next few matches. Until then, I seriously hope that the Indians are going easy with the Ladoo's during Diwali. The West Indians are not going to be the easy-beats they fooled us into believing they were after the Sri Lanka match.

This Champions Trophy may yet be the most competitive and balanced tournament we have seen in a while. For this, hearty thank yous must be delivered to the curators for producing "sporting" (in the real sense of the word) wickets. No, Graeme?

Continued >> >>

Do You Like It Or Do You Like It?

This blog has undergone a few face-lifts in its short time in the blogosphere. We've made it look like how we wanted it to look. Now its up to you. What changes would you suggest? Tell us how we can make it better (comments or email, either or).

Thanks in anticipation.

Tags: TheMatchReferee
Continued >> >>

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Graeme Smith - Excuses, Execuses & Ignorance

When was the last time you saw so many one-sided matches in a tournament of this size? That too, after eight matches. We have all been awoken to the harsh reality that an absence of cricketing minnows, does not an exciting cricket tournament make. Starting from Sri Lanka v West Indies, right through to yesterday's South Africa v New Zealand match one side has managed to self-destruct quicker than a mission debriefing note on Inspector Gadget.

To many people's surprise New Zealand annihilated the Proteas last night. Nobody was giving New Zealand much of a chance once it became apparent that Shane Bond would be missing the match - wait for it - because of a back injury. The same back that has kept him out of action for the past few months. Just as an aside, what is it with Kiwi fast bowlers? Not one of them has managed to stay health ever since Danny Morrison retired, almost a decade ago. There must be something in the water.

Stephen Fleming proved, once again, how reliant the Kiwis are on him doing well - almost like Team India and Sachin Tendulkar in the 90's. Call Fleming a late bloomer, but he is one of the most elegant batsman in world cricket when he hits his straps. I am often frustrated that we are deprived of seeing the ultimate Stephen Fleming due to a combination of bad luck and minor lapses in concentration that contrive to cut short his innings just when we are all set for a really big one. He has taken a liking to the South African, however. That 130-odd against them in the previous World Cup was absolutely sublime.

But, I digress. Apart from Fleming nobody really stood up to the South Africans on a tricky pitch. Brendan McCullum offered 21 runs to the cause, as the next best scorer. But, if I was the rest of the New Zealand batting order I wouldn't be writing home to tell my mom about my performance.

Conversely, the Kiwis didn't really need to make much more. The South Africans capitulated without even a semblance of a fight. Although, Graeme Smith did make a spirited 42 before succumbing to the pressure of Jeetan Patel and Daniel Vettori. The Kiwi cricketing faithful had high hopes of Patel. I mean, he's got an Indian name so what use is he if he can't become a decent spin bowler? Right? Dipak Patel solidified the stereotype, but the jury is still out on Jeetan Patel.

What raised my ire was Smith's refusal to attribute any of the reasons for his side's dramatic collapse to their own shortcomings. He was of the view that they didn't play any bad shots and everything that went wrong was the fault of the Brabourne wicket.

We - international cricket captains included - have to be careful not to class a challenging or tricky batting wicket as a sub-standard or below par cricket pitch. Don't forget Graeme, that this is a game played by both batsmen and bowlers. Just because the ball doesn't bounce to hip height from a good length does not mean its a bad pitch. Just because it spins a bit more than you and your mates can handle does not imply any shortcomings on the curator's part.

There is a fine line between blindly defending your players and acknowledging the harsh realities. Graeme Smith needs to strike a sound balance, and fast. Else, South Africa are headed for a very early flight home. Judging by the way they played yesterday, maybe that is what they're after.

Continued >> >>

Shoaib Akhtar Busted

I really should change the title of my previous post, Brett Lee was caught red-handed (picking his nose), whereas our good friend Shoaib Akhtar has been busted taking banned substances. Namely, an anabolic steroid named nandrolone.

This performance enhancing concoction may be new to cricket, but I'm sure you would have heard of the myriad of other high-profile names banned for using the substance (remember sprinter Ben Johnson). What's more, Shoaib's opening bowling partner, Mohammad Asif, has also tested positive for the same substance.

We must be careful now, since it has only been "alleged" that these two are drug cheats. However, after reading and watching all of Shoaib Akhtar's antics on and off the cricket pitch over the last decade and a bit, are you really surprised that he has been caught up in a mess of this nature? Akhtar goes out of his way to attract attention for himself. Flashy cars, bright lights, A-list Bollywood parties, a badly put on American accent when deemed appropriate, feigned injuries, dodgy action, bust-ups with the captain - the list is endless. For mine, this latest revelation seems like a natural progression.

What is more amusing are his protests of innocence. To provide you an invaluable and hilarious insight on how this man's mind works, he writes
"The President of Pakistan has asked me not to comment in any detail at this stage and I want to respect his wishes, so I will keep my message short."
Ya, that and John Howard rang me to inform me that he has chose me as his successor over Peter Costello. Please. As X's motto goes, if you are going to lie, at least make it believable. Politicians will always be politicians. President Mushy would not want to touch Shoaib Akhtar with a ten foot pole at present, no matter how many copies of his book Akthar was prepared buy.

What was Shoiab Akhtar trying to achieve by bringing President Musharraf into this, anyway? If it was credibility he was after, surely there are other more "creditable" people in Pakistan. Then again, maybe he did not want sully their reputations, so President Mushy turned out to be a good fit. Who knows? One would think, he could have come up with a decent excuse at least, eg. my Mom said I needed to look fatter for the Champions Trophy so I took the pills she gave me.

I am also very suspicious of exactly how Mohammad Asif became embroiled in this mess. Here's an impressionable young kid who oozes talent and class, he is partnered with the newly "reformed" Akthar (remember those stories about the new Shoaib after the last England tour to Pakistan?) and by all accounts they get on like a house on fire. Then, in less than a year both of them manage to return positive drug tests. Maybe its just my suspicious mind, but this does not seem like a coincidence to me.

I am willing to believe that this may just be a case of wrong medicine at the wrong time. However, having witnessed Shoaib Akhtar's immature, self-obsessed and narcissistic nature through the media over the years (including his latest explanation), I am equally willing to believe that this was a deliberate attempt to cheat his body and the game. It is up to Akhtar and Asif to come clean and tell us the real truth, no matter how bitter it may taste.

PS. I wonder what Shane Warne thinks of this shamozzle. Every case before his involved only recreational drugs (not that I condone them either). It was only thanks to his Mummy that the cricketing world sat up and acknowledged that it was not immune to drugs and their taking. 1 year, two years or life, Warney?

Continued >> >>

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brett Lee Busted

LMAO. The power of the lens (and great captioning to boot). Brett Lee caught in the act.

Tags: The Match Referee
Continued >> >>

Champions Trophy - India v England: Final Thoughts

When it comes to my opinions, nothing is ever final. But I digress, India won last night and convincingly too, contrary to many media reports and popular opinion. Any side that wins an ODI with almost 20 overs to spare has trounced its opposition.

All this talk of, "if we had 40-50 more runs, it would've been interesting", is pure and utter rubbish. If England did manage to score a competitive total, India would have batted differently. Yuvraj Singh would not have simply patted back innocuous back-of-a-length balls, he would have tried to put the bowlers under some pressure. Mahendra Singh Dhoni would not have blocked half volleys from part-timers like Dalrymple, he would have smashed them over cover to the fence and beyond.

Point being, a batsman's mindset changes (rightly or wrongly) when he is faced with the dual scenario of chasing a small total and having the opportunity to spend some time in the middle due to a minor form slump. Sorry Freddy, your lot were never in the game.

It was heartening to see Irfan Pathan bowl with energy and vigour. He ran in hard, picked up his pace and things started happening. Sure, there is no need to get carried away by his performance, but there are signs that he may be on the rebound from his recent trough. That is a very healthy sign, given how he underlined, last night, his value to the Indian cause.

Undoubtedly, Pathan was helped a great deal by the pressure applied by Munaf Patel at the other end. Although, Munaf did not bowl at his fastest, he did enough to keep the batsman honest and combined it with superb accuracy. Both opening bowlers laid the perfect foundation for the spinners who do not need an invitation to scalp the hapless English batsmen.

The batting was not fluent by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, it doesn't need to be at this early stage of the tournament/season. Most of the batsman played a small part in seeing the side home. Tendulkar showed us glimpses of why he is the only genius in world cricket and more is sure to come from him over the next year or so. Surprisingly, Rahul Dravid seemed almost disinterested, although the fireworks upon his arrival could not have helped. I am prepared to give Sehwag another bite at the cherry as you cannot blame an opening batsman for chasing a full wide one that he ordinarily deposits to or over the cover fence. I think Raina needs a session with Rudi Webster, just to clear some cobwebs.

All in all, it was not the most cohesive performance. However, as I had opined in my preview it is better to undergo a slow build-up where each component of your game clicks one-by-one rather than the big bang approach, which is likely to paper over some of the team's inherent weaknesses. I am sure we'll see the Indians collectively step up a notch or two against the West Indies. Until then, enjoy a well earned Diwali break gentlemen.

PS. It was nice of Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan to show up and support the team. I wonder what movie is being shot in Jaipur at the moment. Either way, as long as Priyanka Chopra is in it, I will be watching it (images courtesy Cricinfo).

Continued >> >>

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Champions Trophy - India v England: First Thoughts

Finally, some real (meaningful even?) cricket. Team India seems to be persisting with the 5 bowler theory. Although, on current form one would inclined to class Pathan as more of a batsman than a bowling all-rounder. Either way, Rahul Dravid has opted to field first and the Indians have benched Kaif, Mongia and RP Singh.

I see what the Indians are trying to do. If Pathan is going to stay with the squad he should be playing. Sitting in the dressing room, with no part to play in the match, is not going to do the kid any good. He needs some miles in his legs and some luck too. I hope our born-again Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel continue their blossoming new ball partnership. It was slightly disturbing to hear murmurs from Munaf about something to do with cutting down pace to concentrate on line and length. All fair and well in theory, but I sincerely hope he tries to fuse the two facets of his bowling armory, instead of overtly neglecting one.

What can you say about the spinners? I really rate Ramesh Powar and expect him, in collaboration with Chief Destroyer Harbhajan Singh, to tie the English batsmen in knots.

I have no qualms with the batting lineup. I'm glad they've played Suresh Raina over Dinesh Mongia and Mohammad Kaif. Apart from a few innings in the West Indies, Kaif has not shown much to remain in the team, for mine. I'll be interested to see the kind of form Virender Sehwag brings into this game. By his own account, the sessions with Rudi Webster have done him a world of good. I sure as hell hope he's right.

After the Challenger Trophy, most of the Indian batsman have had some good time in the middle. Cricinfo reports that the pitch looks full of runs. I hope they can cash in. Worthy contributions from all the batsman towards a winning chase would be what I am looking for from this match. There's nothing like a solid team performance to start a multi-team tournament such as this. Idea being, not to peak too early.

It would be stating the bleeding obvious to say that England are likely to put up more a fight than they did on their last tour to India. The come-from-behind win in the Pakistan series should have steeled them for better performances. However, once again they are playing under a new captain and a re-jigged batting order. The jury is out on exactly what effect that will have on the visitors.

Time now to sit back and enjoy the real action. I'm off to watch the game. About time I say, too.

Continued >> >>

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Ashes: Aussies Cutting Down On Them Rolls

Watch out England. The Aussies are out to batter you with their rock hard .. err.. bodies. The Herald Sun reports that the Australian cricket team is using "space age fitness technology" to "harden" their bodies in preparation for the upcoming Ashes and World Cup.

Cricket Australia has hired Justin Cordy who has previously worked with the Essendon Bombers and Western Bulldogs. Apparently the goal was to reduce the players skinfolds in order to make them as lean as they could be. This, coupled with GPS technology and other bits and pieces, would help them increase performance levels at training to map better with match conditions.

Apparently, preliminary investigations found that Nathan Bracken runs 15 kms in the outfield alone, during one session of an ODI. Quite astounding really, I would never have thought it would be that high. You can understand now why some bowlers break down so much, considering the stress of the actual bowling action plus the extra exertion whilst fielding. I suppose some of us just are not cut out to do everything at once. Shane Bond being a prime example.

Although, I am still struggling with the whole "space-age" bit. Last time I did one of those initial fitness assessments at the gym they measured my skinfold percentage too. Surely, the mere use of GPS tracking devices, which are so common in our everyday lives now, doesn't qualify this process for such a tag. I get the feeling this is just another example of sensationalist tabloid journalism. Then again, why am I surprised? After all, it is the Herald Sun.

However, the article does mention that Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson (pictorial evidence here) and Adam Gilchrist have derived the most from this exercise. I must ask the question: does that mean Gilly's ears will look even bigger now?

Continued >> >>

Champions Trophy - Bat Second To Come First

According to this piece, S Rajesh has come up with a few statistics to prove Shane Bond is a match winner. Well we knew it already, this is the actual evidence - for the lawyer in you.

More importantly, Rajesh has also performed an analysis on whether to bat or bowl first in order to win a day/night match in India. Interesting facts which you should read. In summary, the team bowling first just has the edge, in terms of winning more matches since the turn of the century.

We'll just have to wait and see whether that trend is progressed or abolished over the coming weeks.

PS. Is it just me or have we been waiting far too long for the real action to start? All I've been reading over the last few weeks is mere hype. Someone just cut the crap. Please.

Tags: The Match Referee
Continued >> >>

Friday, October 13, 2006

Champions Trophy Preview - In Pictures

We know you will read countless previews and analyses of teams and matches for the Champions Trophy. So we decided to take a different tack altogether and show you what the players are really doing. Well, sort of anyway. Don't worry, our verbose rants will resume shortly. Until then, take a look and tell us if you like (pictures courtesy Cricinfo):

<-- You reckon it's hot in India right now? Just ask Brett Lee, Kevin Pietersen or Twanda Mupariwa:

--> What the hell was Brian Lara thinking when he rocked up to a press conference with that contraption covering his eyes? This may not be the Brownlow Medal Red Carpet, but that certainly would've taken out the Bjork Award, in the cricketing version of the ceremony.

<-- Rahul Dravid shows of his muscle. Err.. ok maybe not. Rahul I think you're a great batsman, not quite a model. Please cover up next time. Please.

--> The Poms know they aren't going to win anything, or even come close for that matter. So they decided a bit of land-based synchronised swimming practice was in order. Just missing the foundation and the glitter there boys. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get the hang of it.

<-- Rahul Dravid eat yo heart out. Mitchell Johnson, Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson do the Half Monty. Who says cricketer's can't do those nude calendar shoots just like them Rugby League blokes, not that I'd be buying one, but hey I know plenty of gentlewomen that will. So ladies, this one's for you.

Tags for this post:
Continued >> >>

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Herschelle Gibbs You're A Disgrace

And so is Cricket South Africa. How could a man who admitted to accepting money to under-perform whilst representing his country, still be playing for the same country with his head held high?

All this hoo-ha over his arrival in India for the Champions Trophy is a blight on South African cricket and the game in general. The fact that Herschelle Gibbs admitted to match faxing and was still allowed to play is a pure and utter disgrace.

Some would argue that he has served his punishment and life must go on. I ask, what punishment? Six months and a measly fine for betraying your country. For betraying the hundreds of thousands of people who pay their hard earned money to watch the South African teams in stadiums and on their TV sets. Give me a break here. The guy should have been banned for life. South African fans deserve better than him. Cricket fans in general deserve better than him.

India and Pakistan may be highly corrupt countries, but the respective Boards still had the gumption to ban for life or effectively cut short the careers of the prime accused in their teams. Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Saleem Malik, Nikhil Chopra, just to name a few got what they deserved and never played for their country again.

The sole reason Gibbs got off was because the powers that be, within Cricket South Africa, did not want to lose his talent. It was a cowardly and selfish route to take and was always going to culminate in a situation where the past was never really left in the past.

I hope the Indian Police do drag him to Delhi, rather than flying down to Mumbai to question him. I hope they grill him mercilessly and expose him for what he is - a traitor and a deceitful man who should not be muddying the reputation of fellow players, of much higher moral ilk than he, by playing alongside them.

Tags: The Match Referee
Continued >> >>

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Shane Warne Goes Back To Basics

Practice makes perfect, I have often been told. What I know know is that if the practice doesn't make you perfect, then a coach definitely will. Well, neigh-on perfect anyway.

After publicly dissing Australian coach John Buchanan a few weeks ago, I hear news of Shane Warne making an appointment to visit his own long-time coach and mentor, Terry Jenner. Jenner has long been credited with honing Warne's abilities and helping a great deal in transforming the blonde-haired ruffian into a world-beating superstar.

The crux of what Warne has been trying to tell the media over the past couple of months is that a coach doesn't have much significance in international cricket, especially the Aussie team, because the players know it all. I think the problem herein lies with Warne's limited grasp of the English language, excluding The Dictionary of Profanities & Sledging.

Typically, the word "coach" is given to a person who teaches something. Much like a teacher, really. At a young age, a sportsman is used to a "coach" telling him what to do and how to do it. As the said sportsman progresses through to professional level, he gets less and less advice because of two possible reasons:
  1. He thinks he is top sh*t and taking advice is below him (ala the young Vinod Kambli).
  2. He really is top sh*t and there's not much more that anybody can teach him (ala Roger Federer).
Warne and Federer probably don't need a full-time coach. Infrequent tune-ups with Jenner and Peter Roach, respectively, seem to do the trick. One could argue that the same could be said of most of the players in the Australian cricket team. Warne certainly does.

However, in my eyes Warne's beef with the current Australian coach goes further. He does not respect Buchanan because he doesn't believe Buchanan had the cricketing talent of the other players. So, Warne ponders, how can a man who was never close to being as good as us, teach us about cricket? What Warne fails to realise is that the role of the "coach" of an international cricket team is not as much about teaching the sport, as it is about mentoring and motivating. Trying different different methods to keep players performing at their peak.

I contend that Shane might not have a problem with Buchanan if his designation was "Team Motivator" or "Motivational Expert". But then again, he does have a problem with the English language so he may not understand those terms at the outset.

Whatever the reason may be, Shane Warne is not going to appreciate anybody (no, not even a blonde bimbo replete with silicon implants) who dares drag him to the outback for a boot-camp. I love Warnie, for his gaffes, if not his cricketing ability.

Tags for this post:
Continued >> >>

Ashley Giles To Play In The Ashes

For England's sake, I certainly hope not. For some strange and completely bewildering reason England value Ashley Giles to such an extent that they have taken him along as a "non-playing member" to the Champions Trophy in India.

Giles is so pumped up about his chances for The Ashes, he blurts, "If I am happy with how I am bowling, even in net practice, I am willing to take on a Test match every time". I mean, seriously - grow up! He should know by now the immense difference between feeling good in the nets and replicating that in a pressure cooker Test match.

Much in the same way that Sourav Ganguly was, Duncan Fletcher seems to be very loyal to the players who have been members of winnings sides, no matter how much of a fluke or inconsequential their performances might have been. This could come back to hurt Fletcher and more importantly, England, if they even think about playing Giles in the upcoming Ashes series.

A lot is made of the fact that Giles took 10 wickets in the last Ashes series, including "all of Australia's top eight". So what? Michael Clarke also took 6 wickets in the one Mumbai test, including some of India's top batsmen. Do you see him included in a test match lineup based on his spin bowling abilities. For all intents and purposes, Giles has as much spinning ability as Clarke. In fact, Clarke puts a significantly more amount of revs on the ball than Giles could ever dream of.

It mystifies me as to why England keep harking back to the past in search of future glory. Sure, Giles was somewhat effective on low, slow dust bowls when Nasser Hussain had no option but to employ ridiculously negative tactics in order to avoid humiliation. Even in such conditions, Giles failed to turn the ball even half a bat width. On the bouncy pitches of Australia, those balls are going to be pleading with the batsmen to be hit out of the ground. To add to England's woes, unlike the previous edition of The Ashes, the current Aussie batting lineup is in supreme form and showing no signs of doing anything, but getting better, in the near future.

England have unearthed an out-and-out match winner in Monty Panesar. The guy has won them matches off his own back, in England of all places. He has taken more wickets in one Test than Giles has often managed in a whole series, in England of all places!

Much has been made of Panesar's batting and fielding deficiencies. Even more has been made of the news that he went to see a shrink. IMHO, the kid is one of the most talented left arm spinners in world cricket at the moment, alongside Daniel Vettori. He has taken wickets and won England matches against a Pakistani team that smacks Danish Kaneria all over the place during net practice.

I get the feeling that Panesar has Andrew Flintoff's full confidence, ever since his steady debut in India. That might be all he needs to play in the first Gabba Test and show what he really can do with the ball. If he does fail in the first Test, I pray that they do not rush Giles back, for it will be the nail in the coffin of a surefire Aussie victory.

But who listens to me anyway?

Continued >> >>

Monday, October 09, 2006

London Bombings - A Sinister Ashes Twist

What were you doing when you heard the breaking news about the London bombings of 2005? You had probably just switched on your TV to tune into the latest stock market news, political squabbling or to catch up with the latest reports from the enthralling Ashes series. Undoubtedly, you were shocked to hear of the blasts.

Some would have given a thought to the safety of the cricketers, but most would never have considered that the English and Aussie cricketers may have been caught in the middle of terrorist attacks. After all, how many international cricketers travel by bus and subway when they are on tour? I recall, on a personal level, the need of the hour was to ensure all family and friends in London were safe.

A year on, in another angle on the cowardly blasts a man who purports to know the family of one of the London bombers has claimed that the original target for the bombs were not the buses and trains of London's public transport system, but the venue of the second Ashes test, Edgbaston. According to him, the plan was for the bombers to gain employment at the ground and "spray" sarin gas into the changing rooms of both teams during the match.

He further claims that the plans were modified only after one of the bombers objected, because - get this - he was a passionate cricket fan. No security agency had even an inkling that this was the case. Initial reports suggest that security experts are not convinced of these claims. I would like to know why this man did not come forward before the London bombings?

I must confess, that although these claims are chilling, I do not believe that a minor scuffle between a suicide bomber and his "leader" will result in a change of plans that would have been hatched by their superiors. From the postmortems of other terrorist attacks, we have learnt that the men on the ground have very little knowledge of the actual event until just prior to zero hour.

I am not a terrorist, nor am I an expert on terrorism, I'm not even Muslim, but from what little I understand of the mindset of Islamic terrorists I was of the view that they considered nothing sacred in front of Allah and the Holy Quran, forget philandering infidels who play cricket and SMS young blonde bimbos. Accordingly, if a prospective Jihad-ist rebels against eminent plans crafted by the organisation's hierarchy, wouldn't be be summarily dismissed from the group - via a bullet through the head, one would assume?

Ricky Ponting and his Australian team have just landed in India for the Champions Trophy. In my opinion, the levels of security provided for visiting teams in India is second-to-none and Ponting and Cricket Australia subscribe to this theory, officially at least. It is heartening to note that the players are also kept up-to-date with such news and are free to discuss their feelings with the media.

What is interesting, though, is Ponting's admission in his book that there is a level of "inconsistency" in how the team deals with terror attacks. Apparently, in his last Ashes tour diary he wrote, "If we were in, say, Pakistan or Sri Lanka and something like this had happened, I am sure we would have been on the first plane out." This is a separate issue altogether, however, I do wonder how close London was or Mumbai will be to joining that list if a blast were to take place on the public transport system during the Champions Trophy?

Alas, I digress. These latest claims must alert everyone involved with the staging of sporting events, not just cricket, to the wide range of security risks that must be mitigated. This revelation (can it be called that, even if it may be untrue?) has surely prompted the end of recruitment practices that do not mandate background and security checks prior to an offer. No more offering jobs to young gentlemen for no other reason than that they happen to play at your local cricket club and have shown a sudden interest in cleaning changing rooms.

We can only wait for the next blast, for there probably will be more. Hope and pray that the people who have prior knowledge do the right thing, the sensible and humane thing. Until then, life must go on. As must the cricket.

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