Thursday, December 21, 2006

Warney The Great

Now that his retirement is official, to recognise Shane Warne's great feats we here at The Match Referee feel compelled to honour him in an appropriate and symbolic manner. We could think of nothing better than to devote valuable screen real estate to this amazing cricketer.

Hence, in honour of the champion and to thank him for all the great memories and entertainment he has provided on a platter over the years, we have plastered his the great man's face all over the header of our website.

Please feel free to stop for a second, stare at his photo on our header and contemplate just how sorely he will be missed on the cricket field. After the New Years Day Test, we will not be able to stare in disbelief at his superlative array of skills.

This portrait will remain on our website until the end of the said Test match.

Continued >> >>

Sreesanth's Dancing Antics Video

We have received so many emails asking us to post a video of Sreesanth's gyrations after he smashed Andre Nel out of the park during the first Test. True to form we have not disappointed our loyal readers. Behold the visual stimulation of Sreesanth's hips:

And while we're on topic of Sreesanth video's this one cracked me up to no end:

He's either pitching for a role in Bollywood or he's been watching too many booty poppin' rap videos. Either way, lets hope this character is here to stay.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shane Warne To Retire

This is no joke. You read that absolutely correct.

In what can only be described as a sad day for cricket and Australian cricket in particular, I have happened upon rumours that Shane Warne is set to end his cricketing career after the fifth Ashes Test match at the SCG.

At present I can only speculate, however, with his body getting older and the stress of international cricket increasing by the day, along with the accomplishment of regaining The Ashes, Warne obviously feels this is the right time to end his glittering and legendary career.

More press will undoubtedly follow after his formal announcement, but I must take this opportunity to thank Shane for treating us to mastery. He has provided us with memories we will treasure for a lifetime and skills that we will yearn to witness in the future.

I am sure all our readers will join X and I in thanking Shane for his cricketing and entertainment services over the past 14 years.

Thank you Shane, you will be missed.

Update 21/11/06: Rumours are also doing the rounds that Glen McGrath is also set to retire, although word is that he will walk away after the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

As predicted by us here at The Match Referee and countless other experts the world over, the departure of these two cricketing greats will leave a huge hole in the Aussie bowling lineup. On this tack, guess who's touring downunder next year? More on that later.

We will post for you the video's of the announcements as soon as we practically can. In the meanwhile, be sure to enjoy Sreesanth's School of Dancing.

Continued >> >>

Stick Cricket vs Beach Cricket - The Definitive Guide Part 1

In Part 1 of our "Definitive Guide" to the most popular online cricket games and popular sources for procrastination, we turn our beady eyes to the newcomer. Therefore, in the blue corner stands the challenger - the newly launched XXXX Gold Beach Cricket.

Any new generation of a particular game will always be technologically better than the previous generation, ie. the graphics in EA Sport's Cricket 2007 are far better than what we were treated to in Cricket 2005. XXXX Gold Beach Cricket follows this rule and the 3D graphics definitely seem a lot more impressive than 2D players. Then again, a game called stick cricket couldn't really introduce 3D animation now, could it?

Speaking of graphics, I could not quite figure out if the graphical artists were trying to be quirky or whether they were trying to display their lack of knowledge about the differences between conventional cricket and beach cricket, eg. the stumps seem unusually large and unusually wide compared to the actual players and the umpires wear black belts with traditional black office shoes, whilst the players are decked out in over sized kits representing their country. One would imagine that singlets would have been donned by conventional beach cricketers, however, in the online version they wear distasteful over sized polos.

Having said this, the game's designers must be given generous applause for incorporating traditional Hawaiian dancing girls into the gameplay. If you hit the ball long enough on to the on side, you will be treated to beautiful women - of the animated variety.

The actual gameplay was disappointing for me. Everything depends on the player's timing with no license to choose where you wish to tonk the ball. You have the option of moving around the crease to line yourself up with the direction of the ball, but that is it. The computer will decide the path of the ball, after it leaves your bat, on its own.

Having said that, the 3D graphics make for some stunning visuals. In addition to the aforementioned dancing girls, the game incorporates typical beach/backyard cricket style one-handed catches and full-length diving catches that every kid has tried to pull off while playing on the beach and even attempts that Ricky Ponting himself would be proud of.

XXXX Gold Beach Cricket is a valiant effort by the developers to put together a package which can be easily differentiated from its competitor. I understand this is not a serious gaming product and should not be viewed as such, however, after conquering the various nuances of Stick Cricket, I felt ripped off after playing Beach Cricket. Almost as if I had not got my money's worth.

Trust me, that is not the feeling you want to be leaving with if you've just played a free game of online cricket. Try it for yourselves and let us know how you think it stacks up to the competition.

Also see: Part 0 | Part 1 | Part 2 (coming very soon)

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Continued >> >>

Asian Cup Finals 2007

The long wait is now over and the draw is out. The stage is now set for the biggest football event the Asian Confederation hosts, The Asian Cup Finals. Let’s have a look closer look at it.

Australia, the new kid on the block had been given a seed, something which was sure to come in hand given the calibre of teams on show. The seed meant Australia would not have to play the other seeded countries in Japan, Iran and Korea.

With the draw just recently completed, The Match Referee is gladly able to inform its readers that Australia has been given what could be considered the easiest group in the competition, Group A. Other members of Group A include, Iraq, Thailand and Oman. Compared with having the likes of unseeded countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and UAE, Australia has found itself with a golden opportunity to further enhance its reputation in the international community. Anything less than knock out qualification should be and will be deemed a failure for the Socceroos.

Yet failure should not even come in to the thoughts of Australian players and fans. The team has shown, through the World Cup qualification, The World Cup and numerous friendlies afterwards, that they are the real deal and rather than just being there to make up the numbers, they will have the capability to win the title.

Big guns in Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell should be back in action by then after long injury lay offs and with the Premier League nearing the end of its season, the players will be solely focused on the job at hand. Other encouraging news for the Socceroos is the form of stroke Mark Viduka. Viduka was another who had a long injury lay off due to a broken toe, but came back superbly for Middlesbrough by scoring a goal. The lay off in a way might have prolonged Viduka’s international career by giving his body a rest, something which is like gold in modern day football.

Although Viduka was widely criticized for his so called poor showing at the World Cup, he is a key member of this wonderful team and his importance was not recognised by fans all around the world. Although he might not have scored a lot of goals, his ability to hold off the ball and set up players like Bresciano, Cahill and Kewell was amazing. In modern day football, playing one striker upfront makes it extremely difficult for that man, who ever he maybe, as demonstrated by the likes of Wayne Rooney and co at the World Cup. The best of Viduka will only come out when he has someone to partner him up front.

Australian players are now playing a major role in club soccer all over the world, Vince Grella is captain of Serie A side Parma, Marco Bresciano starring for Palermaro, Jason Culina doing wonders for PSV Eindhoven, Lucas Neil captaining Blackburn and Tim Cahill being the main reason why Everton has done so well, the Asian Cup is in sight of the Socceroos.

What might also help the Socceroos is knowing that they have had more recent success than any of their fellow Asian heavy weights. They beat Japan convincingly at the World Cup and were the only Asian country to qualify for the last 16. With this in mind, anything is possible. Fingers crossed, the Asian Cup might be heading down under.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bye Bye Duncan

We here at The Match Referee have been warning you of the fate of the English cricket team and it's coach for some time yet. We implored Duncan Fletcher to play Monty Panesar ahead of Ashley Giles right from the first Test. Even Stuart MacGill got in the act. Alas, to no avail. Fletcher went ahead and shot himself in the foot by inexplicably dropping Chris Read, Monty Panesar and Saj Mahmood.

We also spelled out what would happen if England lost The Ashes, and sure enough the tough questions are being asked and the feeble answers given.

15 months ago Duncan Fletcher received heady praise for guiding the Poms to their first Ashes victory in half a generation. There was not a peep from him about how it was a joint effort between he and his players. Now that all his plays have backfired and resulted in three losses from three matches, we are being told that the blame should be shared.

Duncan Fletcher, that is pure and utter rubbish. Your players have given their all in a series that has been a lot closer than the results portray. They and your captain have been let down by your unfortunate penchant to favour certain players. Had you put the right personnel on the park at the outset, you may still be in with a show of taking The Ashes back home.

Fletcher wants us to believe that he should stay in top job because,
"I still have the players' confidence, they still come to me on numerous occasions and still talk to me about tactics. I have the respect of the players and that's very important."
The players come to you because it is your job to provide help and advice. You are the coach on tour and they have nobody else to turn to. The mere fact that they ask you a question does not imply that they do no believe somebody else is better suited for the job and it certainly should not be a factor in judging your performance over this series.

In a clear sign that reality has not yet caught up with Fletcher, he has told journalists that would not have changed the team for the first two Tests. The mark of a truly legendary tactician is to realise and admit his mistakes. Fletcher has proven himself to be no more than a mediocre tactician who had great captains in Vaughan and Hussain to paper over his shortcomings.

It is unfortunate that the English had to see their team humiliated in this fashion. It was up to Fletcher to cover some of the leadership slack felt by the team in Vaughan's absence. Results show beyond any doubt, that he has not been up to the task.

It is high time Duncan Fletcher bit the bullet and spared us of the his drivel about players' respect and six-month moving windows. Call a spade, a spade and cop genuine criticism on the chin. That is all English fans want.

Continued >> >>

South Africa vs India - Where To Now?

How does this victory rank with the others? Better than a series win in the West Indies? Maybe. The most significant victory for Indian cricket over the past decade? Most probably.

Although this is likely to be a point of great debate, we must not forget the bigger picture. Sure, the team has shown great resilience in returning with a vengeance after the humiliation of the ODI series. Sure, the old rifts that may have been created as a result of contentious selections have well and truly proven to be a phenomenon of the past. Not even the perennial naysayers would deny that the team has shown great fight during the match to weather difficult storms and come out the other side with their pride well and truly intact.

As well as this group of cricketers have done over the previous four days, many more challenges await in the very near future. Nobody is begrudging the players a few quiet ones, for they have deserved every last drop. However, we and they must not lose sight of the fact that reputations and results are based and judged on the basis of a series, not a single Test match.

A regular commenter on this blog who signs off as "XYZ", has raised the contention that maybe Team India are a bunch of mediocre players who should be labeled over-achievers each time they win a match, rather than under-achievers every time they lose. I have heard this argument before and I cannot help but disagree with the theory and the biases that give rise to it. IMHO, the current team is as talented as any other in world cricket at present. The differentiator between them and the best is in the mind. I am of the serious view that we are witnessing the proverbial turning the corner with reference to the perceived lack of mental fortitude within Team India.

However, the players must be aware that such sentiments can only be quashed with consistent and consistently excellent performances. For mine, the most heartening observation from the demolition act of the first Test was the lack of a single run-away star performance.

Sreesanth's heroics with the ball deserve the highest commendation. However, he would not have tasted success had it not been for the likes of Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan complimenting his wizardry with magic of their own, with complimentary dashes from VRV Singh. Similarly, the batting was a collective effort underpinned by the performances of Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman in the respective innings.

As X suggested, the team can be further improved for the remainder of the series. I believe Wasim Jaffer has the talent to play telling knocks for his country and should/will be persisted with for the rest of the series (especially if they win the next match). However, X makes a valid point in mentioning that VRV Singh needs to be replaced. I do not believe he is quite ready for Test Match cricket. He doesn't have the repertoire of deliveries that will consistently trouble top-class batsmen. Admittedly, he only played because Munaf Patel was injured. India need Munaf back in the side and bowling at full pace - that is when quick bowlers are at their most lethal. I reference this comment with the lack of success of even the most successful quick bowler in history, a certain Glen McGrath, when his pace is less than 130 km/h.

Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the gumption and fight that Ganguly exhibited on his return. I do not care how the runs are made, as long as they are made. Ganguly seems to have recently subscribed to this mantra and for Team India's sake I hope it pays rich dividends.

I would still suggest that Jaffer and Sehwag be given net practice on a concrete strip, with a bowling machine. These two are proven performers and deserve to be given every chance to succeed. Their lives are not going to get any easier, with the South African quicks picking up their game and the pitches likely to get faster. The South African camp didn't get the surface they had so publicly called for at the outset and a few harsh words will undoubtedly be offered to curators who refuse to come on board.

Team India has the mental and physical resources to cope with anything the South Africans throw at them. They have won key psychological battles with many of the opposition players - New Zealand proved a few seasons ago just how fallible the South Africans are when the going gets tough.

Congratulations on the victory gentlemen. Savour the moment and accept all accolades graciously. Hold your heads high and make sure you come at your opposition with redoubled fire and intensity. Winning a Test match is great, but winning a series will taste so much sweeter.

(All images courtesy Cricinfo.)

Continued >> >>

Monday, December 18, 2006

India Vs South Africa Analysis

Congratulations to Team India on a marvellous performance out there in the harsh conditions that South Africa throws up. Congratulations to all the supporters out there who stuck with the team during the lean times, to those supporters who didn’t call for Chappell’s head or Tendulkar’s and Dravid’s for that matter. In these last few days we have witnessed what a threat the Indian team is and what a bit of commitment can bring about. There were a number of factors for this decisive victory, on which I intend to elaborate.

First of all, let’s keep in mind who India was playing and where they were playing. South Africa is just as formidable at home as is Australia and India for that matter. Out of the last 80 odd test matches, they have only lost 13, with 8 of them being against the conquering Australians. To add to this, the pitches were biased in terms of South Africa and this was probably the toughest ground that India would play at on tour. The Wanderers is regarded as one of the fastest and bounciest tracks in the world.

One of the key components to this victory was Sreesanth. He bowled with pace, control and aggression. He was constantly up and around the 140km/h mark and this coupled with prodigious swing was in the end to hot for the opposition batsmen to handle. Let’s hope that this genuine fast bowler does not suddenly loose his pace, as many pace bowlers have done before him. Let’s also hope he can stay fit and strong and not fall to the deadly plague of injuries and loss of form which is currently gripping Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan respectively.

All of us who were able to watch the match saw how much Sreesanth loves to have a chat. In this game he was able to back that chat up with actions which is always a good thing. What he must not do is fall into the trap Andre Nel has and go over the top with everything. This will only lead to him loosing his intimidation factor and loosing respect in the batsmen’s eyes. Not only that, it will also lead to him being seen as a complete idiot like Nel is in the minds of many cricket fans around the world. Sledging is a part and parcel of the game, yet it needs to be done in a classy way like a McGrath or Warne might do it. There is a fine line between that and becoming a Nel.

One of the biggest let downs of the match would have to be Vikram Raj Vir Singh. All throughout his short career we have been hearing how quick the lad is meant to be. In fact reports were that he was the quickest bowler in India. With this in mind, I didn’t expect much of him as he is only young. But what I did expect was a fiery and hostile spell of genuine fast bowling from him. We didn’t see that, neither did we see him move the ball much, a combination which can only lead to doom and gloom. If one is not an outright quick bowler than he must know how to move the ball, especially at international standard, otherwise he just becomes bread and butter for the batsmen. Just ask Jimmy Anderson about that.

The bowlers did their job and the batsmen are slowly starting to find their feet. Sehwag looked good during the second innings, until he threw his wicket away by giving Gibbs some catching practice. Jaffer looked out of sorts in both innings and I don’t know why he is even in the team. I have constantly said that Gambhir would be a much better option at the top of the order with Sehwag, as they have a good working relationship and Gambhir is in some pretty decent form at the moment.

I think we should all leave Dravid alone at the moment. He did what a courageous captain would do and play with a broken finger, which isn’t fully healed at the moment. The time out in the middle should do him good for the remainder of the series. Along with Sreesanth’s bowling, the other most pleasing aspect of the game was Sachin Tendulkar’s batting. The man looked in total control right from the outset. Obviously Chappell and co had got into his ear and he made some technical adjustments, something which great batsmen do.

He was constantly trying to get on to the front foot and his stride was looking nearly as big as that of Ricky Ponting. His judgement was impeccable, he just knew which balls to leave and which ones to hit. The ones that were hit were just sublime. It reminded me of the great man that once tormented attacks all over the world. Lets not forget that Tendulkar has had injury troubles over the last couple of years and the only way to pile on the runs like he is used to doing, is to keep consistently playing cricket, something which he has not been able to do. But the signs are there and I can confidently say that a big knock is just around the corner. It took a great piece of bowling to get him out in the first innings and was unlucky in the second to chop a low one on to his stumps.

Ganguly and Laxman also looked good and solid in both innings and have silenced their critics for the mean time. It is important for both of them to realise, especially Ganguly, that one good knock isn’t the end of it all. He needs to back this up and do it consistently for India game after game. Dhoni will also come good soon. His technique means he will not be as consistent as the other batsmen but is always going to be a danger for opposition teams. He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition, much like a Gilchrist. All he needs to do is get in the nets and work on his shot selection, if able to do that than I can see no hindrance to him being on par with Gilchrist.

Although it was a convincing victory, a few changes could be made in the team. I would love to see Gambhir come in place of Jaffer and also see Pathan or Harbhajan in place of Singh. If Munaf is fit, then it will pose an interesting dilemma for the selectors.

It was a great effort by the team, but this is only the building block for the rest of the series. The team must not rest on their laurels, rather work even harder than before on improving themselves even further. India has put themselves in a great position to do to South Africa what no other team in the world has been able to do recently and that is beat them at home.

It will also be interesting to see how many ‘supporters’ (I don’t even know if they deserve that tag) try to quietly sneak back to on the band wagon. You guys should all really be ashamed of yourselves for the way you have treated the team in the past and should have a good hard look at yourselves and the way you think about the team in the future. The role of a supporter is to stick with the team through the tough times and the good times, not just the good ones.

Continued >> >>

Antagonised Africans

South Africans that is. Specifically, I refer to the likes of Nicky Boje and Graham Smith who seem to have arrived at a similar place of discontent, via different reasons, relating to the same man/group of men.

What rubbish is this, you ask? It is not rubbish it is the bleeding obvious.

The cracks in South Africa's elite cricket community were papered over the by the comprehensive demolition act of India during the ODI series. The results achieved in that series were as much due to the South African bowlers using conditions to their advantage, as it was to Indian batsmen deciding that things would sort themselves out, without any hard work or diligence.

Selection squabbles in post-Apartheid South African cricket have been fought rather publicly. Percy Sonn's last minute substitution of Justin Ontong for Jaques Rudolph in South Africa's tour of Australia in 05/06 is one such notable event that springs to mind. The latest selection scandal involved the forced non-selection of Andre Nel by Haroon Lorgat in the recently concluded ODI series against India, much to the chagrin on Graham Smith.

Yesterday, Nicky Boje slammed the selection panel and blamed them for forcing him to retire from international cricket. In a signal that there are simmering pockets of discontent within the national setup, Boje has warned that there could be a mass exodus of talent from South Africa (most probably to the benefit of England) if the communication lines between players and selectors are established and maintained. What he probably meant to say was that the selectors have no clue about what they are employed to do and there should be an overhaul of the whole selection committee.

Boje's woes were undoubtedly compounded by the fact that his captains, not only Smith, rarely had faith in his ability. If a captain does not believe a bowler has the ability to regularly take wickets, he is going to let the selectors know in very certain terms. Apparently, a similar situation dogged Indian left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.

Boje is not the only one with a chip on his shoulder. Graham Smith has apparently received tutelage from the Steve Waugh School of Captaincy and has tried to apply his Master's every instruction, mental disintegration included. Trouble, the technique works great when you're winning, however, it does have a habit of biting the perpetrator in the backside when he's losing.

Selection squabbles, personal poor form, an inconsistent Herschelle Gibbs, an unpatriotic Jaques Kallis and a regularly brittle middle order have transformed Smith from a big-talking private school-boy to a big-talking grumpy old man. He has lost his zing and his proclamations sound hollow. Maybe, just maybe, he needs Boje to make a comeback and take some wickets for him?

The sentiments floating around the current South African squad are in direct contrast to Team India, who seem to have welcomed Sourav Ganguly with open arms and everyone is getting along like a house on fire. All the meanwhile the Indian media is pulling its hair out, because the team just will not give it any juicy controversies to "report".

This all makes for a rather interesting series ahead. By no means am I presuming that India will win the first Test, although they should from their current position of strength. But, if they do win we could just be about to witness the unraveling of the South African machine. Graham Smith inclusive.

Continued >> >>

The Bandwagon Must Be Bristling Now

With new supporters that is - of Team India. The team has dominated the 1st Test against South Africa from the time Sachin Tendulkar strode to the crease in the first innings. In the context of the match and taking into account the movement inherent in the surface, Team India has taken this match by the scruff of the neck and never really looked like letting go.

Strange things happen on a cricket field, and for all we know the remaining South African batsmen may conjure up the gumption to defy the Indian attack and take their team to a seemingly impossible victory - unlikely, but possible. In the meanwhile, those same "fans" who ridicule the team at the slightest hint of an unfavourable result, will have undoubtedly jumped on the bandwagon and proclaim themselves to be card-carrying supporters.

Back to the real action, has Team India put up a finer all-round performance in conditions that cried out for grit, application and courage? After the disgraceful pitches we were delivered in the first two Ashes Tests, it is a pleasure to watch a match where making runs is not a mere coincidence of walking out to bat. For this, the Joburg curator should be heartily congratulated.

It is an even more satisfying experience to see the likes VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly displaying the spirit and will that many of us thought had escaped them over the years. Maybe I am being a little harsh on Laxman, as he has performed quite creditably in the Test arena over the past year or so. However, the manner of his dismissal in the final ODI led me to prematurely believe that maybe even he was on a permanent wane. I was glad to be proven wrong on this front.

I have nothing but hearty congratulations for Sourav Ganguly. Although I was praying otherwise, I did not think he would succeed in this series. I realise it is far too early to label his performances a "success", he has started off on the right foot and I, and all other fans, look forward to being treated to performances that could have been relegated to a by-gone era. He has returned fitter (something that a certain V Sehwag should consider) and seemingly hungrier and all signals emanating from the camp lead to the conclusion that he is playing the role of a quintessential team man.

However, quite controversially, I'm sure, I still believe that his place should have gone to a younger player. Stop-gap measures may be great for the interim, but when the future of the team is at stake, the hard decisions need to be made and stuck with. There would not have been a better environment to test the temperament and talent of a younger player than the conditions being currently experienced by the team. Alas, I hope Ganguly proves me totally wrong and plays a crucial hand in winning the Test series for his country.

Furthermore, I hope the selectors who left who left Sreesanth out of the team for the past few tournaments are having nightmares. The man is in the Ganguly mould - feisty, talented and confident. Sure he has been bowling in helpful conditions, but he has been able to prove that he has grown and matured, and most of all, he belongs.

I cannot find a bad thing to say about Sreesanth, not even his send off of Hashim Alma. Siddhartha Vaidyanathan listed this moment as his "lowlight of the day". However, I disagree vehemently. Finally, we have a bowler who doesn't just bow his head and accepts his fate. Finally, we have someone who can sledge with the best of them. He should be given a free rein to indulge in "mental disintegration" to his his heart's content. I am sick and tired of the genial and well-mannered Indian "fast" bowler. Sreesanth is a real fast bowler with attitude. Let the kid have a good time, especially if he can shock the likes of Andre Nel into shutting up. Glen McGrath better watch out.

Like most Indian fans, I'll be in front of the TV when play starts today and will be praying for a swift and incisive display from Team India. Beat them and beat them well lads.

Continued >> >>

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sourav Ganguly Would Be Proud

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that a simple post criticising Dilip Vengsarkar and his fellow fools selectors would draw such a heated response.

Some of you may know that we also post some of our articles to Desicritics. I wrote this article about the recent overhaul of the Indian cricket team and also posted it on Desicritics. The passionate, bordering on abusive, responses from Sourav Ganguly fans proved to be quite an insight (and an equally hilarious one) into the minds of the average Indian cricket fan.

Sample some of these, err, heated responses to my published thoughts:
"It seems that this author understands nothing, like a cart puller is giving lecture on what apparatuses India should use on Chandrayan. Why not a 'Kadai', it will help to collect rain water in Moon atmosphere !!!"

"this author has gone crazy.. he needs to go and get his basic understanding of cricket rectified.."

And this after Ganguly scored the 83 in the warm-up match:



I must say that this was the best of the lot:
"What Mr. Enigma, Ganguly's 83 was a solid slap in the face of you and your likes. You must be a pathetic looser who loves to lick Greg Chappell and Kiran More."

I'm not sure if Ganguly would be proud or disgusted at the ferocity with which his backers respond to a suggestion that he should not be in the team.

Regular readers of this space would understand my love for Ganguly's talent, in his prime. However, even after his innings of 83, I do not believe that he is the right choice for the Indian middle order in South Africa. This opinion has nothing to do with being anti-Ganguly, because I'm definitely not. It has all to do with his performances on the international stage over the past 2-3 seasons and his marked decline in form and gumption when the going gets tough.

I am the first one to hope and pray that Team India and Sourav Ganguly succeed in the Test series. Why wouldn't I want to see those silken drives piercing seven fielders through the off-side? Especially now that he is likely to be in the XI for the first Test, I hope against all hope that Ganguly does his nation proud - just like he used to.

Until then, I will resign myself to dreaming about what it would be like to "lick Greg Chappell and Kiran More." After all, that is what "pathetic losers" do, right?

Continued >> >>

Come One, Come All To The New TMR

It has been a few days since this page has been updated with our self-proclaimed "unadulterated and insightful" content, for this I offer you all a sincere apology.

Due to a number of reasons that venture beyond our migration to the Blogger Beta platform, we have been unable to offer update this blog as frequently as we, and no doubt you, would prefer.

This is not a place where we bore you with the exciting happenings of our day-to-day lives, so I will spare you the pain. However, we have been busy ensuring that all pages and bits of code are functioning as intended subsequent to our migration to the Beta platform.

We have noticed that many of you like to navigate our blog using the Delicious tags that are found at the bottom of every page. Subsequent to our shift to beta, we are still looking for a solution that enables us to append each post with relevant Delicious tags. Although the tags may not show at the end of each post, the article will still be appropriately tagged with Delicious. We urge those that have not experienced the power of tags, to give them a go via the tags section on the right sidebar.

Another popular source of clicks are the listings of selected articles, also on the right sidebar. They have proved extremely popular since we introduced them. We would appreciate feedback on what other content you would like to see linked on the right sidebar.

Looking forward, we will be introducing syndication feeds for comments. We want to continue our interaction with you by enabling you to be informed of new comments that are posted and/or replies to comments that you may have left.

Any feedback, on any topic, is always welcomed - either in comments or via email. Hit us up when you have time. Posting will be a lot more regular, up until new year's day at the very least. :>

Continued >> >>

Thursday, December 14, 2006

PCB's Shoaib Akhtar Magic Trick

I know it has been a while since the news broke. I also realise the dust has well and truly settled since then, but I feel it pertinent to the survival of our very own little blogosphere, to comment on the farce that is Shoaib Akthar and Mohammad Asif's doping trial.

In what can only be described as the a very skillful piece of deceit and skulduggery witnessed in the sport of cricket over the past decade or so, the PCB must be recognised for their strategic thinking skills. The chain of events leading to Akhtar and Asif being found not guilty is as good as, if not better than, any sham that the likes of Fidel Castro or Saddam Hussein could have pulled off in their hey day.

For all my commendation of the manner in which the PCB acted to apprehend and punish the two junkies, I am totally and utterly disgusted by the events that have transpired thereafter. We should have all known this was on the horizon.

This may come across as racist, biased, most stereotypical; however, what more could we expect of cricket Board that has a military dictator as it's Patron-in-Chief? This is a country that has practiced below-the-belt acts, both on and off the cricket field. This is the same country that produces a bowler who unabashedly proclaims to count the President of his nation among his advisers.

I ask you the question, who's shoulders do we lay this charade on? Is it the PCB for pulling the wool over our eyes by what seemed, initially, to be the actions of an honest and responsible administration? Or is it President Musharraf himself, who seems to have more than an a hint of involvement in this affair? Why else would Shoaib Akthar claim to have been told to keep his trap shut by none other than President Mushy himself?

So many questions, and I can guarantee you the answers will never be forthcoming. Just like the country's dictator, the Pakistani Cricket Board has proven that it is not worthy of a single shred of benefit of the doubt on any issue henceforth. It is a pathetic and conniving institution that has continually selected and supported players and umpires (remember Shakoor Rana) who have indulged in acts of foul-play without every being adequately punished for their actions.

This latest episode only proves that nothing has changed since 1947 and that the PCB will run miles to ensure that its own are shielded from processes that are designed to justly judge a one's innocence, or otherwise. Vanished, has any faith I had that Pakistani authorities might ever behave in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TMR Update

Hi Folks,

We apologise for the lack of posts over the past week or so. We have been busily trying to sort out our shift to the blogger beta platform. Suffice to say, it has been a lot more painful than we first envisaged.

We will be posting again in a very short while. Please bear with us in the meantime.

Cheers. Continued >> >>

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dilip Vengsarkar Returns To The Bad Old Days

X had his say on the issue here, for the first time in his life his views were balanced and subdued. His replies to comments on this blog are a testament to his fiery nature.

Talking of fiery, I'm fired up. Dilip Vengsarkar and his new selection committee have taken Indian cricket back to the dark ages. Back to the day when selection for Team India was based on who you knew rather than merit. The days when selectorial whims were given higher priority than talent. The days when "for the good of Indian cricket" was just a pretty phrase that held no significance for the 5 wise men.

All the commendable weening performed by Kiran More and his gang, spurred in no small manner by Greg Chappell, has been wholly and drastically undone in the space of two selection committee meetings. More and co were eventually persuaded to take tough decisions for the benefit of Indian cricket. The twin goals of ridding the team of conflicting influences and under-performing stars and injecting fresh talent were successfully achieved.

Players like Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble were jettisoned from one or both teams (Test and ODI) for a multitude of reasons that included fitness issues, prolonged loss of form and attitude. The new talent that took their place was asked to exhibit the right attitude and a willingness to learn and develop their games. Along the way the new blood was also given the opportunity to display flashes of brilliance.

After achieving resounding success in their first season, man international cricketers have found the going a lot tougher in the subsequent period. Opposition teams work on the player's weaknesses and/or the player may also lose the touch that had initially befriended him.

Question being, after you have decided to bite the bullet and commit your resources to developing new talent, would not your investment in youth be better served by creating and testing a pool of new players, in the event that one or two of them lose form or are found to be unfit for international cricket? If a young player has lost form after an extended run, would it not make more sense to ask him to return to domestic cricket whilst replacing him with a another talented young gun who has been performing as well, if not better than the experienced players that were initially dropped?

Most people would answer with a resounding, YES!

What has Sourav Ganguly achieved in domestic cricket to warrant a recall to the national team? A solitary century at a strike rate of under 50, against an attack of Ashish Nehra, G Singh, J Sharma and and R Sharma does not maketh a champion again. Anybody who thinks that Ganguly is back in form is kidding themselves.

While Ganguly is pointing to a lone century, what magnificent feat has VVS Laxman performed over the last two months in domestic one day cricket to earn a recall to the ODI team? Absolutely nothing. When he was given a chance to prove his ODI credentials, his fitness (surprise, surprise) was found wanting. Surely, it would have made more sense to replace Rahul Dravid with any one of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa or even Rohit Sharma. My exasperation at the selection of Kumble, Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik does not need to be repeated.

Furthermore, what was the rationale behind handing the vice-captaincy to Laxman? I have been opining for some time that Virender Sehwag (and Suresh Raina, for that matter) needs to play some domestic one-day cricket to find his touch again and work out exactly what works for him in the shorter version of the game. However, was it really necessary to strip him of the vice-captaincy just before he was required to lead his team on the field of play for the remainder of the ODI series. Was it necessary to give it to a man who is not guaranteed a place in either team? I think not.

A struggling team is not going to be helped by the presence of out-of-form players, no matter how experienced they may be. Experience has its place in sport, but, not if it is not supported by form.

The only clear signals emanating from the Vengsarkar selection committee is that if you engage in enough politicking through the media and can produce one significant performance in a whole year of domestic cricket, you will have done enough to qualify for selection to Team India. Hell, Laxman has proved that you do not even have to score meaningful runs to earn an esteemed leadership position with the team's management structure.

We all rejoiced when many of the old ills of Indian cricket ended with the inception of the John Wright era. We can all cringe now, for those very ills are well and truly back.

Thank you Dilip Vengsarkar, you are doing Indian cricket proud.

Continued >> >>

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fix The Pitches

The Australian’s have to be the biggest hypocrites in the world. For years and years we have heard criticism of pitches all over the world. The sub continent is to slow, low and turns too much, there is no help for fast bowlers. The Caribbean is to slow and low. It swings too much in England. Well have they ever looked at their own pitches. In the past they have boasted that their pitches are world class, giving every facet of the game a chance to shine. But recently we have just seen roads, giving only the batsmen a chance to shine.

Where has the early seam movement gone? Why is it taking so long to take turn? The Gabba pitch was one of the hardest for opening batsmen to handle in the whole world. The first morning of the first test would be a baptism of fire for any batsmen. The moisture in the pitch would allow the ball to move around a bit and after that it would flatten out a bit for the batsmen. But what did we see last week? Runs, runs and more runs. Simply not good enough. It just becomes boring to watch when the game is so one sided.

The fact that England could score 370 runs in their second innings against the likes of Lee, McGrath and Warne, proved that their first innings was just a one off. It is about time that the Australians started looking after their own back yard before commenting on others. The fact is that every country has a particular characteristic which gives the home side the “home side advantage.”

If all pitches in the world were the same then we would not see the class players we see today and test cricket just would not be a test anymore. We don’t hear other countries complaining that the ball bounces too much in Australia, so why should the Australian’s have to complain about foreign conditions? From what I have seen of late, all pitches all over the world give every facet of the game a chance to shine, apart from Australia. No wonder Ricky Ponting and co are scoring so many runs.

Continued >> >>
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