Sunday, September 30, 2007


Somebody Get Munaf Patel A Dictionary


Sample this, courtesy of Cricinfo:

"What is this intensity?"

Is Munaf Patel kidding? I admit the title of this post is somewhat facetious, but the intent is definitely not so.

If you have seen Munaf Patel play for India over the last 4-6 months, even if you were as blind as Stevie Wonder you would have noticed the sluggishness and lack of "intensity" that has characterised his every performance. The mind boggles at the number of times he coughed up easy runs in the field and then flashed a grin, as if to say, "ah well, sh*t happens." Don't even get me started on the his lackluster performances with ball in hand.

It is now apparent that Patel still hasn't got the clear message that he needs to put in more and let the ball do the talking. What class of clown puts in abysmal performances for his country and then has the gumption to yell:
"Let somebody tell me to my face that my attitude is not right."

If only somebody would tell Munaf Patel to hit me up via the email address provided on this page and I'll organise a place and time to tell him exactly how much his attitude is so off the boil.

Munaf needs to zip it quick fast and take the lead of his former vice-captain, Virender Sehwag, and use his time away from the national squad to get fitter and improve his weaknesses. If he wants an example of what happens to players who disappear without a trace when they spout rubbish on selection issues, he need look no further than Dinesh Mongia.

The ball is now in Munaf Patel's court. It is up to him to decide whether he wants to smash it right back or lamely limp off the court and try to settle his scores from the sidelines.

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Continued >> >>

Andrew Symonds: Sparks Of Jealousy


It's quite obvious that Australia's bundling out at the Twenty20 World Cup at the hands of Team India has cut deep. Very deep. So much so that Andrew "Roy" Symonds was compelled to voice his displeasure at the unadulterated display of euphoria that greeted the Aussie's arrival in India.

I've got a simple piece of advice for ya Roy - shut up and cop it.

Symonds' confused mutterings will undoubtedly bring a wry smile to the faces of many non-Australian fans who have endured years of failure, frustration and often injustice at the hands of Australia.

It must be said that most wounded champions deal with failure by shutting up shop and steeling themselves to demolish their opposition at the next opportunity. Those former champions that publicly deride their opponents for doing nothing more than celebrating well-earned victory expose only their arrogance and set themselves up for more failure.

Andrew Symonds', as good a player as he is, must understand his position in this big, bad world. He is no Shane Warne or Glen McGrath. These two players could spout rubbish at their opposition (remember McGrath naming his bunny at the start of every series) and usually get away with it because they were masters of their art. Symonds' needs to concentrate on improving his cricket so he can avoid embarrassment, especially if he intends to talk more nonsense in the future.

Just as an aside, why is it such an Australian trait to complain when the proverbial hits the fan?

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Continued >> >>

ICC World Twenty20 Final


I apologise for the lack of posting over the last couple of weeks. I could scarcely believe that the ICC could actually put on a tournament (of a high degree of frivolity, it must be qualified) that didn't bore spectators to death and then Team India did the unthinkable.

It has taken me a few days to get over the stupor of seeing my team win and anything that I could have possibly wanted to write since that epic final has been written many times over. So I'll leave you with a few lasting images from that wonderful day. Do not hesitate to plaster it all over your own desktops:





I'd love to be able to photoshop out of the photo the three stooges standing at the back of this photo:



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Continued >> >>

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Shoaib Akhtar: Liar Liar Pants On Fire


Quite obviously, being convicted of ball tampering, taking performance enhancing drugs and being the thorn in the side of any decent soul who has ever tried to do any good for Pakistan cricket isn't enough. Shoaib Akhtar decided he needed to bash one his team mates - with a bat, no less - to prove his point.

The point is, nobody seems to quite understand what Akhtar's point actually was.

A typically Shoaib Akhtar-esque situation has resulted in more questions than answers. Why did the fight start? Who were the protagonists? Was Shahid Afridi the peacemaker, or was it Mohammad Asif? Which company sponsored the bat that Akthar used to strike Asif? Will the said company use Akhtar and that darned bat in an advertising campaign?

On a more serious note, we have been fed absolutely conflicting versions of the events that led to Pakistan's most potent immature fast bowler of the modern generation being sent home for the second time within 12 months from an ICC event. It seems clear to me that Akhtar has taken a few liberties with the truth in an attempt to weasel his way out of an extremely tight spot.

Another question: how will the PCB punish Mohammad Asif for speaking out on the issue, after the Board issued a diktat warning all players not to do so.

It must come as no surprise to regular readers of The Match Referee that the various comment pieces from the usual suspects have left me slightly flabbergasted. It surprises me that there hasn't been a unanimous call for a permanent ban to be handed down to Akhtar. Instead, some people are wondering whether this is the end of the road for the rogue paceman.

Pakistan cricket, similar to the country itself, needs swift and decisive action. Only tough and exacting measures will bring about a sense of normalcy that is so abhorrently lacking in the current setup. There is no point pondering over what action might be a fair punishment.

There is only possible step and it must be taken to rid the game of cricket of one its most unwanted fools. Shoaib Akhtar must be banned.

Continued >> >>

Monday, September 10, 2007


Matt Prior Becomes First Casualty Of English Summer


For a while after the England v India Test series it seemed as if Ian Chappell had been personally slighted by Matt Prior, such was the vehemence with which he was arguing for Prior's axing. The English selectors might just have been listening, for Prior has been been omitted from the list of 12 centrally contracted English players.

Nothing has yet been officially uttered by the England management, but one would have to guess that Prior's England career is all but over. I include his ODI career in that last comment, because he simply did not do enough with the bat to warrant his place in the team at the top of the order, especially now that Luke Wright looks to have at least a brief future at the top of the English order.

If nothing else, we will now be spared of that annoying and unnecessary chirping from behind the stumps.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Tendulkar To Retire


Breaking the big stories is the Match Referee's forte' and dont we have a massive one here. Get out the tissue paper ladies and gentlemen because we have reliably learnt from sources close to the great man himself that his retirement from the One Day format of the game is imminent.

18 years at the top level, coupled with the burden of carrying an entire nation’s hopes during that time has eventually taken its toll on Sachin Tendulkar who has almost certainly decided to retire from One Day International Cricket.

He had previously planned to play on and make the next World Cup in India his swan song but recent injuries and demanding nature of the game has eventually caught up with him. Tendulkar had planned to announce his retirement on the tour of England but close friends such as Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh urged him to do so back home in India, where he has brightened the lives of so many people.

More news to follow on this one and I will hand it over to Ayush T to analyse the great masters great career.

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Continued >> >>

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Darryl Hair Saga: The "R" Word Raises Its Ugly Head


Malcolm Conn believes Darryl Hair's sacking from the ICC's Elite Panel of umpires was "disgraceful". The Match Referee has vehemently maintained that Hair's illogical and self-serving actions deserved a much earlier wave goodbye. The only disgrace here is that Conn and his ilk continue to support a selfish and attention-seeking umpire who put personal agendas above those of the game he was appointed to serve.

To date, cries of racism in cricket have been the sole domain of the non-Anglo Saxon nations (it must be said that such claims have often been based on nothing more than sour grapes). However, as has been his wont throughout his chequered career, Darryl Hair is about to set the record straight, for all the wrong reasons.

For as long as I care to remember, at work or school, if you have a problem with something you don't dob in another student, colleague or friend. Hair has shown us that he cares little for such social norms and will the basis of his case against the ICC will be a very childish, "but, he got away with it", in reference to Billy Doctrove.

I've got news for you Darryl, it's not racism, its your track record. This is not the time to blame an innocent party, but to take responsibility for your incredulous and unnecessary actions on and off the cricket field.

Unfortunately, we all know that the chances of Hair taking responsibility for his mistakes are about as likely as him losing weight. So pucker up and watch this man's feeble and inadequate allegations get thrown right back in his face.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Australia Sweat Over Langer's Replacement


The Australian team has almost been forgotten after not being involved in a serious cricket match since the completion of the World Cup. It has been an almost perfect setting to allow them to plan for the absence of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and, to a lesser extent, Justin Langer in their future.

The replacements for Warne and McGrath are already in the system and have tasted success at some level. Players like Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus will be tried over the next few series to find a long-term replacement for McGrath. Stuart MacGill will do a reasonable job in place of Shane Warne.

It is the role of opening batsman that will be trickier to fill. The drawback of having a steady and consistent opening partnership over a number of years is the lack of knowledge pertaining to the relative quality of the bench-warmers. Phil Jaques was dropped after scoring 96 on ODI debut against South Africa. Chris Rodgers hasn't showed us his face in an international.

These two players, along with wildcard Shane Watson, are tipped to replace Langer as Australia's second opening batsman. Personally, I do not believe Watson has what it takes to be a Test match opener. A handy late order batsman, maybe, but not an opener. Mark Taylor has a point when he opines that Australia need wickets from Watson, more than they need inconsistent runs at the top of the order.

Asking Shane Watson to open may send him the way of India's Irfan Pathan, whose bowling fell away to such an extent that he lost his confidence in dramatic fashion. From the little he has shown us, I do not believe Watson's bowling is of a level that will rip through good international batting line-ups. Until he manages to develop a couple of balls that move off the straight at pace and with control, he will only manage to hold up an end for a few overs, at best.

The experience of Andrew Symonds has proven the size of the leap from ODI to Test cricket. I don't believe, and I don't think anybody else does either, that Shane Watson is a better cricketer than Symonds. If Symonds struggled so much after being given a consistent run, what fate awaits Watson if he is able to string together a few matches?

Keeping all this in mind, why not give him the best possible chance of success by playing him in a position where his is most comfortable - at seven or eight. We must remember that McGrath and Warne are not around any more to save the day.

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Continued >> >>

England v India: Its Not Just A Laugh


Time has come for Indian cricket to stop offering excuses about why certain players have not a chance in hell of doing the basics right. Bending one's knees to pick up a ball rolling along the ground is not rocket science. Letting through hundreds of runs, over the course of a series, because players simply cannot be bothered doing the basics is deplorable and inexcusable.

It frustrates me to know end to see the likes of Ramesh Powar, Munaf Patel and Sourav Ganguly making elementary fielding errors and then smiling and laughing straight after the fact. The smiles may be a direct result of their embarrassment, but it's obvious that any such embarrassment has not spurred them into improving that facet of their game.

This group of offending players have had enough chances to work on their fielding and bring it up to an acceptable standard. This situation is hindering the whole team and turning them into the laughing stock of the international cricket community.

It is high time that all players who cannot field at an acceptable standard are not selected to represent India. A bowler is not only a bowler and a batsman is not only a batsman. These 'specialists' spend a majority of their time fielding and it is of crucial importance that they we competent enough in this area before being selected in an Indian squad or team.

At the very least, it will send the message that poor fielding will not be excused, nor tolerated. Even the best bowlers would not have been what they were had it not been for the fielders around them. India, with their current attack, can ill-afford a fielding unit that gifts runs like a leaky tap.

For all the experience and/or skill that Powar, Ganguly and Patel bring to Team India. They need to be benched until they display a discernible lift in their fielding standards. Until then, they are a burden on Team India and superfluous to requirements.

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Continued >> >>

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


BCCI v ICL: All Logic Flies Out The Window


Homer is incensed at the treatment meted out to, now former, Mumbai captain Nilesh Kulkarni. He asks some very valid, if not rhetorical, questions about the conduct of the selectors responsible for Kulkarni's dumping.

For mine, the BCCI and its trusted cronies affiliates have no idea what has hit them. Unfortunately for the old bloc, they don't have the ability to judge a threat for its real worth and act accordingly. If they did, they would realise that the ICL is not a threat at all, but an opportunity to change the face of world cricket and get wealthier in the process.

If the simpletons that 'run' the BCCI had slightly more intelligence that a pink flamingo, they wouldn't have required a second invitation to take a share of the spoils.

Instead, we are left with a situation where typical babu-style arrogance and short-sightedness has forced a loyal servant of the game with no option but to shrug his shoulders and sign with the ICL. At least nobody can accuse Kulkarni of chasing big money over national/state pride.

So Homer, fret not, otherwise you will do serious damage to your health. The treatment meted out to Kulkarni will be repeated with countless other players, because the BCCI knows not to pick on kids its own size. Indeed, Kulkarni and all others in a similar position, will be forced to jump, in a futile attempt by the idiots-that-be to save themselves and their greedy leader any "real or imagined" embarrassment.

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Continued >> >>

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


England v India: Does Anybody Care About The ODIs?


That is not a question asked in jest. After an almighty Test series that left us all chomping at the bit for a couple of encore performances, do seven meaningless ODIs hold any significance with us cricket fans?

I don't know about you, and for this reason I'd like you to tell me, but the matches start at 11.30pm Australian Eastern time and that doesn't leave much of an appetite in my stomach to watch England get trounced - again.

Ok, ok. Maybe I am being a little unfair to the Poms in this case. They are a team that made it to the Super 8's of the that World Cup, whereas Team India crashed out rather early. I also recall them beating Australia in the most meaningless of triangular series held at the start of this year.

Even then I cannot seriously entertain the thought of an English upset in this ODI series. For mine, this series is about individuals rather than the team. Players like Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma (if he plays) have a chance to make a lasting name for themselves.

Although, this is not a make or break series for any of these three players, successive failures will increase the pressure on Yuvraj to justify his reputation as the heir apparent the thrones of the fab four. Chawla and Sharma will hopefully be treating us to their wiles for many years to come. As I have opined previously, giving them an extended taste of the big time will stand them in good stead for the future, when the senior players of today stage a collective disappearing act.

For the Poms, I seriously hope Andrew Flintoff remains fit and fighting for the duration of the series. He, along with, Kevin Pietersen are the only two English players capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck and posing any real threat to the chances of an Indian series triumph. Flintoff, especially, has been a bane for Indian batsmen over the past 2-3 years and English fans will be hoping that he hits his straps earlier in the series, rather than later.

Prediction: An Indian series victory

What's your call?

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Continued >> >>

Monday, August 20, 2007


ICL v BCCI: A Walkover Looms


In comprehensive favour of the ICL, that is. Especially with the announcement that four of Pakistan's most important and talented players: Inzimam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzak, and Imran Farhat have stuck a boot in the PCB's bloated belly and opted for a more professional organisation that is not run by greedy and unqualified despots.

Organisations like the BCCI, ICC and PCB have got away with gross mismanagement and utter ineptitude for far too long. It has taken an organisation with some semblance of vision and, more importantly, cash to burn, to confront cricket's traditional rulers. This moment, for us fans, couldn't have come at a more opportune moment in the game's history.

The winds of change have gathered such momentum that they are about to sweep with them most cricketers who would otherwise have been called upon by Team India in case of injury and/or (in the absence of illogical selection policies) poor form of one of the incumbents. Players like Deep Dasgupta, Thiru Kumaran, JP Yadav, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Mongia have all represented their country or the 'A' team, at one time or another.

It is unfortunate that the BCCI could not heed the calls of cricket's stakeholders in time to avoid impending humiliation. Time is one commodity the BCCI has had no shortage of. What more could we have expected from the BCCI when it is run along the lines of Indian politics where development is a dark term and progress is best left to chance, rather than achieved through design?

What Does The Future Hold?

I have no doubt that the ICL will stage very successful and entertaining matches in stadiums that are not sorry excuses for gallows. They will make money, and plenty of it too. The crunch, for the BCCI, will come when the ICL expands to one-day cricket and impinges on the BCCI's traditional territory.

At this time, I have very little doubt that this war will go the way of the Australian Rugby League v Super League battle, some years ago. Both parties will not be able to offer a complete package to their employees, without joining hands with each - on some level.

After gaining official accreditation with the ICC, the ICL will develop into a competition similar to that of football's English Premier League or rugby's Super 14. It will be interesting to observe how international cricket fits into a calendar which is being increasingly dominated by a club/franchise-based multinational competition.

Until Then...

Lets enjoy the bickering and the BCCI's futile attempts to gain lost ground against a rampaging ICL setup. If nothing else, we might just be treated to a competition run by people who care as much for the sport as they do for their bank accounts.

I just hope that the ICL can deliver what it has promised. Even if it does fail in organising a well-oiled, global cricket competition, I would be happy if it managed to kick Sharad Pawar, Niranjan Shah, Lalit Modi, et al out of office with their tails well and truly entrenched between their fat legs.

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Continued >> >>

Pink Cherries To Pop Those Of Cancer


An ingenious fund raising idea from cricketers, we feel. Australian cricketers have, in recent times, been fairly vocal about the causes they support. A very noble act from stars using their immense public profiles to shed light on their chosen charities.

The idea of pink Test match grade cricket balls being auctioned off to support the fight against cancer is an idea we should all get behind, if for nothing else, then just to claim that our house is home to one of only 200 pink cricket balls ever made.

Word has it that the cherries, signed by a host of cricketing legends past and present, will go on sale sometime in the next week. Keep a look out for the said auction at the Sunsmart website.

Until then, join us here at The Match Referee in congratulating Carl Rackemann and the boys for partaking in this most noble of causes.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, August 19, 2007


An Englishman And A Beamer


Michael Atherton, that selfless defender of batsmen's livelihoods and bane of the cunning and evil band of beamer bowling bowlers, has not been heard from in that curious case of the Chris Tremlett beamer. We all know Atherton's expedience in lambasting India's Shantakumran Sreesanth when the bowler's post-beamer apology simply did not cut it with the former England captain.

The furore that Sreesanth's bouncer created in the Kingdom says as much for how flustered the commentators and the media were by the barrage that had just hit their national team. Atherton's double standards have been well exposed by all and sundry. For a man that has never worn a fast bowler's boots, his outburst seemed rather ill-informed, callous and sensationalist.

Sreesanth's beamer did not look good from any angle, but then beamers seldom do. As quick as the beamer was bowled, so was an apology tendered to a diving Kevin Pietersen.

It takes an extremely cynical washed up ex-player pundit to presume that any one of Brett Lee, Sreesanth or Chris Tremlett would ever intentionally bowl the most hideous of deliveries one can be witness to on a cricket pitch.

I have deliberately not added the name of one express Pakistani fast bowler to the list of three names above. I wonder what venom Atherton would spew if the said bowler happened to send an Englishman crashing unceremoniously to Earth with a tasteless ball that simply knows not how to bounce.

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Continued >> >>

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


India Defeats England - Presentation Ceremony Videos


For some strange reason, probably at the sponsor's behest, two 'Man of the Series' awards were presented: to one member of each team. Surely, the presentation of two 'Man of the Series' awards is a contradiction in terms. Surely.

Note, however, the graciousness with which Michael Vaughan accepts defeat and lauds Team India, but also his own players. This man, along with his Indian counterpart Rahul Dravid, is the epitome of the finest breed of sportsman - tough as nails on the park, humble and grounded off it. I hope Ricky Ponting was taking a few notes.

I won't keep you waiting much longer, this is the presentation to the English team, interviews with the two Men of the Series, Zaheer Khan and James Anderson, and the post-match interview with Michael Vaughan:



This is the presentation to Team India (the expression on each and every Indian player's face tells a thousand words about the journey the team has travelled, none more so than Sachin Tendulkar) and post-match interview with our man Rahul Dravid:



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Continued >> >>

India Beats England - Nothing Else Matters


Forget the World Cup. Forget the Greg Chappell saga. Forget all the near misses of the recent past. For heaven's sake, forget the fact that Rahul Dravid didn't enforce the follow-on. For, this is a time to stand and scream yourself hoarse to celebrate a ground-breaking Indian victory.

Team India's performance during this tour of England has been the most comprehensive and cohesive display of teamwork that any Indian cricket team, for the last 20 years, has put on show. If there was ever an example for why a good team will always triumph over a set of stunning individuals, this is the most fitting.

Every player from No 1 to No 11 played a significant role somewhere along the line. These little contributions may not have been as heroic as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 76 at Lords, masterly as Sachin Tendulkar's 91 and 82 or stunning as Zaheer Khan's 5-fer in the second Test, but they all helped to forge the path to a well deserved victory.

For once in my life, I find myself agreeing with Andrew Miller, when he makes the point that many Indian fans have allowed their cricketing judgement to be so skewed by "burger bar" cricket that they have managed to lose all perspective. This situation is unfortunate as it may dampen the joy that many of the said fans may have otherwise felt. However, the naysayers will keep on neighing. To be brutally honest, life wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable without them.

In the meanwhile, let me take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Rahul Dravid and Team India for all that they have delivered over the past few weeks - may much, much more await us in the coming months and years.

Be sure to cherish and savour the sweetness of a series victory, 21 years in the making. Amid the confusion that abounds in all our worlds, let's not forget that nothing else matters.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, August 12, 2007


India v England Third Test: Self Interest Never Pays


Cricket is a team game and Team India has proven over throughout this series just how rich the dividends can be, if effective teamwork is used to confront challenges. With all this evidence at hand, it was extremely perplexing to observe English coach Peter Moores asking his batsman to put self-interest above those of the team's.

In this day and age of micro-analysis, Moores might have known that the Indians have posted 16 half-century partnerships during the Test series. These partnerships have blunted England's attacks early and clinically shredded them to bits when the time has been right.

This effectiveness of the Indian's style of play would have been illustrated to an even greater degree if Anil Kumble had not scored his well deserved century. I'm not begrudging one of India's greatest his deserved success, I'm merely trying to illustrate how off kilter the English thinking has been ever since they began their first innings.

As an aside, Anil Kumble is the epitome of selflessness. You would not find the term "self-interest" in his vocabulary. His influence on Team India's clinical, cohesive and mature game plan in this series cannot be underestimated.

Somewhere along the path of defending his rowdy and beleaguered players, Peter Moores has lost sight of what his team really needs. The English camp should not lose sight of the fact that they play a team game.

Team's are built on the graft and selflessness of the collective. Individual sparks of genius only serve to provide that little extra oomph when required and make the game more interesting for us spectators.

As an Indian, I would like to thank Peter Moores for getting his priorities so badly out of order and making our series victory that much easier. Pete, you're a legend.

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Continued >> >>

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


India v England: Time To Go For The Jugular


Time and again, over the past nine days or so, Rahul Dravid and his Team India have been reminded of their rather sorry record after having won a test on overseas soil. The reason for this rather unfortunate record has baffled many on the outside, and I don't hesitate in saying that Team India are also unlikely to be able to pinpoint the reason behind such their dismal record.

IMHO, if Team India plays positively, and plays to win the third Test, the worst result they will have to endure will be a draw. We all know what that means for the result of the series.

Matt Prior is not going to shut up and Kevin Pietersen will definitely play. With Michael Vaughan in the best form he has been in for half a decade and the bowling looking to take advantage of the reverse swing on offer, England are going to come out hard, very hard.

The Indians have shown that the days of them being overawed by a show of strength from the opposition are long gone. An adequate reply to England's likely fire and brimstone approach will comprise a mixture of attitude, shrewdness and positivity.

Team India should know by now that trying too hard is just as ineffective as complacency. I don't believe Rahul Dravid will allow the mistakes of yesteryear to be repeated in what is likely to prove the biggest five days in Indian cricket since that at the SCG in 2003/04.

This Test will be a duel of the minds, as much as it will be a contest between bat and ball. The group of players that hold their nerve and take the game by the scruff of the neck when the opportunity presents, will come out on top.

I have little doubt (as I opined before Test 2) that this group of players will be sitting in the Indian dressing room, come the end of Day 5.

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Continued >> >>

Carlos Tevez: Manchester United Move (Almost) Sealed


Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team could well have done without the farcical sequence of events that have transpired since United showed interest in West Ham's Carlos Tevez. Now been learned that Tevez was never West Ham's asset, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter by the day.

Manchester United's own website, via The Daily Express, reported the final details of Tevez's transfer five days ago. It seems the BBC, that fine British institution that upholds the sanctity of fact over sensationalism, has finally been able to confirm the details of Tevez's move to Old Trafford.

There's no point regurgitating the financial details of the transfer, you can read those yourself, but it got me thinking about where the future of player ownership is heading.

Admittedly, footballers are not the sharpest tools in the shed, but with some proper advice and guidance a player in the future could well set up a family trust that "owns" him and receives the majority of the transfer fee when the player changes clubs. Just like West Ham, in Tevez's case, the old club will get some semblance of compensation for training the player and aiding his professional development to the then present stage, but the majority of the transfer fee would remain with the family trust or other equivalent legal entity.

For all those budding sports agents out there, anyone got a clue about how this may work? Drop us a line or leave a comment. In the meanwhile, here's to hoping a fit and in form Carlos Tevez lights up Old Trafford and every other stadium that he and his Manchester United team mates set foot on, for many years to come.

If you are a Manchester United fan, click here to purchase the Manchester United football jersey/shirt.

Continued >> >>

Is The A-League Good Enough For International Stars?


Australian football has come a long way since missing out on qualification for World Cup after World Cup by failing at the last hurdle. Most of this success can be put down to the increasing number of Aussies who venture out to the big bad, and sometimes lucrative, world of European football.

However, the Football Federation of Australia has also created a home-grown league that has attracted considerable and sustained interest from fans and players, alike. The A-League is a smartly packaged and well marketed competition that has, at times, produced highly entertaining and watchable games.

The standard of matches, although not anywhere near the European or South American leagues yet, is on the steady increase. This has seen Brazilian journeyman, Fred, make his way to reigning champions Melbourne Victory last season. News has now filtered through that Brazilian World Cup winner and former Middlesbrough star Juninho has been nabbed by A-League powerhouse Sydney FC.

The question needs to be asked, does the A-League offer a standard of play that is good enough to attract a steady stream of well known international stars, who will provide the sport a profile that it has never really enjoyed in Australia? Let us know what you think.

If you support Australia, click here to purchase an Australian Socceroos football jersey/shirt

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


High Time Michael Atherton Got A Grip


Michael Atherton belongs to rare breed of former cricketers who is writes and speaks in a very lucid and authentic manner. He is one of a small number of "experts" who adds value to most debates he participates in. He isn't quite in the league of Nasser Hussain and Michael Slater, but beggars can't be choosers.

It is unfortunate, then, that Atherton has strayed a mile off the mark with his comments on the Sreesanth beamer.

For a man who has never understood what it means to be a fast bowler, it is very rich of him to question a man's integrity over a genuine mistake. Why is it that every other bowler, including Brett Lee who let go a number of beamers in the span of only a few matches, is allowed the benefit of the doubt after making an immediate apology and Sreesanth does not deserve that same treatment?

I watched the post-match show featuring Atherton, Hussain and David Gower and at no time during that discussion did Atherton even suggest that anything on the lines of what he has penned. It leads me to believe that Atherton has merely taken the sensationalist route to sell a few more newspapers.

I sincerely hope this is not the case, but if it is, Atherton seriously needs a rethink of what his real responsibilities are to the fans of the game who rely on him to provide a fair and just account of the day's play.

If you support Team India click here to purchase a Team India Nike ODI cricket shirt

Continued >> >>

Twenty20 World Cup: Gazing Into Indian Cricket's Crystal Ball


Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on witnessing an almighty miracle.

The Indian selectors, whether by their own design or by somebody else's, have finally showed us their future hand. They were not "burdened" with the need to select any of the seniors and, for probably the first time in the history of Indian cricket, have chosen an international squad based solely on form and ability.

After Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly made themselves unavailable for selection for the Twenty20 World Cup, we will be able to grab a glimpse of what the future of Indian cricket really has in store for us; whether there the talent cupboard is, in fact, totally and utterly bare.

Cricinfo reports that Dilip Vengsarkar and his band of foolish merry men have chosen the likes of Joginder Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma to play alongside the comeback men - Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan.

I still don't know what Sehwag and Harbhajan have done to deserve a recall to international ranks since their dropping, but, I figure that this is merely an attempt to allow them the slam-bang format to whip themselves into form. Irfan Pathan, by all accounts (even his), has had a very fruitful spell at the MRF Academy and on the India A tour of Zimbabwe.

I have a feeling Manoj Tiwary would have made the team had he not injured his shoulder. It would have been interesting to see which player missed out had Tiwary been included. One figures it would have been Gautam Gambhir or Robin Uthappa, as opposed to a Virender Sehwag.

Dhoni's chance to show is tactical abilities as captain also comes with a great sense of responsibility, especially in how he chooses to handle the likes of Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan. Discounting the success of Dinesh Mongia's slow bowling in County Twenty20 cricket, most spinners would find the going a little tougher than they would be used to. It will be for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to prove that he can handle these young lads with skill and care.

Lets hope that the least we see from this group is some attitude, some skill and a hell of a lot of fight. It will stand them in the best stead for when they are called up to play with the big boys.

The full squad for your perusal and honest comment:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Dinesh Karthik, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Joginder Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Rohit Sharma

If you support Team India click here to purchase a Team India Nike ODI cricket shirt

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


India v England: Test 2 Video Wrap-Up


Don't tell us that we didn't tell you. A win on overseas soil is a rare occurrence for most international cricket teams. This one, however, ranks alongside the Adelaide performance of 2003/04 in terms of the manner in which it was achieved.

A more comprehensive review of all the jelly beans happenings from Test 2 will follow soon. However, for those extremely unfortunate people that missed the action, here is a succinct audio-visual review to feast on:



For a more comprehensive viewing of the events that set up this match for Team India, here are the highlights from Day 4:



See you all soon to discuss the why's, who's and where from's.

If you support Team India click here to purchase a Team India Nike ODI cricket shirt

Continued >> >>

Sunday, July 29, 2007


India v England: Test 2 - It's Not A Question Of Luck


I wonder if Team India reads newspapers or cricket websites? If they did, the players would find their obituaries published well before the end of a series, or even a Test match. It is an unfortunate situation where some journalists, or media organisations, seem to have a personal agenda that allows them to draw rather curious conclusions about the performances of certain players and teams.

The first two days of play of the second Test match at Trent Bridge has seen the Indian bowling attack rip through the second best team in the world (for the second time in two innings) and set the match up for their batsmen. The batsmen on day two, led right from the top by Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik have overcome tough conditions and bowlers who revel in such conditions by playing positive, sensible and courageous cricket.

We can all complain about luck taking up residence with one team or another. In fact Sambit Bal believes God also resides in India now. I'm surprised it took him so long to figure it out, but good on the man for finally getting there. The fact remains, that luck is made by the individual who is more willing to be positive and take his chances. Sambit, of all people, should have learnt this by now.

For a team that has been accused of recoiling into its shell when presented with a position of opportunity, yesterday was the most comprehensive reply to its critics that we have seen for quite some time. Every batsmen attacked and took the opportunities that were presented, irrespective of whether he had been beaten the previous three successive balls or whether he had been hit on the head.

Nobody played a spectacular innings, but the runs were still milked at a pace that allowed the team to score at 3.21 runs per over at the end of the day. Luck had its role to play in determining how the scorecard looked at the end of the day. Sambit, and the school of thought he belongs to, fails to give credit where its due. What were the batsmen supposed to do, say "sorry Michael Vaughan, we were lucky to survive the last few balls, so you can have my wicket this time around"?

Instead of haranguing the players for enjoying the hand of God when it is finally resting over them, lets applaud them for doing pretty much everything they can to make sure its used to their utmost advantage.

Sambit Bal has an agenda. Us readers of Cricinfo need to know what it is so that we can put read his commentary with the context it needs.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, July 26, 2007


India v England: Were They Really That Bad?


"An escape from jail. Saved by the heavens. England robbed of victory. Indian galacticos choke again." These headlines were the flavour of the day. Predictions of doom and gloom for the remainder of the series abounded and once again Team India found itself backed into a corner. One could reason that all the articles and predictions bear an element of legitimacy, in their own right.

However, we all know that good news stories don't sell newspapers and bring eyeballs to TV screens. Thus, it would be fair to conclude that there are many vested interests at play in the publication of all this dribble.

The Attack

The real story to come out of this test is that the Indian bowling attack is the strongest link in the chain. This is something that is oft forgotten when those who apportion blame, come to do what they do best. After a dreadful start to the first session of the first day, the bowlers came back with aplomb and did everything that could be expected of them for the remainder of the match.

It should not be forgotten that least vaunted of the lot, RP Singh, showed them all how it should be done. It would be remiss of me not mention that he was ably supported by the other three, especially Sreesanth who bowled well, for little reward.

A Fear of Failure?

The batsman (recipients of much scorn in the last few days), if anything, showed the waste that is generated from not converting starts. That, for mine, is the negative. Whether it is the fear of failure that has caused this or whether it is the messing of the team management with a batsman's head that is the root cause, is a moot point.

From where I sit, the affliction of conservatism that envelopes Indian batsmen in the twilight of their careers has as much to do with being Indian as it does with what is asked of them by the team management.

Compare Sachin Tendulkar with Sanath Jayasuriya. The latter has remained at the top of the order for the last gazillion years, irrespective of whether his own form or that of team's. The former has been asked to cover for the inadequacies of those around him, as if trying to get the best out of his own abilities isn't tough enough. As such, he has been shunted up and down the order and asked to perform roles that should have been fulfilled by others. I am in no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar's 'strange' mindset over last few years has been caused by this, more so than any other reason.

The case of VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, IMHO, has more to do with the increased satisfaction that many Indian men of their age derive from merely surviving. This attitude is extremely dangerous and disruptive to team morale. Sourav Ganguly, especially, falls into this category for it is quite evident that the confidence that was once associated with his game has been lost, probably forever (if he goes on to make a match winning century in the next match, I will be happy to be admonished for this comment).


The Takeout

The takout for me is that all we have spoken of previously, need not matter. As I eluded to earlier, each and every batsman got a start, Mahendra Singh Dhoni even played himself into some form - that too in difficult conditions (even Kevin Pietersen thought so). It was especially heartening to watch Dinesh Karthik, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni playing attacking cricket during the last innings, when many previous Indian teams would have shut up shop in order to avoid defeat and got themselves into a right royal tangle.

Any batsman will tell you that converting a start is a helluva lot easier than getting out of a rut. Leaving statistics aside (because we all know how well they tell the real story) and except for Sourav Ganguly in the second innings, none of the batsman looked to be really struggling.

I would be very surprised if we didn't see a more pleasing batting effort from the whole line up, not just the galacticos, in the next two Test matches. The bowlers, I'm sure, will continue to deliver the goods without ever receiving the accolades they deserve.

There, I've made my call. Are you game enough to make yours?

If you support Team India click here to purchase a Team India Nike ODI cricket shirt

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Ronaldhino Has A Small Brain


Charan Gupta, via email, also points out that Barcelona's main man Ronadinho may not be suffering this affliction on his own, if these researchers are to be believed. Admittedly, the tests were only conducted on college players, but the implication can be made - no?

Word has it that the repetitive action of heading the ball causes the brain cell loss. Two questions come immediately to mind:
  1. Can this study be extended to determine whether David Beckham's rather feminine voice was the result of such a sporting injury?
  2. Can we apply the results of this study to the case of Justin Langer, and form a similar opinion about the size of his noggin?

Continued >> >>

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The Socceroos Were What!?


Under prepared, according to Australian and Everton start Tim Cahill. At a press conference where grim faces were a distant memory and big, toothy smiles were the order of the day, Cahill had this to say:
"We can't help going into games with them knowing everything about us and us not having the answers at the start. We have acclimatised and adjusted, and now we are starting to find our feet."

Errr.. yes you can help it, mate.

Its called video footage - of matches that your opponents have played over the last year, and a bit. Correct me if I am wrong, but I was of the distinct view that it was the coaching team's role to ensure that the players knew everything and anything about their opponents before the first whistle.

I have no doubt that Tim Cahill did not intend any harm to Graham Arnold through this comment. However, in international sport where the real news is said off the record, one cannot help but read more into his comments.

Cahill clearly states, in the quote above, that the Australian do not know much about their opponents before kick-off. This fact beggars the question, what does Graham Arnold do if he doesn't even watch footage of previous games played by Australia's Asian Cup opponents?

"Under preparation" was the most common reason offered for Australia's shoddy performances in the first two games of this edition of the Asian Cup. By "under preparation" the pundits were referring to a lack of training time where the team could gel as a unit, not a sub-standard performance from the coaching team that led to the players not knowing what to expect from their opponents before they took the field.

A friend recently opined that the reason Australia were performing so poorly under Arnold was because they don't respect him, because he didn't have the coaching credentials to support him in his position. Cahill's comments make it abundantly clear why Arnold does not have the said credentials - he does not seem to have a clue about how to prepare a team for a tournament that is second only to the FIFA World Cup in the Asian/Oceania region.

Without stating the bleeding obvious, relying on a product of lesser quality has only got Australia in unnecessary strife. With all the millions that Australian football is earning from international tournaments, the appointment of an international coach with the highest credentials is well and truly overdue.

Continued >> >>

West Ham Holding Up Carlos Tevez Transfer To Manchester United


That is the official line being trotted out by Kia Joorabchian after Carlos Tevez's medical did not go ahead, even after Carlos Tevez turned up in Manchester. With the impasse between West Ham and Kia Joorabchian showing no sign of letting up for the next couple of weeks, Carlos Tevez has decided to take a short holiday, with a possible extension if he misses the August 31 deadline for all transferees to have signed on the dotted line with their new clubs.

It seems baffling that in a world where lawyers pore over every ink-laden pixel in a player's contract, we have a situation where a businessman and a Premier League club are arguing over who owns a player's economic rights. It is equally lamentable that it has taken the parties concerned this long to deduce that they should request FIFA's help to sort out their problems.

Joorabchian quite obviously has absolutely nothing to lose in this matter. He could potentially be sitting on (or the majority of) a 30+ million pound pay day. The men from FIFA will tell us whether this goldmine is his or not.

In the meanwhile, however, the mind boggles at why West Ham has been so publicly reticent about letting Carlos Tevez make the move to Manchester United. Once a player has decided that he is on the move, it is in his current club's best interests to do everything possible to make the transfer a seamless process and earn their fee in return.

Football administrators (like their cricketing counterparts) have not always proven to be the sharpest tools in the shed. This situation is purporting to be another case where money has made many minds boggle.

For Carlos Tevez's sake, and the hopes of all Manchester United fans, one can only hope that FIFA resolves this issue sooner rather than later. For, Carlos Tevez with Wayne Rooney, in front of a combination of Christiano Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson and Hargreaves will be a sight to behold.

Continued >> >>

India v England: Test Series Preview


Over the past few weeks, The Match Referee has brought you a series of posts focusing on a number of aspects of the upcoming series between England and Team India. The said series of posts have been the most comprehensive series preview The Match Referee has ever presented.

Following is a list of the articles that we are written and that you should devour at the earliest:
  1. A frank discussion of exactly how much talking India's newest "pace" bowling hopeful, Ranadeb Bose, should be doing.
  2. With Rahul Dravid's preference routine of five bowlers being well known by one and all, find out exactly why Team India needs a full complement of six batsmen for this series.
  3. After learning what Cricket Australia is doing with Mitchell Johnson we checked out Ishant Sharma and tried to tell the BCCI exactly what it should be doing with him.
  4. We got a little frustrated with all the rumours about the dropping of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and went to town with a comprehensive critique of exactly why he is the key to success for Team India.
  5. Finally, no preview is complete without a prediction or three. So have a read and let us know if you think were barking up the totally wrong tree.
That is the end of all the poultry you are likely to hear from us. Happy reading, make sure you keep checking back the series and match updates and opinions (the latest of which can be found under the What's Hot section of the right sidebar), but most of all do not figure that it is your opinion that really matters. So say it loud and say it proud.

Postscript: Click here to view the latest articles on India's defeat of England in the recently concluded Test series.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


India v England: Test Series Predictions


Much has been made to date of team India's chances in the upcoming test series hinging on the personal ambitions of the ageing superstars. This is one theory I do not subscribe to.

It cannot be denied that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman will want to sign off on the last tour of England on the highest note possible. They will also want to be remembered as being entertaining cricketers and match winners.

Personal goals aside Team India's most weapon will be the confidence they have gained through winning test matches on overseas tours. Let's not forget before Sourav Ganguly and John Wright Indian teams seldom won overseas test matches, let alone series. Barring the odd hiccup along the way India has consistently won at least one test match in every series at it as played, to the extent that a series was won in the West Indies and a first-ever test match win on South African soil was achieved.

Success breeds further success in the team's successful performances over the past few years will have given them the confidence that was a visibly absent only a decade ago. This momentum will not guarantee a series win in England, however, it will go some way to ensuring that the two teams start on an even keel when they step on to the hallowed turf at Lords.

Michael Vaughan's team of 2007 is not nearly as cohesive or well drilled as the Ashes conquering side of 2005. Wins over a lacklustre and feeble West Indies could not possibly compensate for the absence of Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones. The decline of England's fortunes began with the injury to Jones. This also appears to have been the signal for Steve Harmison to goal off the boil. Had Harmison been in the team he was unlikely to pose a major threat to the Indian batting lineup, such is the erratic nature of his bowling in this day and age.

Having said that with the introduction of Alistair Cook, return of Michael Vaughan and continued growth of Kevin Pietersen the English batting lineup is much stronger than was at 2005. Add to this the fact that Andrew Strauss may finally be hitting his straps after the last tour game against Indians and you quickly realise the enormity of the task awaiting the Indian attack. We can also not discount the influence of Monty Panesar (a man of whom we are great fans) over the course of this four test series.

If England are to be successful they will look to Panesar to make the big breakthroughs at crucial times. This is a lot of pressure to put on and so young. Taking this into account, and barring the problems in dismissing the tale in the tour matches, I think the Indian attack is more balanced and does not rely on one individual to single-handedly win the match. The big disclaimer that I must add to this proclamation is my predictions will only come true if Sreesanth and RP Singh are able to provide quality support to the main cast of Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan.

This series is going to be a challenge as great as any for Team India. However, if they manage to make the right moves at the right times they should have all the firepower they need to be successful.

I sincerely hope my sleepless nights will be well worth the trouble.

Postscript: With the chance that Matthew Hoggard is in serious doubt for the first Test, does my prediction hold even more weight now? You tell me.

Click here to purchase a Nike Team India cricket shirt.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


India v England: Is The HMS Dhoni Sinking?


Less than a year ago, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was touted as the next Adam Gilchrist. Such proclamations were obviously made by the sensationalist and headline hungry media types that wouldn’t know the difference between fact and fiction if it hit them on the head. Although the comparison with Gilchrist is a little far-fetched, it does provide invaluable insight into the skill and temperament of the man. He must be doing something right to for people to think along these lines.

In spite of the oft lacking aggression he brings to Team India, coupled with his never-say-die attitude the cricketing world is abuzz with rumours about his place in the team. If Sachin Tendulkar continues to display the sort of form (vintage 1998) that we have witnessed throughout the last ODI series and the previous tour match, he and Dhoni will be the only two gentlemen capable of upping the ante and driving home an advantage, if and when it were to be achieved.

The majority of calls for Dhoni’s sacking have centered on a perceived “lack of form” and a need to bolster the middle order. I struggle to understand how Dhoni is out of form. Andrew Strauss was out of form, because he hadn’t played a decent know for over a year. It is imprudent to label Dhoni out of form simply because he did not play a major innings in the South African series (where everyone failed). He is a proven match winner and should be given every opportunity to do what he does best.

As far as the middle order is concerned, Indian cricket has long been caught in the trap of planning for failure, ie. “bolster the middle order because the top order fails” or “make the wicketkeeper open the batting because our tail is too long”. It is this class of utter rubbish that has impeded our progress away from home. Throw people in the deep end and they will learn to float. If they don’t, then they simply do not belong.

Additionally, the other option for wicketkeeper is the opening batsman (bad move in my books as there is a specialist twiddling his thumbs in the shed). From his days during the early part of Sourav Ganguly’s reign, Rahul Dravid would well realise the demands on a wicketkeeper who bats up the order. Being the sensible kid that we all know he is, it would be out of character for Dravid to ask Dinesh Karthik to keep wickets.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is crucial to Team India’s success on this tour to England. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot by creating a weakness we can well do without.

Continued >> >>

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Ishant Sharma: Hit The Gym, Son


It just so happens that every time Team India embarks on an international tour to Australia, England, South Africa or New Zealand they take with them two or three raw and untested fast bowlers. I use "fast" in quite a liberal sense. Often times, the selectors are blindly hoping, against all hope and common sense, that the new quicks will somehow manage to succeed. Ishant Sharma and Ranadeb Bose are two youngsters to be entrusted with the duty of miraculously succeeding on this tour to the UK.

My thoughts on Ranadeb Bose are on the record and were evidenced by his performance in the tour match against Sussex. One could argue that it was only one match and he needs further opportunity. However, I do not believe he has the wherewithal to be successful on the international stage. The most obvious limitation in his package being a distinct lack of zip.

Ishant Sharma, on the other hand, seems like he has the raw ingredients to make things happen on the international front. He is able to move the ball when things are going well. More importantly, he maintains his pace independent of how well he is bowling.

With all this promise it must not be forgotten that he his only 18. A tender age when a young man's body is still developing. The body has to cope with that much more, when it is subjected to the demands of fast bowling - genuine fast bowling.

The plan going forward should be to say, sure we had a lack of resources and had to use him on the tours to Bangladesh and England. However, the kid is still raw and physically does not seem to have the body that is capable of withstanding the punishment inflicted on it by a fast bowlers technique.

Therefore, in order to further groom this asset lets get him in the gym with a personal trainer for the next six to eight months. This will build muscle mass and core strength that will stand him in good stead when he is required to perform at peak levels in back-to-back-to-back international matches/series. During this period we will get him to play all the local and domestic cricket he can and this will allow him to continue his cricketing education and allow him a greater margin than that afforded by international batsmen.

If someone doesn't do this for Ishant Sharma, I can see him going the way of Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan. That is, playing 6-8 months of international cricket with some modicum of success and then losing his way through a combination of injury and fatigue.

In an ideal world, the system will take care of these matters. The system of Indian cricket is far from ideal (is there a system at all??) and in its place somebody with a good head on his shoulders, Venkatesh Prasad perhaps, needs to take this step. It will be of much benefit to the future of Team India and Ishant Sharma.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


India v England: The Case For 6 Indian Batsman...


...as opposed to five bowlers and five batsman - the preferred strategy of Indian captain Rahul Dravid. The said case is best made by a fleeting glance at Cricinfo's text commentary and full scorecard of the tour match between India and Sussex.

In the first innings, after having Sussex on the ropes at 5/144, the Indian bowling attack was back to its frustrating best. It was unable to finish off the tail, allowing the home side to declare only six wickets down, only 88 runs behind. Admittedly, Zaheer Khan has been rested for this match and his presence, in place of Ranadeb Bose (yes, he of "torment the batsmen" fame), might have given this story a different plot.

In a bizarre twist, Team India allegedly started chasing quick runs and are currently 8 wickets down for a meagre 124 runs, at lunch on the fourth day! All this against a rather unspectacular combination of bowlers. This collapse proves three things:
  1. Save for MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, to an extent, no other batsman is capable of materially increasing the scoring rate.
  2. Save for Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid, no other batsman is able to consistently and successfully get the side out of a potentially tricky situation.
  3. As opposed to a fifth bowler, a sixth batsman (if his stars are perfectly aligned) is more likely to make a significant difference to his team's chances of winning - either by helping mount an insurmountable total or somehow dig the side out of a hole.
Most importantly, leaving aside the odd aberration (such as the performance in this match), the Indian bowling attack has achieved more consistent success over the last season and a bit, as compared to their willow-wielding counterparts.

This is not the time to dupe ourselves into misjudging our real strengths.

Continued >> >>

Monday, July 09, 2007


Can Australia Win The Asian Cup?


It was as close-run a thing as Graham Arnold and the Socceroos would ever like to leave it. Playing a totally unfancied Oman side with no big names and no players on the rosters of any major European club, the Socceroos did all they possibly could to leave the stadium with their post-World Cup reputation in tatters.

In fact, it can be reasonably said that Oman would be kicking themselves for not taking the spoils from the match. Leaving aside their unnecessary and ugly attempts feigning injury, the Australian defence handed them three clear-cut opportunities to well and truly seal the game. It was only the brilliance of Mark Schwarzer that allowed Tim Cahill to scramble through the equaliser in injury time.

Luke Wilkshire, especially, had a night he would like to forget in a hurry. He overhit or misdirected a number of corners and free kicks in plum positions around the opposition box.

Of the Premiership stars, Harry Kewell did little more than prove that he is best utilised when he plays on the left. It was Mark Viduka, however, who was the biggest disappointment of the night. For a player who scored 20-odd Premiership goals last season, he did nothing to justify his position at the head of the Australian attack.

Continuing the lacklustre form he showed in the World Cup, Viduka found it impossible to do little more than pass the ball back to the player who gave it to him in the first place. His fans often cling to the fact that "he holds the ball up". They must realise, however, for a striker around whom so much of the attack is focussed Viduka needs to do a helluva lot more than simply pass pass the ball backwards. On the international stage, he does not seem to have the skill to beat a defender on his own or put a team mate into a gap.

A number of reasons could be attributed to the insipid Australian display tonight. If Arnold is serious about winning the Asian Cup, he needs to reorganise his defence and provide an opportunity to a new striker or tell Viduka to pull his finger out and do the job that his country expects of him.

Click here to purchase an Australian Socceroos football jersey/shirt.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, July 08, 2007


David Beckham: Footballer or Cash Cow


This is a question eternal that the pundits can always agree to disagree on. By his own admission, David Beckham was not the most talented player ever to set foot on this earth. Beckham's achievements have been made possible through diligence and a single-minded quest for perfection.

Along the way, Beckham the footballer has become Beckham the style icon, and more importantly, Beckham the sure-fire brand. A brand that Real Madrid has milked to its utmost, according to this report.

The timing of Real's announcement smacks of a club still smarting from the departure of one its most valuable commercial assets. It's almost a, "we don't care if you leave, because we've already squeezed you for all your worth!"

In this context, one has to cast a suspicious eye at Los Angeles Galaxy's acquisition of Beckham at a recurring cost of AUD$60 million over five years. For all their claims of luring Beckham to improve their on-field fortunes, did the Galaxy build some class of a financial model that told them that Beckham's transfer could augment their bank balance beyond all known bounds? It would seem so, as the footballing prowess of the 32 year old Beckham is well on the wane. Although, like a true champion he still managed to spur a lacklustre mid-season Real to a thrilling La Liga championship.

It is clear that the foray into the United States is seen by Beckham as a step to securing his financial future, by rubbing shoulders with the powers-that-be of the Hollywood Hills. Good luck to the man, he deserves all the green backs he can muster, if only for providing the fans of his two teams, thus far, with many a glorious moment.

As the Beckham gears up for his debut, it remains to be seen which David Beckham the LA Galaxy snared, the footballer or the cash cow.

Continued >> >>

Friday, June 29, 2007


India v South Africa: A Series Pregnant With Young Promise


Match 1 of the series in Ireland showed us what we know already:
  • Sachin Tendulkar can still score runs and the best-before date on his career is yet to arrive.
  • Rahul Dravid is as fine a batsman as any in the modern era.
  • Gautam Gambhir has not furnished any evidence to refute his reputation as a flat-track-bully.
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs to be in the mix for Team India to score heavily in the final overs.
  • Yuvraj Singh needs to find some form, quick fast.
  • Zaheer Khan and Ramesh Powar are the only bowlers that really understand their limitations.
This series is an opportunity to learn more about the newer members of Team India. They should we given every opportunity to prove Dilip Vengsarkar has not a clue of what he speaks.

For all the questions about the validity of the decision to send Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma on this tour, the fact remains that it is in Indian cricket's best interests to ensure that they succeed. All the better, if this success is achieved in alien and somewhat difficult conditions like those faced by Team India in Ireland.

There is no point to batting Rohit Sharma at number six where he is on a hiding-to-nothing whether the batsmen before him have scored heavily or whether the team is in real trouble when he comes in to bat. Being an aggressive batsman does not imply that he has the ability to slog at will.

As X opined while watching the match, the time is ripe for Sharma to be promoted up the order to three or four, hence, allowing him the opportunity to build an innings of substance, and more importantly, build his confidence. If that means one of Gautam Gambhir or Sourav Ganguly is dropped and a fifth bowler introduced, so be it. The gains made from the revelation of a confident and successful Sharma will far outweigh any knocks to Gambhir or Ganguly's ego.

It was also heartening to see Rahul Dravid's show of confidence in Piyush Chawla. Admittedly, the South Africans are probably nearer the bottom of the table when it comes to playing spin bowling - regardless of its quality.

Having said that, the success of the Indian attack in the years to come is highly dependent on the grooming of a quality and consistent spin bowling combination. As much as Anil Kumble was admired for passing on his know-how to young spinners, Ramesh Powar can play a similar role with Chawla. Powar has been around for a while now and seems to understand himself and his game. Working in tandem with grounded and diligent (as opposed to freakishly talented) players such as Powar will open Chawla's world to lessons and experiences he would not otherwise be exposed to.

It is a shame that Manoj Tiwary sustained his shoulder injury in Bangladesh and Suresh Raina is out of form. For, had they been available, India would have had the chance to blood four players from the next generation who seem to have the raw talent and temperament that could make them successful on the big stage.

It is up to Dravid and his lieutenants to make the most of this aptly titled "Future" series. Instilling a hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs attitude in the junior ranks will pay rich dividends in future. It is a chance for Dravid to craft his own team and his own legacy, just as Ganguly and John Wright did at the dawn of the century.

We must wait with bated breath to see if Dravid takes up the challenge to turn young promise into future match-winners.

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