Thursday, February 08, 2007

Agartala Would Be Better

Compared to a dainty old village in Ireland where not a soul would give bat an eyelid for an international cricket match, Agartala definitely would be a better option as a host city for a India v Australia ODI series.

The least the BCCI should do is look after it's own players and arrange matches in cities that would easily cater to their nutritional needs. How on Earth do they expect Harbhajan Singh to find his cholle bhature in a quaint little Irish town where nobody would have even heard of India's greatest gift to the Western world - butter chicken.

Alas, you and I both know the BCCI cares as much for it's players as an ivory merchant does for an elephant. For this reason and a certain contract that with Zee Network that will earn it big, BIG money, the BCCI has frantically negotiated a deal with the Irish to stage an ODI series in their back yard.

I would love to use the word "host", instead of "stage, but, the matches will not be played in Agartala, hence my hands are tied.

To be brutally honest with you, I cannot conjure up a plausible reason as to why the BCCI needs to inflict endless torture on it's players by sending them to far flung corners of the world in, what is already, a jam-packed season.

As a fan, I can also categorically tell anyone who cares to listen that there is no, I repeat NO, excitement in watching two cricketing heavyweights battle out a meaningless series at a neutral venue.

The sooner that this message is heeded by cricket's marketing men, the better off we will all be. Not to mention the actual player's involved.

Somebody please tell the BCCI that slavery is outlawed in the Indian constitution.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Do You Have No Shame?

That particular question should be posed to Chetan Chauhan and his band of brown-nosing fools who control the affairs of The Board for Veteran Cricketers in India (BVCI). According to Chauhan, the BVCI is an organisation that aims to utilise the talents of former cricketers to provide them a means to earn a living and entertain. Very noble indeed.

Then, in this context, the decision of the BVCI to appoint Mohammad Azharuddin as captain of the India Veterans team can only be described as a cheap, ill-judged and unpatriotic publicity stunt - with no inherent semblance of nobility.

The Hindu reports that the Indian Veterans will play their Pakistani counterparts in a 3 match one-day series, feature big names of yesteryear such as Venkatesh Prasad, Manoj Prabhakar, Nayan Mongia and Chetan Chauhan, among others.

Nobody, especially not ex-cricketers, should need reminding of the circumstances around which Azharuddin was banned from participating in any official cricket matches and his record purged.

It need not, and does not, matter that he was one of the most talented players of his generation. I too was an Azharuddin fan before the match-fixing scandal broke. What matters is that he sold his soul for a few extra notes in his back pocket and he betrayed hundreds of millions of his fans. Azharuddin sold out his team mates and connived to pull the rug from under their feet. He does not possess the decency or integrity to make an honest buck and for this he should be labeled the traitor that he is.

People like Azharuddin do not deserve to rehabilitated and accepted back into society. People who attempt to do so obviously do not have the courage to call him a liar and a cheat and ostracise him for committing one of the most heinous betrayals of faith possible in life.

Chetan Chauhan and his cronies at the BVCI should be ashamed of themselves and admonished for trying to make a quick rupee by using the name of a traitor. I loathe people who feel they need to partake in an entrepreneurial undertaking that glamourises cheats and traitors, whether they be players or spectators.

All talk about how patriotic we are as a nation amounts to pure and utter dribble when our own do not have the common sense to place personal integrity and national pride above their own back pockets.

Azharuddin deserves to rot, and rot alone. Harsh, but true.

Continued >> >>

The Prime Reason Why Zimbabweans Cannot Play Cricket

Well they can, just not very well at this particular point in time. That is the consensus among normal people.

However, if a Cricinfo article is to be believed, the answer to the above question is: their hair. The war lords that preside over the shambolic institution (or private fiefdom, which ever you find more apt) that is Zimbabwe Cricket have decreed that a dress (read hair) code is an essential ingredient in producing world-beating international cricketers.

Steven Price reports on a Zimbabwe Cricket edict that requires all players to have military style crew cuts, with a single strand of hair not exceeding a length of half an inch. According to the article, this rule currently applies to three players in the national team, although there is a considerable confusion as to whether it will be extended to include other local stars who are attempting to make a comebacks after long layoffs due to serious ailments, such as head lice.

The furore over his flowing locks has caused one unnamed Zimbabwe cricketer to admit, in a flood of tears:
"This is gross human rights abuse but I need to look after my family. Cricket is my job and I cannot risk my job for dreadlocks."

Proving once again that when one has mouths to feed, one must acquiesce to the honourable wishes of men who have far less than a full head of hair, such as Zimbabwe Cricket President Peter Chingoka (right).

And you thought Lalit Modi was an idiot, huh?

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Safe & Sensible Tim Nielsen It Is

Was Greg Chappell too loud and boisterous? Was Tom Moody too quiet and reserved? Was Bennett King simply not good enough? Questions abound as we learn that the current Head Coach of the Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy is to chart the course of the Australian cricket team after the upcoming World Cup.

Peter English labels it "safe and sensible". I begin to wonder if this is the start of the slow and steady death of the practice of former stars turning international cricket coaches. For we know, what Cricket Australia does, the rest of the world blindly follows. The West Indies have already ditched former superstars for a more supposedly scientific approach. The Sri Lankans were the first to start the trend with Dav Whatmore.

However, something tells me that celebrity might still win out over academic distinction when it comes to the next coach appointed by the BCCI - not that it is necessarily a negative.

By all accounts, Tom Moody was the preferred option before he withdrew his candidacy for, perhaps, the most difficult job in international cricket in the years to come. The entire world expects Australia to maintain its dominance in the both formats of the game for at least the next generation. In this context, did Moody recognise this job for what it may truly be - a poisoned chalice?

Tim Nielsen is said to be more "hand on" than Buchanan. The other reason being bandied about for his selection is that he knows the new generation of cricketers who are likely to represent Australia. Is this merely propaganda being churned out by Cricket Australia to smokescreen the fact that they were not able to attract their favoured option - Moody?

In making Tom Moody the favourite for the job, Cricket Australia undoubtedly realised that a coach, in the traditional sense of the word, who had played years of international cricket was just what the doctor ordered to guide the new generation in their formative years. Moody couldn't possibly have known the skill levels and temperaments of the up and coming players, yet he was the leading contender for the job.

A little birdy inside my head leads me to think that Cricket Australia have had to settle for second/third best. Why couldn't they contract the best in the world? What was lacking in the overall package that sent the others scurrying? Is this what Ricky Ponting's team needs while they try and cover the loss of two of the finest bowlers the world has ever seen and the men responsible for the team's dominance over the last decade?

Questions abound, but answers will be thin on the ground. I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Continued >> >>

Monday, February 05, 2007

Indian World Cup Selection

The World Cup is just around the corner and now the various selection panels around the world are nutting out the teams they will be taking. India seemed to have solved a lot of the problems that have hampered them in the recent past. The batting seems to be firing on tracks which Geoffrey Boycotts grand mother could score runs on and the bowlers are doing a terrific job on pitches which are like a bowler’s grave yard.

Although India’s recent form has been great, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The fact is that when faced with a slow and low track, the batting failed miserably. What makes this even more significant is that most of the pitches being used in this World Cup are newly laid and newly laid pitches are usually slow and low due to the young root structure of the pitches.

That aside, the batting has looked good on the flat tracks been offered. Virender Sehwag would be bitterly disappointed at missing out against the West Indies as he was without doubt certain to snap his lean patch on one of these tracks. Yet in his place Ganguly and Robin Uthappa have made the most of it, Gambhir could have done a little more in Chennai and due to that will probably miss a seat to the World Cup. Uthappa seems to be just as aggressive as Sehwag if not more. The difference between him and Sehwag though was that he was able to cash in on his starts and not throw it away with soft poke at a ball outside the off stump.

In my opinion, Sehwag is a vital member of the Indian team and has to play a major part of India wants to have any chances of winning the World Cup. With this in mind, I would find a spot for him in the middle order. If the team management so desperately wants Tendulkar in the middle order as well, then he and Sehwag should occupy the number 3 and 4 spots.
Dravid is the ideal number 5 batsmen followed by Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Although Yuvraj might not look so good at the moment, it is only a matter of time before he comes good. He is a great all round option and his field is simply electrifying. Not much more needs to be said about Dhoni, he is simply unbelievable.

With the slow and low tracks in the Windies, two spinners must be played. The plain cold hard facts are that Harbhajan Singh was India’s best ODI bowler last year, he seems to excel when Kumble is not around, maybe because he feels under less pressure. With this in mind he should be told that his place in the side is secure and I am sure it will do him a world of good. Now we are left with two fast bowling spots. Zaheer Khan is an automatic selection which leaves one spot to be filled between Agarkar, Sreesanth and Patel.

The general consensus is that Sreesanth doesn’t seem to have that same magnificent control over the white ball as he did with the red cherry in South Africa. In the recent series he was not only expensive but also failed to take wickets. What people fail to understand is that in South Africa he was playing on green tops while in India he was playing on roads, it does make it a bit difficult.

Patel needs to be given all four games against Sri Lanka to prove his fitness and form. He too was a fine bowler before he suffered his spate of injuries. I really think that both these two should get a look in before Agarkar.
If I was Chief Selector, this would be my squad:
Dravid, Tendulkar, Dhoni, Sehwag, Ganguly, Uthappa, Yuvraj, Raina, Harbhajan, Kumble, Zaheer, Sreesanth, Agarkar, Patel, Pathan.

The two most debatable positions there would be of Raina and Pathan. I think that Raina is a quality batsmen and a quality fielder, better than Dinesh Karthik. Pathan on the other hand just gives the squad balance. He is a genuine all rounder and I am sure he will come good soon. He started off his come back by taking 7 wickets against Mumbai, the good times are just around the corner.

With this team, India will give any team a run for their money, even Australia. It is just a matter of turning the potential on paper into performances in the World Cup.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Australia Looking Vulnerable For World Cup

A big call, I know. However, without a settled bowling combination and all the old stalwarts, of both the batting and bowling varieties, showing signs of vulnerability I have been led to thinking that the upcoming World Cup in the Caribbean might not be the forgone conclusion most pundits are predicting.

Lets focus on the batting for a start:
  1. Andrew Symonds' bicep injury has all but ruled him out of the World Cup. I know Mr Cricket, Michael Hussey, is still around, but there is a limit to what even he can accomplish without the all-round presence of man-mountain Symonds.
  2. When was the last time Michael Clarke played a innings of substance that significantly influenced the outcome of the match. He does not seem to be in the greatest of touch at present and his bowling ability is the only thing edging him ahead of Brad Hodge for a first XI place.
  3. The openers have not put on a sizable partnership for a while now. First it was Matthew Hayden out of form and now that his mojo has returned, Adam Gilchrist can't seem to capitalise on the occasional start he manages.
  4. With Brad Hodge still settling in, if Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are out cheaply the middle order looks and feels extremely brittle. For mine, Cameron White is not a fool proof option as the go-to man in the event of a crisis.
If you thought the batting had problems, the bowling department looks to be an even stickier wicket. Why you wonder? Here's why:
  1. For all the talk to the contrary, including the odd statistic to support it, Glen McGrath is past his prime and no longer the threat that he was during his halcyon days. His lack of zing off the wicket makes it easier for attacking batsmen to hit him off "that" ideal length.
  2. Brett Lee's international career continues on it's perpetual slide into obscurity. He cannot seem to move the ball off the straight and narrow, to the extent that even the Poms have no trouble playing him. He is not the leader of the attack that he was expected to develop into.
  3. Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait are inexperienced, insecure and unreliable. The odd burst of great balls will pick them up a few bags, however, in the gauntlet that is World Cup cricket their lack of consistency will be taken toll of by opposition batsmen. Even Darryl Tuffey was a world-beater on seaming tracks.
  4. Stuart Clark may be great as a Test match bowler, but he simply does not have the variations to cut in the ODI format thus far. It boggles a mind as to how a bowler who has been playing first class cricket for the best part of a decade does not have the confidence to bowl a decent slower ball in match conditions.
  5. Michael Clarke and Cameron White are not genuine spin options. With Ponting's lack of faith in Brad Hogg and his propensity to favour a four pronged pace attack, the Australian attack lacks the variety that is required on the low and slow pitches of the Caribbean.
The basis for these thoughts lies in the belief that if Ponting and Hussey can post a total of around 300, a decent batting lineup on a good-ish pitch would be to do likewise, if not better, against the current Australian attack. New Zealand have shown over the last couple of matches that the Aussies can be brought to their knees in the field with calm, sensible and clinical batting.

It is rather early to be making predictions, I understand. Predictions the above thoughts, certainly are not. Merely the musings of a cricket fan who believes that we may yet be in for a little more excitement at the World Cup than we originally bargained for.

Continued >> >>

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Public Apology To Sourav Ganguly

My dearest Dada,

I sincerely hope this letter finds you in the best health and spirit - after the series you have just played in I am sure you're health has never seemed better. I write this letter with great joy and in anticipation of an extremely exciting and successful future. For the Indian cricket team that is, with your exalted self representing a vital cog in a well-oiled machine.

I have to openly admit that I was the leader of the non-believers. We believed that you had exceeded your welcome and that it was time for you to retire with grace and dignity intact. I wrote many an article to this effect and firmly believed in what I wrote.

Although I openly wished for the opposite, I did not even pretend to harbour any hope of you having the gumption and/or the right mindset to make a successful comeback to international cricket. It is true, in fact, that I was of the firm opinion that a place in the final XI would be wasted on you and should be given to one many years younger than your courageous self. That's it, I actually underestimated your courage.

However, after your deeds in South Africa and the manner in which you have stood atop the batting mountain in the recently concluded ODI series, I must say I am starting to become a true believer again. Words cannot describe the immense rush of pleasure that invaded my body when I witnessed you unleash those drives through point and cover. It felt like my right hand had been stitched back on to my torso after a horrible accident.

I am not one that gets easily carried away by the odd performance here and there. However, neither am I one to begrudge one credit when it is truly deserved. You have breathed a huge breath of fresh air back into Team India. By all accounts, your time off has given you a sense of perspective that affords you the freedom to enthrall us once again with your wondrous wares. For this I thank the Hands above who have prepared this script, in order to teach us all not to take anything in life for granted.

Although I realise that the sternest challenges lie in wait for your imminent arrival and not even you can promise us a successful and happy ending (not that we expect that of you), I would like to take this opportunity to apolgise for my many lapses in judgment when it came to discussing your future. I would also like to thank you for showing the world what can be achieved through a combination of an open mind and hard work, stirred with a generous splash of pure and unadulterated courage.

Dada, I salute you and all that you have re-proven yourself to be. I only hope and pray that the force is with you long enough (at the very least) for you to help your team mates in allowing us to call our nation champions of the cricketing world once again.


Your biggest fan - The Enigma

Continued >> >>

Does Team India Need Virender Sehwag?

The most recent performances from the ODI version of Team India would be enough to coerce many an Indian "fan" into answering, "no!" The team is doing well: posting scores well in excess of 300 without Sehwag, bowling out the opposition without Sehwag and taking stunning catches without Sehwag.

Why on God's dear Earth would you want the said Sehwag to return to the fold when all is so supremely hunky dory without him? Right?


Dilip Vengsarkar and his wise friends finally took our advice and dropped Virender Sehwag, so that he could return to domestic cricket and find his touch again. Only that, there is a distinct dearth of domestic matches being played for Sehwag to go back to basics in.

Thankfully, the Almighty has instilled enough sense into the powers-that-be within the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) for them to organise a practice match or two for the fallen Indian hero. As a result he has been able to show us that he can take a trick. Sehwag has lost weight, scored runs and grown a beard - the quintessential mark of wounded tiger (read, man) poised to pounce once more.

The real story is that Virender Sehwag got lazy and tired. Every professional faces a point in their career where they need a break, a change of scenery, maybe even a jolt that awakens them from their deep slumber. Sehwag will return to Team India all the better for his own personal jolt. He will return to international cricket knowing what it feels not to be there.

Do not commit the mistake of assuming that it is only Sehwag that needs Team India. This is as much a give and take relationship as any successful marriage (I don't necessarily mean in a typically Indian sense, either). Virender Sehwag provides attacking options and prowess that a captain would die for. Whether that be at the top of the order or in the middle of it. A fully fit and in-form Sehwag coming in to bat in the 28th over will give opposition captains big headaches.

For all of Team India's heroics over the past couple of weeks the middle order is still brittle. Suresh Raina has seemingly forgotten how to hold a bat, Yuvraj Singh is badly undercooked and I remain a hugely skeptical of the Dinesh Karthik experiment. With Mohammad Kaif unlikely (and rightly so too) to be selected for the final World Cup squad, a middle order inhabited by both Karthik and Raina is a gamble that India cannot afford, IMHO.

For all the success achieved by comeback kid Sourav Ganugly (more on him later), my man Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, there is still plenty of space for Virender Sehwag.

Team India needs Virender Sehwag if they are to win the World Cup. There - you have that in writing.

Continued >> >>
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