Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pakistan Cricket: We Are Not To Blame

That is essentially what Nasif Ashraf wants us to believe with his lastest administrative stroke of genius.

This seems like yet another crafty PCB plan, you might remember that Ashraf resigned from his post, along with the entire selection panel. President Mushy, in all his wisdom, has now decided that Ashraf has been doing a tremendous job since he took over the post five months ago and needs to continue as Chariman, for the betterment of Pakistan and Pakistani cricket.

After this most ringing of all ringing endorsements, Ashraf has well and trully launched onto the front foot. With unbridled vigour, Ashraf has announced that the next coach of Pakistan will not be appointed in the near future. However, Bob Woolmer's successor will be a Pakistani.

With his reinstatement as chairman, and after this latest announcement, it is blatantly clear that the PCB is trying to deflect all blame from itself and back onto the "foreign coach". For mine, it is a clear case of typical subcontinental opportunism.

During his tenure, Ashraf has been busy taking international trips and making public comments unbecoming of his position (eg. his comments on the religion factor within the Pakistani team). His time in the job has seen the PCB and the Pakistani team embroiled in controversy after shameful scandal.

World cricket needs strong and vibrant Indian and Pakistani teams. The unfortunate fact is that the Ashraf and Pawar administrations seem incapable of making significant and sustained progress and disinterested in working towards the betterment of the game.

Name calling and apportionment of blame will not achieve results, gentlemen.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Woolmer Murder: Does The Pakistan Team Know More?

Cricket commentators that have kept a watchful eye on the Pakistani team over the past 2 years have oft commented on the not-so-minor role that religion has played in uniting the players towards a common goal. Some have even suggested that the focus has been shifted from cricket to religion. In fact, PCB Chairman Naseem Ashraf thought strongly enough of the issue to suggest that the focus of his national team should return to cricket and religion should play a secondary role in the thinking and workings of the team.

Prem Panicker happened across an interesting article by B Raman, who he claims is a terrorism expert.

Raman references an earlier article (apparently written just before the World Cup) by a Pakistani columnist, that described links between a "jihadi" organisation, Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), and the ultra-religious faction within the Pakistan team. It is said that Inzamam-ul-Haq was the leader of the faction within the team and the group included the likes of "Mushtaq Ahmed (the bowling coach), Mohammad Yousaf, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, and Yasser Hameed."

Apparently, Inzimam's faction are all members of this conservative Islamic organisation and Inzimam, himself, regularly preaches its beliefs across Pakistan. The organisation's clergy are often seen leading players' prayer sessions and organising meetings with international chapters of the organisation during overseas cricket tours.

Raman believes, although has no concrete evidence, that Woolmer may have questioned or criticised TJ beliefs or practices, leading to rather disproportionate action being taken in revenge by a TJ member.

Revelations are coming to light pertaining to the command that Inzamam had over his players, and the lack of control that Woolmer was able to exert over them. In this light, it is quite reasonable to assume that Woolmer may have questioned the players' commitment towards the game, as compared to their religion. After all, a coach's job is not to stand by idly as a cricket team transforms itself from a group of focussed players to wannabe jihadi clergymen.

Quite correctly, Raman ponders whether the Jamaican Police have explored this avenue in the course of their investigations. These claims are quite different to the common themes revolving around shady characters that fix matches.

Assuming that the Jamaican Police were unaware of these details, I cannot help but wonder whether they were able to ask the right questions during their interrogation of the Pakistan squad.

I do not believe a Pakistan squad member had a direct link in Woolmer's murder. However, an seemingly innocent conversation between a player and another TJ member could have sown the seeds for what transpired in Woolmer's hotel room on that fatal night.

The question remains, did the Police ask the right questions? Moreover, does the Pakistan team know more than it is letting out?

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Captain Tendulkar? Never Again, Please

How can so many people, with so much "experience" and "wisdom" be so short-sighted? Discounting the fact that the Indian media tries its shameful utmost to create the news, rather than merely report it, many supposedly knowledgeable elder statesmen are pining for the reappointment of Sachin Tendulkar as Indian captain.

Instead of calling for mindless "blood-letting", cricketers whose opinions are solicited or opportunistically offered should wisely consider their views before creating unnecessary drama. Indian cricket has suffered far too much and far too long at the hands of selfish self-promoters. For once in Indian cricket history, the people that matter are called upon to unite and restructure the game in a manner that will promote success in the long-term. Taking decisions and spouting needless rubbish on a whim is not what the doctor ordered.

Let me preface my views below with the information that I am an unashamed and long-standing fan of Tendulkar. Regardless of the fact that he has failed to win pressure matches in recent times and seems unable to overcome a mental block that is prohibiting him from wowing us with his true genius, he has been one of the reasons (quite often, the only reason) why many of us have continued to watch Indian cricket. He has also been a big part of the little success that Team India has achieved over the previous decade and a half.

I will continue to be a fan of Tendulkar until my dying day. This has not, and will not, cloud my judgment pertaining to his true worth to Team India. I believe the calls for his axing or retirement are premature and irresponsible. I challenge the proponents of this school of thought to name one emerging player of considerable talent who will be able to consistently outperform Tendulkar over the next few years. Emotional and illogical arguments aside, not one name will be half of what Tendulkar can be over the coming years.

Sachin Tendulkar's worth to Team India is indisputable. However, his qualifications to lead the side leave a lot more to be desired. His two previous stints in the top job were nothing short of disastrous. He would have, undoubtedly, matured as a person and developed as a leader in this time. This should not paper over his blinding inability to inspire and cajole his troops to perform during his previous attempts.

Instead of discussing potential replacements for Rahul Dravid, the question that needs to be considered is whether Dravid deserves the sack? Tendulkar was not alone in being unable to convert his players into a cohesive and focussed unit. Mohammad Azharuddin also suffered the same problems. Azharuddin only survived for as long as he did thanks to politicking and a lack of desire within the BCCI to try and improve the game they are supposed to manage (obviously, nothing has changed to this day). A second failing of Azharuddin, Tendulkar and Ganguly was their significant decline in form while they were captain.

Rahul Dravid has only been in the job for 18 months. In that time he has shown that his batting has prospered, or at the very least, not suffered. He has also shown that he has the ability to lead his players to out-perform their potential, as evidenced by the 17 straight ODI victories while chasing.

Moreover, he has shown that he wants to be his own man. Nobody quite knows what prompted him to take the collaborative route for the World Cup, but he has also shown in the past that he has an ability to isolate and remedy his shortcomings - remember how he wasn't good enough to play ODIs.

Admittedly, his tactical awareness and ability to innovate went distressingly MIA when the going got tough. However, to be fair to Dravid, he is not the only international captain that suffers from this affliction. Only, Stephen Fleming, and Michael Vaughan to a lesser extent, have consistently displayed the ability to come out on top in difficult situations. The few times that they were strenuously tested, even Steve Waugh lost the plot.

If Captain Dravid's only drawback is that he needs to improve his tactical nous in difficult situations, does he need replacing? Do we have a ready-made candidate who is a shoo-in for both teams and also has the ability to captain like Fleming? I seriously think not.

Captain Tendulkar, is the worst thing that could happen to Indian cricket in these troubled times. We do not need to change the captain, we need to change the system that produces his players. Concentration on the issues that need addressing rather the shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic is the need of the hour. The decisions that need to be made are tough, but the reasons for making them are simple and require only common-sense.

Unfortunately, we all know that the likelihood of the BCCI making common-sense decisions are as likely as George Bush capturing Osama Bin Laden.

Continued >> >>

Monday, March 26, 2007

Woolmer Murder: What's The Hold-Up?

It has been eight full days since Bob Woolmer was found by a hotel maid/Inzimam-ul-Haq (nobody has answered this one yet), naked and unconscious on his hotel room floor. We have been told from day one that the Police will examine CC footage from the hotel's security cameras to glean the movements and/or identity of the murderer(s).

So what's the hold-up? Why hasn't someone got around to examining the said tapes yet? Why is taking so long to jolt the wheels of justice into action? For all we know, the killers have most probably already fled the island.

I dear say, this police examination is fast looking line one of those classic goof-ups reminiscent of the Delhi Police's performance in many a high-profile case over the past 10 years.

It took three days for the autopsy to be conducted and the results to be communicated. IMHO, that was two days longer than it ought to have taken. It should have been treated as a murder from the outset, in order to speed up the investigation.

Mark Shields should be doing all he can to ensure that the investigation is as effective, efficient and timely as possible. That is his job and he owes it to Bob Woolmer's family to make sure that all known and confirmed leads are examined at the earliest, without any further delay.

Why does the whole world refuse to use common-sense when dealing with a cricket related issue. The ICC never possessed it and now the Jamaican Police are leaving us with plenty to ponder.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Little Numb, In Absolute Denial

The first part is as accurate a summation of my present mood, the denial part you will understand later. After what is likely to be the worst ever performance by an Indian team at any edition of the Cricket World Cup, I am still struggling to believe it actually happened.

It is blatantly obvious, to anyone with half a brain, that the archaic structures and systems that have sustained Indian cricket for the last 20 years are inadequate for the needs of today's game. They will continue to prove themselves ineffective and inefficient as long as the game is governed by a haphazard, illogical and inept organisation that is manned by equally worthless and petty individuals that care for nothing more than their own selfish, personal agendas.

Despite the said structures and systems many good men have invested much thought, sweat and courage in trying to ensure that at least the national team can enjoy the right environment in which it has the opportunity to prosper. A building is only as safe as its foundations. Unfortunately, and far too soon for the hopes and wishes of many supporters, the building that is Team India finally gave way. I am inclined to argue that it is a true wonder that it has remained, somewhat, erect for so long.

If Bermuda beats Bangladesh tonight, and I give them no chance, we can be sure that a miracle of the highest order would have just occurred. If I were Chappell and Dravid I would be doing everything possible to help Bermuda achieve the impossible. With tongue firmly in cheek, the match-fixing route also crossed my mind, but thats a dirty name and we won't go there, for now.

Assuming that India are finally ousted from the World Cup tonight, I must say that I strongly agree with Sharad Pawar in that "harsh" decisions are required for the good of the game in India. But, that is where it ends.

I maybe numb, but I am also angry. Angry that a bunch of misfits and idiots posing as managers of the wealthiest body of its kind still have a job, as honorary as it may be. Pawar has come out with the same rhetoric that we all expected of him in the current climate: something about more youngsters and planning for the next World Cup.

Where does he plan to pull the said youngsters from? From a soft and bloated domestic competition structure that is not worth its first class status? From a situation where players bribe selectors to make it to Ranji squads (remember the DDCA)? From an environment where a pitch is known to be a strip of mud, devoid of any substance, in the middle of a green oval? From a system where 30 year old men with 5 year old children are still playing in various under-16 age-group tournaments?

Pawar neds to own up. The majority of the "blame" for this unfortunate defeat lies with him and his cronies, along with all those that have come before them and deigned it unnecessary to execute their duties with due care for the game. Greg Chappell and his staff are not to blame. Rahul Dravid and his players could have done things a little better than they did. However, it is Pawar and his calamitous group of fools that have no interest in making India a superpower of the cricket world - on the field - who are the real culprits in this drama.

All the BCCI's greenbacks are of no use or importance when it continually fails to employ them for the right purposes. Forget trying to help potential Olympians to reach their goals, it needs to look after its own pathetic backyard first. As obnoxious as it sounds, the simpletons that damaged the player's houses and burnt their effigies should have done it to Pawar and his mob instead. He is not worth the seat he occupies and it has become a waste of the nation's resources to listen to the unending gibberish he spouts.

Someone needs to do us all a favour and dethrone Pawar's pitiful administration. In fact, it is high time that he did us all a favour and stepped down of his own volition. The most unfortunate fact is that its not going to happen and the professions who should take his place are never going to surface.

The blame, Mr Pawar, lies with you.

Continued >> >>

Friday, March 23, 2007

Murder It Was

First and foremost, allow me to take this opportunity offer our heartfelt condolences to Gill Woolmer and her sons on the tragic and untimely passing of her Bob.

The old adage, "the good die young", could not have been created for a more apt individual. For all our bias and opinions, no person could argue that world of cricket will be worse off without the talent, dedication and simple presence of Bob Woolmer in its midst.

It is unfortunate, but the first thing that occurred to me when I initially learned of Bob's passing was that this was no suicide. A man that can handle, with such aplomb, the pressure cooker environment that is subcontinental cricket would not be easily given to taking his life - not over simply losing a cricket match, anyway.

No amount of passion is enough to justify this cowardly and heinous act. At the very least, Bob's passion should serve as a reminder to all those that pelt bricks and stones at players and coaches houses after an unfortunate loss against a weak opponent that this is just a game. Passionately arguing about the merits of a player/team is one thing, taking totally disproportionate and indefensible actions such as murder is simply not done.

To all those lunatics, especially in the subcontinent, grow up.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Most Impressive Soliloquy

Its been a while since this item was originally published on the website. However, I only got to it yesterday and I felt compelled to recommend it to our growing readership.

Just as a background, I rate Prem Panicker (yes that is the man himself if you've never seen him) in the league of very few when it comes to cricket journalism/writing. The said league includes only two other names, Harsha Bhogle and Peter Roebuck. Like the other two esteemed gentlemen, Prem's analysis and views are eloquently stated and it seems obvious that he gives due consideration to all facets of an issue, while still managing to produce very readable and uncomplicated articles.

In this vein, he has taken a hitherto virgin approach to interviewing the coach of a sporting team. In Prem's own words:

So finally, touched base with him, sought time, and when I met him -- at the Taj in Mumbai, the day before the Indian team left for the Carribbean -- decided to deviate from the normal way of doing interviews, and asked him if he would speak, uninterrupted, on one single question.

"This was the question: When, a little over 22 months ago, you interviewed with the BCCI for the job of Indian cricket coach, you had a vision -- the World Cup, and how India could best prepare to win it.

21 months after that vision was accepted, what has been the result? What has worked, what hasn't? If something hasn't worked, why not? How much were you able to do, how much were you not able to do and why? And finally, how ready is the team, now that the Cup is finally here?

That was the catch-all question I asked at the outset -- I then switched the tape on, and let him talk, for the next 41 minutes or so."

The actual interview can be found here. It is split into a number of 1-2 minute episodes that have served to provide the most honest, in-depth and lucid insight into the thinking that is undertaken off the field.

If you have listened to Greg Chappell on Crickinfo's "Roundtable" discusssions, you would have realised the man's innate nature to speak about a topic with seemingly the utmost honesty and integrity. No hype, no hoopla. IMHO, for this reason - if for no other - he has been the single best thing to happen to Indian cricket over the last couple of years.

Chappell discusses various players in the interview without a hint of negativity or partiality - one can imagine how difficult this may have been. You won't get a blueprint of the gameplan for the World Cup, but you will come away with greater knowledge about the importance of common-sense in planning for a cricket match.

Prem, thank you for this interview. Thank you for the work you keep producing, that in turn keeps feeding our passion for this most wonderful of games. I can't say I agree with all that you write, but then that is the beauty of opinions. I really hope you keep up the good work.


PS. Prem, a TV/radio show with you and Harsha and maybe Sunny discussing various goings-on in the cricket world would be quite an interesting concept. What say?

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Will The World Cup Proceed?

We've witnessed the 2 point something million dollar glitz and glamour of the Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony. We've analysed the life out of all the pre-tournament warm up games. We've heard of players scurrying out of hotels on account of suspicious fires/smoke. We have even had to endure a delinquent captain shoot his mouth off like a child in a playground fight.

The questions remains, are we likely to get any real, meaningful action anytime soon?

We/the teams might be seriously struggling if this report is anything to go by. In what can only serve as a very apt lesson in diplomacy and manners for Ricky Ponting, Bob Woolmer only had this to offer when quizzed as to why the practice facilities at Sabina Park for today's opening World Cup match were not ready to be utilised:

"If you're asking why it's happened you're talking to the wrong man."

We have known administrators from the subcontinent as kings of the last minute preparations. It is not uncommon to find the final coat of paint being applied to cover up under-prepared structures, even as the fans stream into their stadiums. Hell, sometimes even the red carpet is literally rolled out right in front of the first celebrity that makes his/her way to partake of the corporate hospitality.

However, West Indian administrators have taken "last minute preparations" to a whole new level. Sure, new stadiums take a while to build and make inhabitable. The amount of effort that is applied in readying a new stadium is nothing short of extraordinary. But, they have had since 1998 to appropriately plan and execute.

This World Cup is undeserving of such shabby organisation and time management. The teams involved should not have to make last minute dashes to new practice venues, a day before their match.

One can only assume that this chaos is not the result of a lack of funds or time, but of laziness and indiscipline. The West Indian people deserve to be portrayed in a better light by their administrators. The tourists that pay exorbitant sums to watch this tournament deserve better returns on their invested fortunes. For all the promises of an organised and well executed spectacle, we are on track to see the total opposite. I do sincerely hope, however, that I am proven mightily wrong.

On the subject of promises, Andy Roberts has been talking up the pitches the matches will be played on throughout the competition. He seems to believe that they will be "sporting" and offer lots of bounce and carry, after the first couple of matches. One would think he would know what he is talking about. He is, after all, the "Pitch Consultant" for the World Cup.

Again, I hope we do see sporting pitches. I am not holding my breath, though. For all the new pitches that I have played on, or watched being played on, none are sporting; very few offer consistent bounce; and rarely do they improve during the course of a tournament, even if it is two months long.

We sure are in for a hell of a tournament, folks. Hold on to your seats.

Continued >> >>

Speaking Urdu Promotes Pakistan

If you are anything like me, the first words that come to your mind are (in abbreviated form), "WTF?"

Now, lets call a spade for what it is. The Pakistan squad for the World Cup has had to deal with, what one would describe as, extremely tumultuous events over the last month. If the uncertainty around the omission of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, due to err... injury related reasons wasn't enough, a fire (or was it just smoke??) tore through their hotel forcing many star players to scamper out into the open.

Apparently, while the players were standing outside Danish Kaneria was asked to verbalise his views on the commotion. He replied with a simple, "it happens" (presumably with a shrug of the shoulders). The dimwit journalist subsequently quoted Kaneria as having said, "it happens at home as well." My initial reaction was that it must have been a reporter from Tehelka.

The Pakistani management has seen this event as reason enough to ban all players from speaking in English for the duration of the tournament. It just happens to be "National Tourist Year" in Pakistan at the minute and the team management (likely after a stern call from President Mushy himself) is concerned that misquotes might result in a less-than-positive reputation for their country.

This logic is partially understandable, even in a cricketing context. After all, you wouldn't want Mohammad Sami answering a question on whether he also takes drugs by confidently offering, "it happens" - even if it is accompanied by an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.

However, we all know that there has never been a Pakistani cricket announcement without a bizzare twist. The Pakistani management is of the firm view that their players speaking Urdu in press conferences will entice foreign tourists to Pakistan.

To be honest with you, I do not know one non-subcontinental friend of mine that will visit another country for the sole reason that its people do not speak English.

I am still scratching my head at this warped logic. Then again, it is Pakistani cricket and if we can't expect the weird and the wonderful from them, where will we source our entertainment from?

Continued >> >>

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ricky Ponting's Chip

I refer to the rather ostentatious mold of anti-matter that resides on his shoulder. If he has not done enough damage to his tattered reputation by being regularly disciplined by match referees for on-field irregularities and gesturing towards and shoving Federal Ministers off it, the Australian Captain has now resorted to taking pot-shots at Sunil Gavaskar.

In what can only be described as the pathetic venting of a long-held angst against the former world record holder, Ponting has again proven that Cricket Australia has forever cheapened the institution that is the post of Australian Captain by appointing him to it.

Insipidness and a dearth of real leadership qualities have characterised Ponting's captaincy and led to his charges looking and feeling lost when the pressure is unexpectedly applied to them. This lack of ability to think on his feet has tarnished his legacy as a cricketer and was quite evident when he was quizzed on the topic of Gavaskar airing his views on Australia's recent demise as the unchallenged occupiers of Mount Cricket's summit.

This Cricinfo article accurately points out Gavaskar's propensity to lambast the Australians for their many on and off field transgressions. When asked for his immature views on Gavaskar's latest comments, Ponting blurted:

"Have a look at how many Test matches they [India] have won. He [Gavaskar] has been a big part of that, he has been a selector and he has been on the coaching committee. They might want to start to look at the way they play their own cricket rather than looking at us."

It baffles me as to how Cricket Australia could appoint a man as its captain when he clearly does not have the intellect, nor the skill, to represent his country like a real statesman should. At the very least, Ponting should not have fabricated facts and made dubious links between the subject and an uninvolved institution.

The only selecting that Gavaskar has performed in recent times has been of the ICC World XI for the disgrace that was the Johnny Walker Super Series, and if you really want to stretch it, he was a member of the committee that interviewed and recommended Greg Chappell for the post of Indian Coach. In short, the only interest Gavaskar has in Indian cricket is purely an emotional one and as a commentator and columnist.

Furthermore, at no time, whilst criticising Australia's ways has Gavaskar compared them to the current Indian team.

It is blatantly obvious that Ponting has either no sense of the world around him - the same world that has been his life for the last decade - or he has willingly and deliberately employed his limited creativity to insinuate titles and linkages that clearly do not, and probably have never existed.

Cricket Australia would not have sent its team to the Caribbean without a Media Manager. It should now hurriedly shoot an email to its daft captain advising him to desist from any further public displays of ineptitude, instead deferring all questions to the said professional.

One wonders of the length of time it will take for Ponting to reduce the aura of the title of Australian Captain to the rubble that epitomised the Pakistani Captaincy in the days of W Akram, W Younis, R Latif and M Khan.

God have mercy on the legacy of Bradman, Border, Taylor and Waugh.

Continued >> >>

Cricket World Cup - Australia Preview

Continuing on from my preview of Team India's chances at the upcoming World Cup, the following are my thoughts on Australian chances at this tournament. As with the previous preview, this has also been published on the Desicritics site.

The Age, today, carried a very pertinent story on the Australian contingent at the World Cup headlined, "Ponting Searches For Answers." Word, from the horse's mouth, is that Ricky Ponting has held top secret one-on-one interviews with his charges to get a feel for the confidence levels within his camp and whether the players are comfortable with their roles. In fact he asked them whether they even knew what their roles were for the tournament.

Now forgive me if I am mistaken, but I was brought up thinking that the Aussies were the team that defined, if not invented, the word confidence. Ponting's latest admission signals a distinct lack of confidence, and dear I say it, a lack of communication within the setup. This is very unlike the Aussies we have come to know over the past 15 years.

Around the mid-way stage of the CB Series, I had posted some thoughts around the vulnerability that was creeping into the Australians' play. At that point, they were still lossless and three-peat was very much the order of the day. Let me tell you folks, the Aussies are in trouble.

The talk we have heard since that whitewash at the hands of New Zealand seems like a deliberate attempt to put up a smokescreen. WIth an ageing Glen McGrath and no reliable or consistent firepower as backup, the bowling is clearly their achilles heal. Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson have more off days Indian public servants. Brad Hogg would not be able to find a place in most Sri Lankan first class teams and Stuart Clarke is a paper tiger in ODIs.

Sure, the batting has been able to put up decent totals, but even that department is looking shaky. Michael Clark and Brad Hodge haven't the most impressive recent results to inspire mountain-loads of confidence. If and when Andrew Symonds makes a return to the lineup, there will be immense pressure on him to repeat his herculean feats of the 2003 edition of this tournament. Will he be able to do it on such short notice? The jury is out.

If there is any team in this competion with the potential to make a liar out of me, it is the Australians. However, based on recent form and the general feeling of apprehension enveloping the side, I will be surprised if they don't struggle to make it past the semi-finals. Three in a row is no easy task, not even for a high quality team such as the Australians. I do not believe the Australians have it in them to win the tag of World Champions this April.

Continued >> >>

Cricket World Cup - India Preview

Desicritcs have been running a series of articles where a few very articulate and knowledgable writers have been expressing their views on the chances of all participation nations. I have have had the honour of being able to join these wonderful men and woman.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons I have not been able to analyse all the teams, however, I haven't been busy enough to miss the opportunity to express my opinions on my beloved Team India. What follows is my brief preview of India's outlook at cricket's flagship tournament.

Virender Sehwag set out on a very confident tone by declaring, "We are a very balanced lot, have the best openers and wicketkeeper. Our middle order is very strong and we have the best combination of seamers and spinners." Rahul Dravid's utterances have also revolved around "balance" and "confidence".

On the back of this talk, one would be led to believing that the Indians were shoo-ins for the World Champions tag. Don't get me wrong, I think Team India has as good a chance as any of going home with the silverware. However, in my view this World Cup is going to be all about the batsmen who have the grit and gumption to play the waiting game and bowlers who bowl less than express pace but have an uncanny ability to keep nagging away, ball after ball after ball.

For India to get to and past the semi-finals, they will require a reformed and refined Virender Sehwag. I do not believe Irfan Pathan is likely to get a game, unless it is as cover for an injury. In this context, it is crucial that Sehwag fires at the top of the order and gets some crucial wickets in the middle of the innings. All the talk and negativity heaped upon him by Dilip Vengsarkar must be forgotten and a new chapter penned.

The old heads will undoubtedly try their damnedest to ensure a focussed and lethal outfit stays on course. This tournament is ripe for Tendulkar and Ganguly to put everyone else to shame, for one final time as a pair. With generous help from Dravid, somehow, I think they might even manage it.

Someone, or something, needs to get into Harbhajan's head and set it straight. He, along with Sehwag, will be a vital determinant of the ranking that Team India claims at the conclusion of the tournament. Harbhajan needs to get rekindle that fire in his belly and douse the flames that have become ever-present on his frustrated face. Make him watch videos of how he tormented the Aussies in 1998 and 2001, do whatever it takes to awaken him.

This version of Team India has a lot of talent, spirit and fight. They will need to display all these qualities in unison and with intent. I sincerely hope they will win the trophy and I also believe that they have a better chance than most.

Continued >> >>

Friday, March 09, 2007

Would Somebody Get Me Some Masking Tape?

Better still, take it directly to Shoaib Akhtar and append it to his face. Specifically, over his rather active mouth. That is how much his words annoy me. I am sick to the bone of reading/listening to his gibberish.

I was unfortunately unable to comment on the fiasco that was Pakistan's selection of its World Cup squad, which Akthar was initially a part of. However, my earlier comments on the doping farce will prove to be very accurate pointers to my real thoughts on the latest debacle.

In a clear indication that Akthar believes he has done no wrong or in a feeble attempt to dispel the cloud of suspicion around his eventual omission from the World Cup squad, he has muttered a few words to the effect that he is very sorry that he was not able to make it to the World Cup, due to his well publicised injuries.

It has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that this man has no integrity, and now, no shame. I urge the media outlets that flock to for their 30 seconds of cringe-worthy sound bites to do all of us respectable folk a favour and not ask Akhtar for his tainted thoughts.

Similar to my hatred for all things associated with Azharuddin, Akhtar should wallow in shame for the rest of his life. There is absolutely no need to make a false idol out of this proven cheat.

Continued >> >>

It Happens Only In India

I know I've been gone for a while. Unfortunately, I'm not an A-List blogger and my testosterone charged utterances on this humble forum do not allow me to satisfy my heart's hunger for the finer culinary works of art. In short - I've been really busy and will attempt to blog a lot more regularly now that the main event is upon us.

However, the point of this post was not to provide you a voyeuristic insight into my rather happening life, but, to dwell on a rather sad/coincidental/expected event that I happened upon today.

The physical World Cup was doing a lap of honour around India when it fell to pieces. Not quite pieces, but into two pieces, at least.

The story goes (for we will never be privy to the truth) that the trophy was broken at the time that, ICC sponsors, LG Electronics collected it from the venerable organisation. However, it seems that this was not brought to anyone's attention until the trophy arrived in Kolkata, after a tryst with the crowds of New Delhi.

It seems rather strange that the ICC would allow a broke trophy to be shown off around the globe. It doesn't, however, seem strange that the trophy was broken while on tour in India. Why is it that quality control is not one of our top priorities? Why is it that things often go broke with us?

I have a few answers of my own to these questions, but this is not the place to air them. For the time being I am left to ponder the shoddy workmanship of the English craftsmen who manufactured the trophy and the horrible memories of Govinda gyrating his, errr.. rather well proportioned hips to that dastardly song.

Continued >> >>
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