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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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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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.

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

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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.

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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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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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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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 >> >>
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