Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Vultures Begin Their Feast

They lost in Mohali, but no problem because it was India and it was a fluke. They lost in Nagpur, but no problem because it was India, McGrath and Warne had retired and "she'll be right" once Haydos and Lee get back in form against the Kiwis. They lost in Perth (again) and that's no problem because Aussies always perform well with their backs to the wall and they'll murder the Saffas in Melbourne when Haydos will crack another god-gifted century. They're about to lose at the G and I wonder if we are finally witnessing the calling of a spade by its true and unchallenged name?

Brydon Coverdale rips into Matthew Hayden and co. Ricky Ponting ponders the thought of becoming the first Australian captain in almost 20 years to lose two series on the trot and can't make any guarantees for the Sydney Test. Tim Nielsen would rather have his heart ripped out than talk about Day 3 of this Boxing Day Test. Further, with a bottomless pit of salt suitable only for open wounds, the Indian media has uncovered cracks in places other than BLee's foot.

This is indeed a sad day for world cricket, for I long to see a world with several powerful teams (of which Team India is the mostest) who can beat each other on any given Sunday. To see a superpower fall with such expedience and utter disgrace really demands a cover-up of Catholic Church proportions. Unfortunately, such ego-saving avenues are closed to the Australian cricket team and now we are likely left with a two-horse race for at least the next couple of years.

Never in Ricky Ponting's worst nightmares would he have imagined going to Sydney with the series well and truly lost. Champions always believe their own bluff, that's why they are fearless. Only when their mortality is proven to them with abject ease do the weeds of doubt take hold. Such is the case with Hayden, Symonds and the rest.

Matthew Hayden will likely survive to play his benefit match in Sydney and for this he only has BLee to thank. Andrew Symonds would have been unlikely to be so lucky had Shane Watson not be so fragile - again. The rest are likely to die another day.

These, however, are the easy decisions. Andrew Hilditch and his band of merry men face a much tougher choice when it comes to advising the Cricket Australia board about the man considered in Australia second only to the Prime Minister. Michael Clarke has already been groomed as the heir apparent. Clarke's won a few matches when Ponting's had his feet up and appears to have far more tactical nous, and more importantly, luck, than the incumbent.

Almost every other major series loss in the last 10 years has seen the sacking of the then Australian captain (just ask Waugh and Taylor). The Herald Sun had it absolutely right, Ponting has had a year from hell. Are the Australian selectors seriously thinking about wiping the slate clean and putting Ponting out of his misery after what could well be a South African whitewash?

Now, who would have dreamed of that two months ago?

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Continued >> >>

Monday, December 29, 2008


So it is according to this hilarious piece of work by the lads at Short Of A Length.

Eulogies of Ponting's reign as captain will be published soon enough. Until then, enjoy the link.

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Continued >> >>

BCCI Now Meddling In Sri Lanka

Arjuna Ranatunga allows Sri Lankan ICL players to participate in the Sri Lankan domestic competition - the BCCI grumbles, but makes no moves. Even before Team India's tour of Pakistan is canceled, Ranatunga intimates that the Lankans are willing to tour Pakistan if India pulls out - soon after which, Ranatunga and his interim committee are sacked. I don't often subscribe to conspiracy theories, but this does not seem kosher.

Especially not, after this came to my attention.

Is there something I'm missing here? How is the BCCI or India adversely affected if Sri Lanka tours Pakistan? If anything, common sense says that financially stronger Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricket boards are more valuable allies for India at the table of the 10 stupid stooges in Dubai.

Unfortunately we all know jokers' propensity to meddle in all things not directly related to promoting and enhancing the game in their own backyard. The sooner the establishment realises that Team India's current success is not the result of great planning, but mere coincidence and good fortune, the more likely we will be to avoid the plight of afflicting the less fortunate in our very small universe.

We can only hope that the ineptitude and pettiness which characterises the (mis-)management of Indian cricket will show signs of change during our lifetime.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Night Tests Just Not Cricket

Cricket Australia has been harping on about night Test matches for quite some time now. Up until now, no concrete timelines, plans or details of any significance have been offered as to how, when and where these random mutterings will come to fruition. It is with stark horror that I read that the sanctity of the purest form of the game will be audaciously challenged with the first ever day / night test match between Australia and Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval during November 2009.

IMHO, innovation in sport is great, as long as it does not debase the virtues of the original and the traditional. Night Test cricket is an assault on the very fabric on which cricket was created.

I can understand cricket's thirst for change in this product driven age where every moment must be entertaining, dramatic and seemingly better than the last. However, cricket has already slighted its loyal and traditional supporters by cowering to the entertainment product dollar by producing a version that is only marginally longer than your average Bollywood turnip. Surely, that is insult enough.

Test cricket will not be Test cricket without a red cherry that performs the feats all red cherries over the ages have performed. Lets just try and leave pink to Paris and her troupe of trailer trash.

There is a simple pleasure in sweating it out over a hot summer, watching two evenly matched prize fighters toughing it out. Test cricket is an entertainment product already. If people haven't yet realised, they probably never will - not at night and definitely not because of a florescent cricket ball. For these simple minds, we have 50 over cricket, and if that fails they can indulge in the sodomisation of this noble sport through T20.

If day night four day cricket has already been tried and rejected in Australia, why do we insist on applying this clearly infeasible concept to the peak version of the game? Something about inept administrators I hear?

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Continued >> >>

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is Brett Lee's Career Coming To An End?

Just on two years ago we offered you this. In the meantime, sure he came back and became the matchwinner he was always touted to be. His potential was being fulfilled, they said. Was it really? Or was Brett Lee simply riding on the coat tails of Glen McGrath and subsequently, benefiting from the unwarranted respect that opposition batsmen offered the Australian attack after the departure of Warne and McGrath?

The mind is the most potent weapon any sportsperson has. It can propel you to extraordinary heights or it bury you in a deluge of negativity and self-pity. Brett Lee's personal life has been plastered all over Sydney's tabloids. His marital problems have been sliced and diced ad nauseum. The question nobody has been able to answer, is whether he has really recovered from all his woes? I get the feeling even Brett Lee doesn't know.

Traditionally we at The Match Referee, have been severely disliked (this is a family website so I'm keeping it clean) by ageing and balding bowlers who used to be fast and couldn't bowl an outswinger if Imran Khan gifted them a tampered ball. We haven't quite worked out why, but we'll get back to you when we have it sussed.

I like Brett Lee, simply because he used to bowl fast and it took a lot of gumption to sing a corny love song with a 60-something grandma. As difficult as it will be for the Australian selectors to take this decision given the current state of their bowling attack, they must give Brett Lee a break.

Along with Matthew Hayden, Lee is clearly struggling more than the collective. The quiet swagger, the confident smile the ease and pace are quite clearly missing from his game. Every minute movement seems laboured, every sinew strained for the most trivial of outcomes. This is not the strike weapong the Australian cricket system manufactured and this is not the obsolete machine that will be useful to the Australian cricket team in the troubled years to come.

Some time away from the international grind is likely to bear large, juicy and naturally sweetened fruits for Australian cricket. Lee needs this time to go back to basics, reinvent himself in his old age and replenish his tanks of "love for the game".

All the greats have had to do it at some point or another in their careers. Brett Lee isn't even close to being a great cricketer yet - reason moreso, one would think, for him to be forced to do the needful.

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Continued >> >>

Do Pakistani Cricketers Matter In The IPL?

It's an interesting question. I don't think anybody has an answer that can be solidly backed by concrete evidence at this point in time. While their technical ability is not in question and given the state of the nation after the Mumbai slaughter, will it be un-Indian of IPL team bosses to play Pakistanis during the second season of the BCCI's T20 competition?

Younis Khan - that most intelligent of Pakistani cricketers - has quite selflessly proferred that the IPL would suffer catastrophic failure if he and his fellow countrymen were excluded from the upcoming edition.

In Pakistani cricket, Younis' ego is second only to Shoaib Akhtar's and I have a sneaking suspicion that Younis might be suffering from a bout of FIGJAM (f**k I'm good, just ask me - for the uninitiated).

It is my considered opinion that the absence of Pakistani cricketers will have minimal influence on the success or lack thereof the IPL. In fact, I am a firm believer in standardisation and consistent decision making. Therefore, the precedent created by the Indian government's decision to block Team India's tour of Pakistan should be uniformly and religiously applied to ban all Pakistani nationals from earning an income on Indian soil. For what it's worth, yes I will consider it un-Indian if IPL teams field Pakistani cricketers.

This view may seem somewhat extremist to many. However, balanced and measured approaches to coercing that recalcitrant nation to clean up its act have proven unfruitful for 60 years; it's high time for serious heavy-handedness.

Sorry Younis, I simply don't buy your bluster.

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Continued >> >>

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cricket & The Mumbai Terrorist Attack

Words really cannot describe the horrors of seeing innocent men and women slaughtered, of elite commandos falling out of flaming windows or of one India's most celebrated and iconic buildings being owned by raging flames. Talking about anything else, especially cricket, feels like a betrayal and belittling of the courage of the hotel and station staff, of the victims, but most importantly our bravest commandos, soldiers, policemen and firemen.

However, we have a mandate on this website and that is to talk about all things related to cricket. In this vein I read a most telling and articulate opinion piece by Cricinfo's Sambit Bal on the connection between these cowardly events and the fate of Indian cricket.

I have not always agreed with Sambit in the past. However, nobody else has been able to say what needs to be said with the skill and passion that Sambit has managed to exude his article. A great read and I, for one, have nothing further to add for the moment.

Let us all hope and pray for the families of the victims, especially our courageous security forces who come to the party and leave through the back door after a job well done, time and time again, with absolutely no fanfare. This is not a political blog but surely now questions must be asked about the role of fat cat Indian politicians in, at the very least, making very easy, or at the worst, directly aiding and abetting, the activities of such cowardly louts / terrorists.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ben Cousins Threatened By Commercialism Gone Mad

We at The Match Referee don't make a habit of commenting on AFL matters, even though the game is one which we closely follow. However, recent events on the Ben Cousins comeback trail have left me appalled at the direction in which Australian sport is travelling. Yes, Cousins was a drug addict. Yes, he abandoned his car and ran from a booze bus. Yes, he made all the mistakes in the book, and then some. Question that begs is whether his recent acts of repentance are enough to grant him a second chance?

Both Collingwood and St Kilda have considered the situation in some depth. Meetings with private investigators and state police commissioners were set up to assess the viability of Cousins moving to either Melbourne club. It is an absolute travesty that it was the voice of a consortium of sponsors that forced the hand of both clubs in pulling out of the race. What's more is that both clubs did not have the gumption to put the real reason to their fans, instead hiding behind utter hogwash about how Ben Cousins may affect team morale or the like.

As a Collingwood fan I was over the moon when Collingwood and Eddie McGuire were the early contenders to procure Cousins' services. For mine, it would have ranked as the biggest coup of McGuire and Mick Malthouse's reign at the great club. A midfield consisting of Cousins and our talented youngsters would have given us serious street cred in challenging for the flag.

Alas, it now seems that the Brisbane Lions are the only club with any remote interest in drafting the former West Coast Eagles captain. Word has it that coach Michael Voss will have the final say. Really? Will the Lions' sponsors not interfere if Voss wants one B Cousins on his playing roster?

If there is one thing going for Cousins calling Brisbane home, it is that new coach Voss has almost been given a free hand to mould his own team. Being a player until only very recently and possessing the skill and charm to take someone like Cousins under his wise tutelage, might be the only planks on which Voss may be able to convince the Lions' sponsors and Board.

It is this requirement to gain sponsor approval before recruiting players that simply bewilders and angers me. The sponsors do not create, manage or run AFL clubs or any other sporting body. They chip in money so that they can leech off the highs and build their brands off the back-breaking deeds of the players. In this era of specialisation, I simply cannot understand a club's propensity to give in to the selfish demands of sponsors who are clearly not specialists at managing football departments.

Why is it that us footy fans have to be denied the opportunity to witness and celebrate the skill and class of one of the greatest players to grace an AFL field? Would the public stop buying Jeld Wen windows and doors if Cousins went to St Kilda? Seriously?

I think the argument that a player who thrills and entertains on the park will draw more people to the ground and create more exposure for the sponsors is infinitely more solid and plausible.

Bluntly put, this is yet another case of a decision made by clumps in suits with very little appreciation for the real world and the real sports fan. To hand over all power to commercial interest groups is an abominable path for any sporting organisation to take, especially when it involves the future of one the greatest ever.

Former junkie or not, Ben Cousins deserves a second chance. Shame be to those who deny him the opportunity.

Continued >> >>

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Match Referee Debuts On Facebook

Given our recent switch to the fully commercial and totally not free http://thematchreferee.com domain and all ancillary commitments that a move of this order entails, we thought it only logical to be able to give our readers (who we like to think of as our fans) an opportunity to show their support and vent their frustrations on another platform. Where, you ask? Facebook, we answer.

If you like what we do, or even if you despise us, we highly recommend you to join The Match Referee community / fan site on that most addictive of social networking platforms - Facebook. Simply click on any of the links in this post (including here) or on the Facebook icon on the left sidebar to become a fan and and help us rouse our social networking army.

Also, if you haven't already, subscribe to your RSS feed.

Needless to say, the more the merrier - sex, caste and level of intelligence no bar.

Continued >> >>

Andrew Symonds' Career Under Threat

Andrew Symonds' "gone fishing" incident is now part of Australian cricketing folklore. Hot on the heels of this incident, his subsequent rehabilitation and reinstatement into the Australian Test team for the New Zealand series, Andrew Symonds appears to be back in the fast lane and in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The Age reports that Symonds is under investigation for a "physical altercation" (read king hit) on a patron of Brisbane's popular Normanby Hotel. Given his recent turmoil and admission of an affinity for lots of booze, this incident can most politely be termed untimely. His critics may struggle to refrain from making use of some altogether harsher synonyms.

While I love the odd sensationalist headline about the Aussie cricket team, I cannot seriously believe that Cricket Australia will go anywhere close to banishing Symonds from the game for any great length of time - a slightly firmer slap on the wrist is more likely to ensue. I have no doubt that Symonds was provoked by the member of the public idiot concerned (I simply cannot understand why such simpletons are so hell-bent on heckling drunken sports stars who are no less than man-mountains in physical stature). While provocation is no excuse for a king hit, I do have some sympathy for stars who find themselves in these unfortunate positions.

Admittedly, the details have not yet been substantiated and I may simply be jumping the gun. However, we all know the state of Australian cricket at the minute and suggestions that Andrew Symonds will be wiped out by Cricket Australia for ever and a day are patently preposterous.

Every sport has one rule for the stars and an altogether different rule for the others. Cricket is no different and Australian cricket, certainly, is no different. Symonds may have cancelled his latest fishing trip to spend time with his fair lady to ease his nerves, but I am confident that he has nothing to fear and the honour of representing his adopted land on the cricket pitch will not be snatched from him.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Professional Indian Selectors Are A Myth

I use "professional" with tongue firmly in my cheek in this instance. As with India's aping of most western concepts, the structures, responsibilities and intended benefits of employing professional selectors have quite clearly been deemed far too trivial to be understood by the powers that be and then communicated to the selection panel. Why else would professional selector think it appropriate to leak details of an alleged heated discussion in relation to the selection and non-selection of Irfan Pathan and RP Singh?

MS Dhoni was unequivocal in his denouncement of such despicable acts, which are unfortunately all too common in every walk of Indian life where the grimy hands of politicians have been allowed to wreak havoc. Selection meetings, like company Board meetings, are confidential for a reason - the players do not need to know every sordid detail that is discussed about them. This reprehensible action has ensured that Dhoni is now in a pickle that is not of his making and will undoubtedly impact team morale.

This leak further burdens the massive weight of evidence which clearly identifies that the BCCI administrators are inept and have not a care for the health of the game nor the players through whom they rake in the big bucks. This matter is likely to be swept under the carpet and life will go on. Unfortunately, the selector concerned will not be made an example to encourage current and future appointees from deterring from such cowardly acts.

The cricket will go on and India will go a long way to whitewashing the Poms. However, this incident again proves the inadequate level of administrative intelligence and checks and balances that are necessary to ensure continued success on the field beyond the current crop.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Anil Kumble Retires

He was reviled for not spinning the ball enough, for being a tiger on tailor-made tracks and a bunny on everything else and pilloried every time he made an ungainly attempt at a dive to stop a boundary. A bag full of wickets were taken, yet nobody rejoiced because that was Anil Kumble’s job, right? Many lesser men (and I used this noun deliberately) have belittled Kumble for no reason other than that he was always attacked, always gave his best and never let up.

Truth is that Anil Kumble has been India’s most consistent match winner for the best part of the previous 18 years. Come hell or high weather this man has surpassed all expectations, yet not his own, but never asked for anything in return. We haven’t seen any party punch-ups, his face has never been plastered all over TV screens and billboards and he has definitely received less than he was actually due.

Wordsmiths more talented than I will, rightly, wax lyrical about this most understated man. More than most people yet realise, Anil Kumble will eventually be remembered as colossus of our times, not just on the cricket field but for his deeds far from it too.

As much as Tendulkar, Dev and Gavaskar, Kumble is a national treasure in every sense of the phrase. Call him what you want, Anil Kumble will forever epitomise the unwavering spirit, unending ambition and unmatched genius inherent in those who are a cut above the rest.

Anil, words will never be enough to applaud your achievements and your commitment, but it is with deep sadness that we hear of your departure. However, it is with immense gratitude and blessings aplenty that we send you into the future where unquestionably greater opportunities and challenges await. Thanks for all the moments of magic over the last 18 years.

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Continued >> >>

Stanford Superstars Smash England For 20

$20 million, winner takes all, and the Poms leave the Caribbean with not a penny in their pockets. Kevin Pietersen believes that the miserable England performance was a result of all the off-field shenanigans involving the players' wives and one egotistical, crass and self-obsessed American billionaire. This incident was easily explained away. However, the question of the English players' interest in participating in future such cash grabs will prove far more difficult to answer.

Coming from a country that prides itself on being so "proper" I find it hard to fathom how the ECB could agree to whore England's integrity at the altar of a smug Texan who cares not for the game, its people or their cultures. Even rational Americans will understand why it's just not cricket.

Take nothing away from the Caribbean players who have demolished their opposition and earned their millions. This money will change many of their lives, hopefully for the better. For English cricketers who are not so poverty stricken, what will keep them coming back? Surely further humiliation will not prove a big enough carrot.

I do not buy that Allan Stanford is interested in promoting the interests of West Indian cricket. Until Stanford's hidden agenda is outed, anything this man does will be viewed with a large dollop of cringe, cynicism and suspicion. For all the feeble protestations of Stanford and Giles Clarke the Stanford 20 for 20 will not capture the hearts of the cricket lovers across the globe. After all, there is simply nothing official about it.

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Continued >> >>

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Only In India

And maybe, just maybe, Pakistan too. Curator of Fortress Feroz Shah Kotla, Radhey Shyam Sharma, has prepared a "parting gift" for Indian captain Anil Kumble. Celebrating his final Test in charge, as well as Kumble's many Herculean performances at Fortress Kotla, Sharma proudly boasted that he has "always made wickets that suit Kumble and this time it won't be any different."

Parochialism aside, this has to be considered home advantage in its most brazen and transparent form. Every country prepares wickets that suit its players. As cricket fan, and that too an Indian cricket fan, very little gives me more pleasure than to watch the odd Test where touring batsman grope, fiddle and play virtual twister in trying to combat the wiles of world class Indian spinners.

It has always intrigued (and sometimes angered) me that a turning wicket has ceased to be considered a fair wicket in modern day cricket. IMHO the Mumbai pitch during Australia's last Test tour was just as fair as the WACA wicket in its fast, bouncy heyday. A wicket only ceases to be fair when it is altered to advantage one team over another during the course of a match.

Publications today abound with stories of how Kumble has to prove himself, once again, after debutant Amit Mishra's impressive showing at Mohali. Kumble will only silence these cricket-illiterate journalists by leading Team India to a victory at Fortress Kotla, by becoming only the second international captain in a decade to lower Australian colours.

Radhey Shyam Sharma and his crew have done their due, now it is for Team India to honour such fine servants of Indian cricket.

PS. The man in the above image (source Daylife) is not Radhey Shyam Sharma.

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Continued >> >>

Monday, October 27, 2008

India v Australia: Ricky Ponting's Two Lemons

Bishan Singh Bedi has seldom been one to pull punches when it comes to the big issues. Bedi has remained true to form after accepting an invitation from Australian manager Steve Bernard to have a chinwag with Jason Krejza and calling for Krejza to replace Cameron White in the starting XI for the third Test. Question being, what did Bedi see in Krejza?

The spinner’s slot in the final XI must be one of the biggest headaches for Ricky Ponting in the current environment. He has effectively been asked to choose between two duds. One was hammered and humiliated by the next generation of Indian batsmen and the other was only selected because he wasn’t in the country to play a tour game and had been thus unscathed. Who says more warm up games are better?

Bedi is one prominent ex-player who generally has the best interests of cricket, and especially Indian cricket, at heart when he speaks. With this in mind I must admit to gaining some sadistic pleasure in seeing Bedi in a pink shirt emblazoned with a prominent BCCI logo trying to raise the stocks of a has-been team in varying levels of turmoil, depending on which media outlet you favour.

While Bedi recommended the specialist route for Ponting and his Aussies, it seems likely Bedi’s advice will fall on deaf ears. After all, Ponting doesn’t have the aggressive bent of Steve Waugh (nor the world class resources now) and it is highly unlikely that he will risk Krejza against the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar & Mahendra Singh Dhoni when any of them are 100 not out on a Kotla road. It speaks volumes of Australia's plight when Cameron White is considered the most dependable lemon for a marquee Test series.

One might opine that there is just cause for Ponting to shelve his ego and take up Shane Warne’s offer of a comeback. However, I think we all realise that a Warnie comeback is about as likely as serial pest offender Matthew Hayden turning down his hot air nozzles.

This is not to say that Team India may not be surprised by an Aussie resurgence in the next couple of Tests. However, an aggressive approach by Anil Kumble and co will go a long way to ensuring a clean sheet.

Update: Ponting now opines that he believes Krejza is "definitely in the running" for the third Test. Personally, I think Ponting is trying to play mind games with his two lemons, as well as the Indians and will prefer Cameron White over Krejza. I simply do not believe he has an attacking captaincy bone in his body.

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Continued >> >>

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anil Kumble's Return: Much Ado About Nothing

Scribes of various descriptions and literary ability have been expending reams discussing whether Team India captain Anil Kumble should return to side after MS Dhoni's men smashed the Aussies in the second Test in Mohali. Among the said scribes is yesteryear's superstar, turned commentator, Ian Chappell. To put it bluntly, Chappell is disgracing his intelligence and talking absolute drivel by calling for the Indian captaincy to be permanently handed to MS Dhoni from the next Test.

These expert commentators often make me wonder whether they really have lost the plot or simply have hidden agendas when spurt such ill-considered claptrap. I might be more inclined to understand if a fan with absolutely no background in formal club or representative cricket had vociferously called for Dhoni to be permanently anointed captain from the third Test. Chappell should know better.

As a hypothetical, assume the following for the next Ashes series:
  • Ricky Ponting plays poorly in the drawn first Test, is injured and replaced by Shaun Marsh for the second Test;
  • Michael Clarke captains in the second Test and the Aussies win by a healthy margin;
  • Marsh blasts a century on the fourth day of the second Test to set the win up for the Aussies;
  • Ponting is fit and raring to go for the third Test.
Would Chappell seriously contend that Ponting now be stripped of the captaincy and play under Clarke for the remainder of the series and, possibly, his career? The likelihood of Australian selectors stripping Ponting of the captaincy is the same the BCCI ever becoming a professional and accountable organisation. For the uninitiated, this equates to a probability of zero.

Chappell and his ilk are employed to provide us, the fan, with justifiable, well reasoned and insightful analysis of events. Ian, do everyone a favour and spare us the amateurism. We already have to endure far too much of this class of nonsense.

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Continued >> >>

Thursday, October 09, 2008

India Cricket Live Video Feed

I have stumbled across a few websites that offer live video feed of this series. The picture quality is excellent for the live feed, although the actual video size could be said to be a tad small. Even then, who's complaining?

A list of websites that offer live streaming of cricket matches from around the world:
If you can't watch cricket on your TV, or simply need to watch it at work you've just hit entertainment nirvana.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sourav Ganguly Retires

Indian cricket's most successful captain ever, a leader India had been in need of for generations and a batsman of the highest ability, class and elegance has decided to call it a day - on his own terms. Love him or loathe him, Sourav Ganguly is a man his enemies, of whom there were many, simply could not keep down. Throughout his career Ganguly made it his habit to defy the odds, and with the same resolve he has fought to for the right for one last hurray - defeat of his old foes, the might Australians.

Debate will rage as to whether his exit was scripted / planned in collusion with the powers-that-be of Indian cricket. In reality, this is a non-issue. Indian cricket owes this, and much more, to this revolutionary leader who was the catalyst for the its ascendancy in world cricket. It would be an utter shame if Ganguly did, in fact, have to fight for this very fitting end, for this swan song is a small thank you for years of persistent toil and jubilant successes.

Ganguly has confirmed that his retirement was directly affected by the previous selection panel's decision to drop him from the Irani Trophy side. It is a downright shame that players of such ilk are treat so disdainfully by a group of inept and vindictive jokers parading as selectors. A simple, honest chat to discuss their respective view of Ganguly's future would have ensured an alignment of key minds that would only have augured well for this series against Australia, and Indian cricket in general.

Alas, as the old adage goes - common sense is not very common at all in Indian cricket, and the average cricket fan could have expected nothing more from a thoughtless and greedy administration.

The "God of the off side" is a true legend of modern day sport, so much so that I could not have said it better than this from Ayaz Menon:

Though he has some scintillating innings to his credit, Ganguly was not quite in the same league as Tendulkar, Dravid or Laxman. But juxtapose his captaincy with his batting, and he emerges as much of a titan as any of the aforementioned, perhaps taller.

It is a big call, I know. But one that for mine is infinitely reasonable and valid. Sourav Ganguly will one day be given the recognition and honour that is his due. Unfortunately, and not that I believe it matters to him, it will come a lot later than it should otherwise have taken.

Until such time let us pray that that the great one recreates something close to that epic performance in Brisbane on the 2003/2004 tour of Australia. Such performances in this series will not only ensure an Indian series victory, but sweet revenge against those muppets that have been baying for his blood.

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, October 05, 2008

India v Australia: Shades Of 1998 For Australia

Remember this match when an unheralded Mumbai lineup demolished Mark Taylor's touring Australians by 10 wickets. Shane Warne had arrived in India after cleaning up batsmen the world over, only to be pummeled into insignificance by each and every Indian batsmen to whom he bowled. Jason Krejza, while not nearly within a stone's throw of the great one, in terms of ability or promiscuity, is facing the same music 10 years later, in 2008. Are these events a sign of future inglorious defeats for Ricky Ponting's Australians, as they were for Mark Taylor's band?

The Indian Board President's XI gave the Australians a tougher test than the visitors were likely anticipating. With Ponting's continuance of the sub-continental run drought, only another gallant rescue act by Mr Cricket, Michael Hussey, and Stuart Clark saved Australia from an egg-on-face moment of a magnitude they have not suffered since the loss to Bangladesh before the 2005 Ashes.

While it's heartening to see Yuvraj Singh score a century and rub salt in Australian wounds by making them slave away in the searing heat on the last day, I wonder if this mauling of Krejza has jolted the Australian think tank into considering the option of playing four quicks and Shane Watson? With figures of 31 overs for 199 runs (and not even a whiff of a wicket), is Krezja really going to do a better job than Michael Clarke's pies or even those of Matthew Hayden?

Mind, the only other fast bowler that could take Krezja place in the Test XI is Peter Siddle, and hasn't exactly covered himself in glory during this match. One can only imagine how Ponting must be cursing Andrew Symonds at this very moment! I wonder if any bookie is offering odds for an SOS call being placed to Symonds mid-trip?

With a fragile batting lineup, impotent bowling attack and a captain who can't buy a run, Australia really need to pull a rabbit in a hat trick if they are to have any chance of saving face during this Test series. Not sure about you, but I simply cannot wait for Thursday afternoon!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

India v Australia: ICC Offers Some Hope

The announcement of match officials for a series of such enormity is always news to which I look forward. We, especially I, have been ultra critical of many characters posturing around the world as members of the ICC's Elite Panel of umpires. Much to my pleasure Sri Lankan umpire Ashoka de Silva has been permanently dumped from the Elite Panel. But what about the likes of Rudi Koertzen, Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson?

Well, unfortunately Koertzen has been appointed to stand in the first two Tests of the latest installment of the India v Australia franchise. He will be partnered by Pakistan's Asad Rauf, if he can detach himself from his hair curler. Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar will join forces to officiate in the final two Tests.

However, it must be noted that the ICC is showing some signs of progress in its quality of decision making. Steve Bucknor's name is thankfully missing from the list of officials, as are the likes of Benson and Billy Doctrove.

While I feel somewhat for the gents in white after the introduction of the ridiculous referral system, it seems obvious to me (and therefore my criticism of their performance is justified) that such a dubious idea would never have passed muster had it not been for umpires' ineptitude in the first place.

I wonder what the odds are for a conspiracy theory where Aleem Dar manages to contract osteitis pubis and is conveniently subbed off the dreaded Bucknor? Any takers?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Manchester United Songs & Chants

To aid my procrastinating today, I was trawling through YouTube and found a treasure trove of Manchester United crowd chants. Having never been to a United game, I sometimes wonder what the crowd actually chants. If you've been in a similar position, watch these videos, memorise the lines and give 'em hell next time you watch mighty United play on TV or at the ground.

Anderson Song:

Tevez Song:

Wayne Rooney Song:

That boy Ronaldo, he makes England look shiite:

Take Me Home United Road:

Finally, this list would not have had any street cred if I didn't present this to all you hardcore United fans:

Admittedly it's slightly harsh to some of the game's legends from other clubs. Then again, who asked them to associate themselves with our foes?

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Continued >> >>

Ronaldinho & Anderson Party With Drug Dealer

So say Brazilian police who tapped the phones of these two footballing superstars in a bid to discover the whereabouts of a notorious drug dealer who had escaped from prison. A police department insider reveals that the AC Milan and Manchester United players were discussing attending a party with the fugitive.

Luckily for Ronaldinho and Anderson, they never mentioned the purchase, consumption or courier of drugs during the tapped calls. Word has it that a friend of Anderson's was looking after the footballer's apartment in his absence, and used the premises to hide the fugitive - all without Anderson's knowledge.

While Ronaldinho and Anderson may not have known the shady activities of their fugitive 'friend', stories like this only highlight the different worlds in which modern day stars exist. Forget about living in your house, if your neighbour was your town's most successful dealer, you would know about it - without ever having to talk to him.

Maybe superstars just don't care about such trivialities, it's probably easier for them to simply turn a blind eye. Any superstars able to shed some light on this rather intriguing component of your beings?

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Continued >> >>

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stanford 20/20 Falls At First Hurdle

The Stanford 20/20 is finally being exposed for what it is - a multi-million dollar sham to satisfy the whims and fancies of one man. Don't get fooled into thinking this is payback for the IPL not including any English players in its competition - any millions the players make are purely coincidental.

Unlike any other cricket competition running at present, this exhibition match between England and the Stanford All-Stars is all about Texan billionaire Allan Stanford continuing to stamp his authority all over the WICB. We all know how loud money talks in today's world and Allan Stanford seems to love throwing it all around the Caribbean islands in the guise of helping West Indian cricket.

Proceedings brought by Digicel, the West Indian cricket team's principal sponsor, against Stanford 20/20 may see the indefinite postponement of the match involving the Poms. Digicel is arguing that the Standford All-Stars team is the West Indies national team by another name, thereby Digicel's sponsorship agreement with the WICB permits it to brand the Stanford All-Stars playing kit with the Digicel logo.

Stanford has made a lot more money by selling these branding rights to Digicel's fierce competitor, Cable & Wireless. This is a legal battle that cricket doesn't need, but one that is utterly necessary to ensure that no one individual hijacks a national board or national players for one-off tamasha matches.

If Stanford really cared for West Indies cricket he would globalise his domestic 20/20 tournament to include prominent players and teams, such as structures adopted by the IPL, ICL and domestic cricketing structure of every other national board.

I'm not foolish enough to believe that Lalit Modi or Subash Chandra are indulging in generous philanthropic acts. However, their tournaments are going some way to bettering the global standards of cricket, cricketers and the facilities they utilise.

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Brownlow Medal Red Carpet 2008

This is one those special events here at The Match Referee. One of the few times during the year where, along with the footballers, we too let our hair down. After a break of one year, due primarily to my disorganisation, The Match Referee presents the second annual (you may peruse the 2006 awards here) best dressed awards from the AFL's Brownlow Medal red carpet (thanks to The Age for these snaps).

<-- Best Dressed Male Award goes to Collingwood's one and only Bryan Strauchan, aka Strauchanie. We simply couldn't go past that freshly peroxided mop finished off with the totally bogan Oakley sunnies.

--> Best Dressed Female Award is an absolute no-brainer. Rebecca Twigley sweeps all before her with a stunning white number topped off with something from a BDSM kit (who's been visiting Sexyland, I wonder).

<-- Best Dressed Female (Honourable Mention) Award must go to Carlton's Marc Murphy's partner, Sarah Williamson. A stunning, tasteful and elegant silver gown would most probably have won the night had the Twig stayed at home. Not to worry, The Match Referee's honourable mention award is still something to covet.

--> Best Dressed Couple is awarded to St Kilda's Lenny Hayes and Candice Loonard. Let us make it clear that Lenny's contribution in this team effort is minimal. This honour is bestowed upon on this pair solely due to the grace, poise and beauty of his partner Candice.

<-- The Bjork Award for the most tacky outfit goes to Roo, Brent Harvey's partner, Shane McLintock. Anybody who labels this grown anything other than tacky needs a good tickle around the ears.

--> The Nick Reiwoldt Award for Biggest Momma's Boy goes to future Collingwood hero Ben Cousins, for coming along with his mom, Mrs Cousins. Good on ya son, keep putting your best foot forward and welcome to the family.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Andrew Symonds Agrees To Play Cricket Again

This story is akin to reporting that George Bush is an idiot. Seriously now, did anybody outside of sensationalist journalists ever entertain the thought of Andrew Symonds turning his broad back on Australian cricket, to focus solely on the IPL? Some conspiracy theorists might argue that this whole episode was a set-up by Cricket Australia to test Michael Clarke's captaincy mettle.

In an effort to not sound entirely facetious, I think it is worth a mention that today's sports stars generally understand where their bread is buttered. Andrew Symonds well understands that his current and future earning potential will be decimated if he decided to quit Australian cricket. Unlike Brett Lee, Symonds is not a darling of the Indian masses, he cannot sing, therefore Indian advertisers aren't exactly beating down his door, and any semblance of an un-Australian action will see his market value plummet Down Under.

Excuse the cynicism, but it blatantly clear to me that the only "confidential" counseling Symonds will have received in the last few days would have been from his manager and accountant.

The interesting conundrum this creates for Australian selectors is what to do with the Test match number six position? If Shane Watson manages a couple of decent performances with either, or both, bat and ball in India, is Symonds automatically brought back for being the..errr..incumbent? While I'm not convinced Watson is a Test match number six, this uncertainty could only prove a hindrance to Watson's performance in this role.

Just as an aside - given the recent frosts between the two, when Symonds does return, does Michael Clarke welcome him back with arms wide open?

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Continued >> >>

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is This The ICL's Path To World Domination?

Just when the entire cricketing universe thought that the ICL had no show of upstaging the BCCI and its IPL, comes news that the core of the Bangladesh national team is about to sign with the hitherto ICC-unrecognised body.

While this move appears a desperate ploy to gain traction in the Asian cricket market, it will be an interesting situation if these players 'defect' and Bangladesh teeters on the precipice, with the very real threat of losing its Test status. The BCCI will undoubtedly flex its monstrous political and financial clout to prevent the rebels from defecting. As carrots, IPL contracts will undoubtedly be offered to a select few of the rebels.

After all, the BCCI simply cannot afford a situation where it could potentially lose an all-important vote at the round table of the world sport's most incompetent administrative body - the esteemed ICC.

However, if the mass defection does occur, are we likely to witness the thus unimaginable events I described some time ago?

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Delhi Blasts - A Test Of Australian Cricket's Gumption

The Delhi blasts of 13 September have yet again exposed the inadequacy and ineptitude of Indian politicians and enforcers of law and order in protecting the common man and his / her property. The only "assets" that can ever be securely protected in India are monuments, buildings, cricket stadiums and white people. As such, Australia (or any other sporting nation, for that matter) should have no problem in progressing with its Indian tour.

However, it is going to be of great interest to see how Cricket Australia goes about justifying its soon to be taken decision of continuing with its tour of India. For the average Indian it is plain to see that foreigners have always been quite safe in the country and the Indian government always manages to ensure foreigners are almost never hurt in any of these blasts.

Undoubtedly and quite correctly, some might argue, Pakistan will feel slighted and belittled when (I don't believe it is a question of "if") Cricket Australia decides to send its team to India. The prevailing questions emanating from Pakistan upon announcement of Cricket Australia's decision will center around why Pakistan has been singled out and India let off the hook.

Obviously, money will offer some comfort during the deliberations of Australia's players and officials - money always talks (remember the players' reactions after the Jaipur blasts during the IPL). Australia could also genuinely argue that India's ability to keep strategic assets free of terrorist activities has been markedly better than that of Pakistan's.

Unfortunately, Pakistan cricket's plight is such that any ensuing hue and cry will most probably be put down to a severe case of bitterness after the postponement of the Champions Trophy. While I never enjoy observing a talented cricketing nation treated with such disdain, this series of events may just force the powers-that-be in Pakistan to clean up their act and work towards developing a cricketing establishment that is clean and honest.

PS. Just as an aside (and something totally off the topic) - you and I have always heard rumours of the complicity of Indian politicians with these bastards / terrorists. Given such rumours and that I would never wish such pain inflicted on any human being and that India's image in the global domain would suffer most if non-Indians were killed or injured in the blasts, why is it that such attacks are so well planned that they almost always only manage to impact Indian citizens for whom no Indian politician, official or system is in the least bit concerned?

Just some food for thought.

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Continued >> >>

Monday, July 07, 2008

Anil Kumble Has Been Cloned

That was the impression I got when I first saw Ajanta Mendis bowl today in the India v Sri Lanka Asia Cup final in Karachi. This lad has taken 100-odd first class wickets in less 20 matches, in Sri Lanka's domestic competition and I get the impression that he was well and truly underestimated by the Team India think tank in their preparation for this game.

Watching him take his first four wickets for absolutely nothing in the runs column, I can confidently say that he does nothing with the ball. Hardly any revolutions, no grip and more than turn, he gets a minute amount of movement in the air - ala New Zealand's Chris Harris in his hey day. It is almost as if he is getting the batsman out with reverse psychology. They keep thinking he's going to produce a mystery ball, but the only mystery is it's total absence.

Where's the relationship to Kumble, you ask? Well, is this not exactly what Kumble did in his first few years on the international circuit. He couldn't spin the ball, he couldn't turn the ball, but he varied his pace and relied on the pitch to play a few tricks or the batsman to wilt. Eventually, batsmen the world over realised that it's a better bet to present a straight bat to Kumble, and after this change in strategy by the axis of evil the legendary spinner was forced to develop variations that eventually took him to the next level in the pantheon of bowlers.

With 120-odd required in under 20 overs in this match and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's Saviour-elect, I wonder exactly what Gary Kirsten's Plan B was after Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh has fallen to the wily Mendis? How could an international team with such an elaborate support structure fall like ten-pins to such a simple cricketing strategy? Could it be that Team India's ability to think on the run still eludes them?

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Continued >> >>

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ishant Sharma: A Matter Of Inches

I write this just after Ricky Ponting has stolen a quick single and moved on to 99, while still being unable to get any semblance of timing on shots played off Ishant Sharma's bowling. It must be noted that Sharma has come on at a rate of knots that not many would have been able to confidently predict six months ago. He has bowled well throughout the series and has easily been the unluckiest bowler on show.

However, I do get the feeling that Ishant Sharma bowls from too wide on the crease. His natural line to the right handed batsman is about three to four stumps outside off stump. This is probably two stumps too many.

To correct this habit, Sharma simply needs to land closer to the stumps by about 8-10 inches. This will shift his natural line to a position where it is one to two stumps outside off stump, thereby creating a greater level of uncertainty for batsmen and probably getting him more wickets.

This kid has a lot of potential and it is up to Venkatesh Prasad and the rest of the Indian management team to nurture him as he grows into his boots.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Is Saqlain Mustaq A Pom?

Or, more accurately, will he be accepted as one by the English public, wonders Jonathan Liew. This to me sounds like merely another example of why the 2005 Ashes success was a fluke, the English attitude to building a successful cricket team is still way off the mark.

Let's face it, the question is not whether Saqlain Mushtaq should play for England, it's who should he replace in the side.

English cricket, in it's current state of utter disarray, can ill afford to delay the inclusion of a tweaker who is better than anything that country has produce before, or will produce for a long time yet. With Monty Panesar showing predictable signs of stalling in his development, who cares if Saqlain has played a World Cup final for Pakistan, or, that he turned out for Pakistan at all (a matter that would make Poms cringe)?

The Poms need Saqlain Mushtaq and the sooner they got over their typically colonialist attitude, the sooner they might have a faint shot at winning cricket matches again.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Australia v India: Test 4, Day 1

I'm sure if Team India had been asked where they'd liked to be at the end of Day 1, they would've said 300-odd for three - or something in that region. Right now, they will take the position they're in. As an Indian supporter, not much more could have gone in Team India's favour. The Aussies dropped two catches. Virender Sehwag played a good knock. VVS Laxman pulled out some off-the-planet shots. MS Dhoni has survived to make hay while the sun shines tomorrow. And last, but not least, that man Tendulkar played the most fluent innings he's played in the last four years and survived to do it all over again tomorrow.

309/5 is an impressive first day in any conditions. It goes without saying that Team India should be looking to bat once, and only once, on this deck.

Brad Hogg proved once again that there is not a single Test-quality spinner in Australia. More importantly, he showed the kind of purchase and bounce that is on offer for Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. If Harbhajan, in particular, slows it down, rips it hard and bowls a foot outside the off-stump he'll create havoc.

There are some, like Dinsa Sachan, that believe Dhoni doesn't deserve his place in the team on the evidence of his previous three outtings. I have a feeling (at least I hope) that they have spoken too early and will live to swallow their pride at the end of this Test match.

Just as an aside, what's wrong with Sourav Ganguly? He is one guy who manages to look so out of sorts early on in his innings, even when he's enjoying a purple patch. Some of the more sensational among us will point to his axing from the ODI team (more on that in due course), but I just cannot convince myself to buy it.

Lets wait and watch to see if Ricky Ponting puts any faith in Stuart Clarke tomorrow. He has done everything to indicate that he won't. Why would a captain under-bowl a bowler who has taken 68 wickets in 15 matches at a tick over 20? Could it possibly be the ghosts of one Shane Warne and one Glen McGrath haunting the Australian captain?

Tune in tomorrow folks, wherever you can, for this is cricket right out of the top drawer.

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Sreesanth: Mr T Thinks You're A Fool

No sooner had he been announced as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Series Indian touring party, did the "journalists" flock in their droves for a sound bite, or four. Let's just say the said reporters got all they could have asked for, and more.

Now, I'm not one for removing characters from the game. Not at all. In fact the game needs all the characters it can get. After all, there's only so many Anil Kumble's we can handle, right?

Sreesanth is alleged (you can never be sure on anything that the Indian media reports, even if it is in quotation marks) to have wondered aloud, "The Aussies should be worried I am coming."

Seriously now, I like his bowling and his flair. The dancing needs a lot of work and probably the temperament too. But, for him to ask anybody to be scared oh him? Turn it up, mate. The only bowler that scared anybody on the cricket field was big Curtly Ambrose. Until Sreesanth gets a few botox injections and a helluva lot more time under the sun, he ain't gonna scare nobody.

Except with that... err.. dancing. Maybe.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Australia v India: Are The Indians Listening?

Quite naturally, when an all-conquering side like the Australians lose a match the usual sound bites must be provided by the players and reported by the media. I'm quite sick of hearing the monotonous, "we will bounce back", "it was only one loss" and the myriad other cliches that are delivered.

However, one comment by Ricky Ponting at the end of a relatively innocuous report full of the usual dribble. Ponting had the following to say about the days preceding the all-important Adelaide clash:
"We'll work harder than India in the next week to get ourselves right."

Now, Anil Kumble and the rest of the Indian think-tank are smart men. They would have realised that any hint of complacency after the Perth win will spell doom for their team. To this end, they would undoubtedly have been imploring their your charges to work harder during the break to keep honing their games.

If the young kids need any evidence or ammunition to spur them into action, surely this comment by Ponting is it. Ponting made similar comments after he lost The Ashes in 2005, and we all know what happened in the 16 test matches thereafter. If I were Kumble I'd print out that comment in size 38 font and stick it on the dressing room wall.

The Indians will be foolish to leave any stone unturned as they prepare to level the series at one of their more favoured Australian hunting grounds. I have no doubt that Ponting's comment will not merely be a rallying call for his own team, but will also remind Team India of what needs to be done to ensure that they are not simply be remembered as one-hit-wonders.

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Continued >> >>

Ishant Sharma Climbs The Beanpole

The beanpole that is world cricket, that is. Before I come back down to Earth, can I just say that his spell on the fourth day against Ricky Ponting was one of the finest you are likely to see for quite some time. The kid will undoubtedly bowl far worse and pick up many more wickets. However, when his form slump arrives (and it WILL arrive, just ask Irfan Pathan), Sharma should watch those nine overs again and again.

The Indian fan has known for quite some time that for all the IIM's and MBA graduates in India, the term "effective management" has not been evidenced in Indian cricket. The crying need of the hour, however, is for Sharma to be managed.

The stress borne by a fast bowler's body cannot be understood by those who have not bowled a ball in anger. Ishant Sharma is not your average Ranji bowler, dawdling away at 115 km/h. He has serious zip and will only get better. For that bright future to be realised, he needs to put in a lot of hard work off the field. The bevy of support staff around him must ensure that he eats, drinks, sleeps and trains effectively and efficiently to minimise chances of injury.

Indian cricket is a graveyard for young quicks who show promise early in their careers. Anyone remember one Ajit Agarkar? I have said it before and I shall repeat for all those that missed out: it's time to hit the gym, son.

Meanwhile, see if you can spot the terror/helplessness in Ponting's eyes (he writes with much glee):

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Continued >> >>
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