Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shah Rukh Khan Selling Kolkata Knight Riders Franchise

The good word has it that the king of Indian commercial cinema, SRK is selling his entire stake (well the stake of Red Chillies Entertainment anyway) in his Kolkata Knight Riders IPL franchise. It seems recent on and off-field woes have taken a toll which is incommensurate with the financial and other intangible returns that SRK is deriving from his involvement with KKR and the IPL.

This media outlet has learned that SRK is in talks with the likes of the Sahara Group, Nokia and even Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to offload Red Chillies' stake in the woebegone franchise. Get this - the going rate is double the Rs 300 crore (US$75 million) that SRK bid for the Kolkata franchise, at a cool and easy Rs 600 crore ($150 million).

Any potential buyer will quite obviously be excited at the prospect of purchasing an operation that was profitable from Year 1 and clearly has efficient and effective management structures and systems in place. However, the interesting part is that IPL plans an expansion to 12 teams (from the current 8) in 2010. But wait, there's more. In order to ensure the golden goose doesn't slack off at work, Lalit Modi and co are planning a further two teams in 2012 - second teams in both Mumbai and Delhi.

The laws of natural competition / jealousy / egotism would dictate that Anil Ambani would desperately want the second Mumbai team, if only to prove that he's better than his older brother in their own backyard. However, these blokes haven't amassed their wealth by being stupid and Ambani junior might just see the light in acquiring a franchise which is the sole king of its domain.

Also, any valuations and comparisons with new franchises likely to come on board will have to factor in Kolkata's status as a metropolitan center and access to a stadium that seats 100,000. I haven't even counted the fact that most of those 100,000 were taken at each KKR's home matches in IPL1.

The smart money says that given the interesting economic times, Nokia does not really have the cash nor the history to take over a cricket team in a land as far removed from its home country as the moon is from the sun. The Sahara Group, given its long association with Team India and after missing out on becoming the major sponsor of Manchester United, will fight tooth and nail for a favourable deal. I still wonder though, if he wants this bad enough, will Sahara's might be any match for Anil Ambani's personal billions?

There is one thing I'm certain of, Lalit Modi's obsession with glorifying every minute non-event pertaining to his personal fiefdom will ensure that the going rate will not be shrouded under a maze of complex confidentiality agreements and legalese.

Watch this space folks, for once this deal is done you will be left a tad perplexed about the actual extent of these interesting economic times us normal people are forced to endure.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Letter To Channel 10 / One HD Regarding IPL Coverage

Last year I was thrilled to hear that Channel 10 here in Australia had bought the rights to the IPL and was going to show it free-to-air, even though we had Foxtel at home. I was even more impressed with the quality of the coverage and the high number of live games. This year I was expecting a level of dedication and performance that exceeded 2008 levels, only because of Channels 10's launch of its 24 hour sports only channel, One HD. I'm not much of a whinger, but I and many others have been left gobsmacked after the first two weeks of IPL2. And how?

In stark contrast to last year, this year's broadcasting performance by One HD has been nothing short of appalling. It doesn't take much to please a cricket fan in Australia. Here are some very simple ways One HD can improve its thus diabolical performance as far as IPL2 is concerned:

1. Show live games where you can, even if you've been unable to show the first game live of a double-headier, show the second live and replay the first.

2. Re-runs of the netball, basketball, F1, baseball or any other sport should not take precedence when you have the capability and the viewership to show live IPL. No TV executive can tell me that a repeat of a netball game draws more viewers than live T20 cricket - even I know this much.

3. When you're showing replays, guys show the whole over even if the last ball is a dot ball (yes dot balls are valued by more people than just the fielding side) - it's really not that difficult a concept to grasp.

4. When you have been advertising throughout the week a game is going to be live, show it live. Changing your programming at the last second, with no notice, is a sure-fire way to lose goodwill for the channel and your "foundation sponsors".

5. If you can't give sufficient live airtime to a sport to which you bought the rights, palm it off to Foxtel (it'll only add further value to my already loved subscription). I and most others certainly don't mind paying for a quality product.

One HD has promised a lot and sports fans, particularly cricket fans, have supported the channel in droves. I hope it doesn't become another also-ran of the sports broadcasting world - because, on current performance, it sure is heading in that direction real fast. Time for Channel 10 / One HD to walk the talk about sharing the passion.

If you have had it with One HD's treatment of its IPL2 rights, don't sit there and bear it. Get vocal here.

Where's Lalit Modi when you need him?

Continued >> >>

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fake IPL Player Distils Team Management Theory

I can assure you I'm not the only editor-in-chief of a major cricket blog thanking our good friend Fake IPL Player for helping us with a few thousand extra hits over the last few days. It seems as though the public's desire to uncover the real identity of this "poison pen" will prove insatiable as long as IPL2 continues - probably even beyond. To confirm my earlier theory that this man is an unparalleled genius, sample this:
"Somebody please teach the new age cricket bosses, that building a cricket team is slightly different from selling liquor or masala movies. It takes time, patience, clarity of thought, a sense of belongingness, a common sense of purpose, a clear strategy and much more. It's like nurturing a family. In team sport, the team is not the management that creates the product. The team IS the product. Create the product as if it's your own baby. And it will give you pleasure for a lifetime!"

Succinct, infinitely accurate and as pure as it gets. Someone needs to quote this kid in the IPL's prospectus when the next batch of new franchises go up for ransom auction.

If only the likes of Vijay Mallya and SRK understood this simple theory, their hard-earned money may just, just have proven to be something more than an very expensive gamble.

Mallya, in particular, seems to be acting like the cliched monster that is the bane of every sporting organisation owned by a megalomaniac. It doesn't take a two year old to deduce that burdening your captain with a Test-team in the first edition and then sacking him (even after he proved to be the team's best performer) in favour of an out of form egotist was not going to produce the desired result.

Being seen in the company of air-headed Bollywood celebrities and becoming the star attraction at a player auction after he had spent his who kitty on one player was definitely not the path to success. Mallya has undoubtedly made a lot of successful investments in his time, however I do wonder if he's heard my grandma's theory of not 'putting all his eggs in one basket'?

Cricket is a team sport, Mr Mallya - and while we're at it, here's another cliche for you, there's no "I" in "team".

More Fake IPL Player nicknames for you:

Bevdaa - Vijay Mallya
Bhooka Naan - Matthew Mott
Shakespeare - Aakash Chopra
Ganji Hanger - Sanjay Bangar
Peter Ka Beta / Re-Peter - Kevin Pietersen
Junta Tormentor - Ajantha Mendis

PS. Maybe Mr Mallya should have spent all that cash on a better engine and diffusers for Force India.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kolkata Knight Riders Fake IPL Player Snitch

They are part-owned by one of the most celebrated and wealthiest stars in the history or Indian cinema (who, mind, waits for the TV cameras to zoom in on him before blowing air kisses to nobody in particular - seriously, I like SRK, but that's just really sad). They have undoubtedly the best PR machinery of all the teams in the competition. However, they are proving absolutely incompetent at nabbing the mole who is intent on sharing KKR's game plans with anyone who may care to read.

Fake IPL Player has caused a storm and a half in the last few days. Joy Bhattacharya, Knight Riders' CEO, believes this miscreant genius to be a "poison pen of the dirtiest variety" (even dirtier than John Buchanan sacking Ganguly as skipper, I wonder?) and the blogger personally reveals that a witch hunt to find the offender is working off a short list that does not include his name - which seems to me to be a clever attempt at reverse psychology.

This guy must have been wronged in a big way, else he's living out every rebel's dream. KKR management has banned the use of laptops (like that's going to help) and internet use in hotel rooms, but our Fake IPL Player still has his trusty mobile with which he transmits his posts to his brother in India, who posts them online for our entertainment. Given Nokia are KKR's title sponsors, will mobiles be banned now too?

The increasing number of posts have thrown up a number of not-so-affectionate names for various celebrities purporting to be cricketers during IPL2. Among them:

Lord Almighty - The mighty Sourav Ganguly
Skipper - Brendan McCullum
Calypso King - Chris Gayle
Sheikh of Tweak - Shane Warne
Coachie - None other than Johnny Buchanan (who, incidentally, Fake believes is dumber than a fifth grader. No surprise there, Warnie's been telling us for years)
Appam Chutiya (my personal favourite for some reason) - Sreesanth
Meera Bhai - Harbhajan Singh
Babli - Preity Zinta
Kaan Moolo - Ajit Agarkar
Bangla Tiger - Moshrafe Mortaza
Prince of Patiala - Yuvraj Singh?

If you come across any other characters, let us know. IMHO, unless Google has a hand in this investigative process, it might be almost impossible for KKR management to uncover this hero.

Have a read, if nothing else, it is the most fascinating and entertaining insight into the workings of a professional cricket team. Who needs Cricinfo match previews when we have this dude - Sambit Bal, eat your heart out!

PS. I have word that Fake may in fact be none other than Dada!

Continued >> >>

Friday, April 17, 2009

Team India Loves A Good Crack

Quite an amazing piece of photography this. Can't quite pinpoint when the photo was taken, but given the squad members shown and the shirts they are wearing, probably some time in 2008. Sachin comes out clean and Dhoni is pretending to be busy signing autographs. Pictures tell a thousand words, so what does this say about Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Yuvraj (click on photo to enlarge)?

Continued >> >>

Thursday, April 16, 2009

World Second XI

Last week Wisden announced their inaugural Test XI, the team of 2008. The purpose of the team’s announcement was to recognize the best players in the game and their contributions for the calendar year. The Wisden Test XI read as follows:

1. Virender Sehwag (India)
2. Graeme Smith (South Africa)
3. Ricky Ponting (Australia)
4. Sachin Tendulkar (India)
5. Kevin Pietersen (England)
6. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies)
7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India, captain)
8. Harbhajan Singh (India)
9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
10. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
11. Zaheer Khan (India)

In my opinion, they got the XI more or less correct. Therefore, rather than analyse the makings of this outfit, I am putting forward a team that would serve as worthy opposition to them.

Rather than solely base form on 2008, I have decided to base the side on three variables: current form, last year’s form and career form. Also, I have decided to give the side more of an even spread and avoid any instances like the Wisden XI who have five Indian players.

Now here is my World Second XI:

1. Gautam Gambhir (India)

Gautam Gambhir’s form at test level since his reintroduction to the Indian test side last year has been simply stunning. From the first test match in Colombo against Sri Lanka in July last year, Gambhir has hit 5 test tons, including a 206 against the Aussies in Delhi and most recently hit two centuries against New Zealand to finish the tour in style. It’s worth noting that since his comeback to the test team, in every innings (22 in total) he has recorded at least double figures, with 16 his lowest score.

2. Simon Katich (Australia)

The stellar form of Simon Katich in the past 9 months has been quite timely for the Aussies. With Matthew Hayden’s under performance in the final months of his career, it was Katich who held the top order together with his steady and patient approach. 5 hundreds and 7 fifties from his past 15 tests reflects a man of consistency. One coincidence of this opening pairing is that the two batsmen don’t have the healthiest professional relationship given their heated exchanges in the test series in India last year.

3. Younis Khan (Pakistan)

The unfortunate thing for Pakistani cricket is that there hasn’t been much test cricket for them over the past 18 months. There was none in 2008 and in their first series of 2009, in a home series, terrorists start shooting at their opponents team bus which basically ensures that there is no more test cricket in Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, back to position number 3. Younis Khan is a brilliant batsman and has compiled a healthy 5129 runs in his 60 test career @ an average of 51.68 an innings. In his last test innings, he became the third Pakistani to score a triple century with his 313 in Karachi against the Sri Lankans. A game against the Wisden Test XI will finally give him a chance to play some more test cricket, therefore he is my pick at three.

4. Kumar Sangakarra (Sri Lanka, wicketkeeper)

Kumar Sangakarra is a glorious player to watch and normally would be a shoo-in for a World XI side. Sangakarra is a front line batsman, a match winner and is damn good to watch when in form. However, his current performances haven’t been top class, with 2 centuries and 6 fifties over the past twelve months. Despite this, he deserves his position at four by virtue of his versatility as a keeper / batsman and the fact that he has a more than handy average of 54.99 from his 80 tests to boot.

5. Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies)

Ramnaresh Sarwan is approaching the golden phase of his career. Being highly touted as a youngster, the talented right hander has never reached any lofty heights in his 8 year career. Till now, he has demonstrated an ability to bat well on occasion but without the required consistency to be regarded as a top flight batsman.

However, this all appears to be changing, with his most recent series against England this year possibly proving to be the turning point of his career. A century in each of the first three tests with a career best 291 and over 600 runs in the four match series have catapulted Sarwan to the top ten of the test batting rankings. Such form warrants him inclusion into this side and batting at number five should alleviate some of the pressure he finds batting higher in the order for the Windies.

6. AB De Villiers (South Africa)

One batsman who did stand up against the Australians in South Africa’s most recent test series between them was AB De Villiers. His 104 not out in the first test was a magnificent solo effort while his 163 in the final test off only 196 balls with 7 sixes was simply spectacular.

De Villiers is now right in his element and the stylish right hander has made his spot at number five in the South African order his own. De Villiers’ 2008 featured three masterful performances, all away from home that secured special victories for South Africa: 217 not out against India at Ahmedabad, 174 against England at Headingley and an unbeaten 106 against the Aussies in Perth that secured the second most successful fourth innings run chase in test history. De Villiers is a lock at no. 6.

7. Andrew Flintoff (England)

‘Freddie’ Flintoff is certainly one player in the side who has been selected in this outfit on reputation. At his best, Andrew Flintoff can change a game within a matter of overs with both bat and ball. At 6’4”, he is an imposing figure and with the bat can not only bludgeon boundaries with ease, but can also play with composure and steady the side when the top order has failed. With the ball, his accuracy, reliable pace of 90mph, along with his mastery of the reverse swing, makes him a threat throughout all stages of an innings.

Returning from an 18 month absence in mid July due to ongoing ankle troubles, his form with bat and ball since then hasn’t been awe inspiring. Despite this, his presence on the world stage is worthy enough for him to become the richest contracted player in IPL history, with a US$1.55 million price tag courtesy of the Chennai Super Kings.

8. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand, captain)

Captain of the Kiwis, Daniel Vettori is the ‘Mr Consistency’ for his country. A left arm spinner by trade, Vettori enjoyed five 5-fors in test cricket in 2008, totaling 54 wickets from 14 tests. His performances don’t stop there. His batting has reached new heights to the point he can now be almost seen as an all rounder. He scored 5 fifties in 2008 and most recently compiled a rearguard 118 in the first test against India in Hamilton this year after entering the crease at 6/60.

Daniel Vettori is truly a team player and his presence in this outfit will be strongly felt. With this being the case, I am selecting him as the team captain, where despite New Zealand’s lack of test success, I feel his wealth of knowledge from all sides of the game would benefit this team.

9. Brett Lee (Australia)

We’ve done well so far, 8 players from 8 countries, the buck stops here though. Brett Lee. Despite being expensive at times, bowling a bit too short and not to mention the odd beamer, Brett Lee is an integral part of the Australian bowling line up and has proved a vital cog in its function over the past decade.

Lee enjoyed a successful start to 2008, which petered out towards the end of the year largely due to his ongoing ankle problems. From his last 15 tests which include the 2007 Boxing Day test against India, he has taken 63 wickets. At his best he is a sight to see that can trouble any batsman in the world and on that basis he gets my nod as an opening bowler for the World Second XI.

10. Ishant Sharma (India)

As all the Indian fans on this website would attest to, Ishant Sharma is a superstar in the making. Although he might be one ‘in the making’, over the past 12 or so months, he has demonstrated on numerous occasions why he is being referred to in this context.

At 6’4”, bowling at 90mph with great poise at his 20 years of age, Sharma has become an integral member of the Indian pace attack, which has since seen the likes of Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth unable to find their way back into the test lineup. He will add an exciting element to this World Second XI and will complement Lee and Flintoff in the pace brigade, therefore he is my choice as the third seamer.

11. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)

With 770 wickets @ 22.18 from 127 tests, the Sri Lankan spin king certainly belongs in this World Second XI. His 2008 wasn’t ordinary, how can it be when you take 46 wickets from 7 tests. Given he played just the 7 tests within the year, Murali was never really going to be considered as a mention in the Wisden Test XI.

Murali is a genius. There’s no way around it, he can weave magic with the ball in his hands. In this World Second XI he will certainly make life difficult for the opposing batsmen and with Vettori, we have an awesome spin duo.

12th Man. Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

Jacques Kallis has been the most difficult of selections in this line up. I would like to pick him because he is a proven test batsman with over 10,000 runs to his name with an average at a shade under 55 runs per innings. Along with being quite a handy test bowler, one could argue he is the best all rounder since Sir Garfield Sobers.

The reason I’ve left him out is that I tried to avoid picking two batsman from the same country and that his batting on a stand alone basis over the past 12 months doesn’t warrant selection. Despite this, you could also argue that I picked Flintoff on reputation and as an all rounder, Kallis has probably performed better than Flintoff over this period. Kallis would assist the line up by bringing a fourth seamer into the side and as a medium pacer, would provide greater variety to the attack.

Therefore, on game day he might squeeze into the final XI but at this stage I’ll keep him as the 12th man. Who would he replace? It is a toughie, but I’d say Ramnaresh Sarwan, so he’d come in at number 5.

This would be a terrific battle between the two best all star line ups in the world of test cricket. The odds? Assuming batting conditions are friendly but juicy enough for the quicks early in the test and helpful for spinners as the game progresses, i.e. an ideal test wicket, I’d have the draw as favourite in this encounter.

If a draw wasn’t going to happen, I’d have the Wisden side slightly ahead of the World Second XI with the edge mainly lying with the bat. But only just....only just!

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Andrew Symonds: Patriot Or Idiot?

Coming back from a very enjoyable Easter break, and with no sign of K Rudd's $900 charity handouts, I and many with whom I holidayed find ourselves sheepishly checking our credit card statements to assess the overall damage. In fact, every invoice is being meticulously audited to find discrepancies which we can use to recover every possible dollar, by means fair or foul. While in this dark mood, I read this about our good friend Andrew Symonds. He did what?!?!

I understand that membership of the national team has made Symonds and his pals the big, global stars that they are. Symonds and others would find it difficult to demand such large pay-cheques without continued involvement in international cricket. All this logic aside (for we know Symmo ain't all that logical) what makes a man forfeit $1.9 million, to play for his country in a desert where you have to apply for permits to buy booze?

Could Andrew Symonds be the definition for the word patriot? Imagine this:
pa⋅tri⋅ot [pey-tree-uht, -ot or, especially Brit., pa-tree-uht]– noun
1. Andrew Symonds

The fact that Symonds and Brett Lee have chosen to forfeit significant sums of money to participate in another meaningless ODI series in a venue that was once considered cricket's very own home of match fixing surely fuels the debate about whether the IPL needs a window. Will the next generation superstar cricketer value national pride over the need to expand his portfolio of luxury holiday villas and yellow supercars?

If international cricket is the goose that lays the golden eggs do cricket administrators owe it to the game to create a window for the IPL, and other such competitions, so that the best players do not have to choose international duty just because they fear the snide remarks and disapproving glances of their less worthy international team mates?

This could also be a means for regaining some semblance of control for the ICC. By creating a window and mandating that all national board-contracted players must play for their national teams outside of this window, the ICC will go a long way to ensuring that situations like Sri Lanka reneging on an agreement to tour England are minimised, if not eliminated.

Of course, the real concern for us devoted cricket fans is that instead of gaining further control, the highly malleable ICC board officials will be coerced by Lalit Modi and his cohorts into adopting a FIFA-style system where international matches are reduced to mere exhibition games and individual clubs / franchises rule the roost.

While this eventuality is a distinct possibility, the do-nothing scenario seems the better option. In the meanwhile, Andrew Symonds has 1.91 million morsels of food for thought.

Continued >> >>

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ashes 2009 Preview:Can England Re-Discover Their Swagger?

Unstable Top order and lacklustre bowling, is it all doom and gloom for England? Now with all the hype about the shift of the IPL, its impact on the game and the literal take over by the BCCI of world cricket, one cannot help but wonder about the upcoming Ashes series in England this year. What was once the most revered series in world cricket, is now falling away behind the glitz and glamour of the IPL and its big money stars.

However with the Ashes approaching, here is a look at the make up of the probable English Bowling Outfit and their upcoming series with the number one rebuilding Aussie team looking to hold onto the Urn.

Every cricket lover knows how to win a test match: is it by churning out century after century on batsmen friendly wickets? No. The number 20 should be the most important number on every player's mind, 20 wickets equals a win.

Going to the Caribbean sipping on ale whilst playing a bit of cricket on the side looked to be the mindset of the English team, and they were quickly brought back to reality with a crushing innings defeat at the hands of a meagre West Indian team. 

This was a tour marred with complaints, umpiring deficiencies and of course the ever present 'KP Spat'. After being bundled out for 51 in the second dig of the first test, the rest of the series may have showed graceful batting on docile pitches. But their biggest concern going into this ashes series must be their bowling? Unable to take 20 wickets in either of the 3 following tests, makes it hard to believe that this current crop of England bowlers can in fact penetrate the Australian line-up, I for one cannot see them doing it, but when at home anything can happen just like the last Ashes series in England. 

Typically unsettled, the tour of the Caribbean saw the selectors try over 8 bowlers, with nothing to show for it other than the positive work ethic of the toiling Graeme Swann. If they are to stand any chance of getting 20 wickets this Summer they need a fit Harmison, Flintoff and if ever possible the crippled Simon Jones. The likes of Anderson and Broad will continue to improve, but to regain the Urn they require immediate results. As is commonplace in contemporary English cricket, their lack of depth shines through with re-occurring injuries. With the powerful pace battery of Harmison, Flintoff and Jones aging and crippled regularly, gaping holes shine through of their reserve fast bowling department. I mean honestly, can one see the likes of Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett and Ryan Sidebottom carrying this line-up throughout a gruelling 5 test series against an improving Australian team?

Therefore the spinners should carry a fair workload on their shoulders as Strauss should turn to them on regular occasions. Swann, in my opinion is the best spinner English selectors have to choose from and he proved his worth in the first 2 tests he played in the Caribbean with two 5 - wicket hauls on flat un-responsive pitches, so his selection really is a no-brainer. Clearly more confident and capable than Monty, Swann showed good toil with many overs throughout a long tour and displayed the variety England need in a spinner. Swann flighted, darted and turned the ball regularly, whilst his bowling partners were dispatched to all ends of the Caribbean. 

After returning with 1/122 off 47 overs in the first test, Monty continued to show his usual signs of 'Dart - Like' Finger Spinners, with lack of variety and an inability to vary his pace and Flight, leaving the door wide open for Swann who took his chance with open arms. Which begs the question, is Monty finished? Bursting on the scene with nearly 100 wickets in quick time, the opposition have reacted to his lack of variety with strong counter-punching and aggressive batting. Despite being recalled for the final test, Monty still needs to show the world that he has much more than a stock delivery and close the door on the younger and consistent Adil Rashid, hot on Monty's heels. 

So yet another Ashes approaches, who will emerge triumphant? No doubt in my mind who that will be, and after their morale boosting victory over the Proteas, the Australians will be looking to inflict more pain on this controversial England squad. I can only hope that Freddie, Harmy and dare I say it, Simon Jones be fit for this series in order to provide some form of competition. 

Continued >> >>

New 2009-2011 Nike India Cricket Shirt Available Now

Bizarrely, capitalising on official apparel merchandising opportunities is not one of the BCCI's strong points. However, being the crafty lot that we are here at The Match Referee, we've managed to get our hands on a few of the new dark-ish blue Team India Nike ODI cricket shirts.

This is authentic Nike maal, not the latest designs from Fashion Street. They won't last long, so grab some for yourself, family and friends while you can.

Visit The Match Referee Shop and support Team India, loudly and proudly.

Continued >> >>

Learn To Bat Like Chris Martin

To Coldplay fans who came here looking for something about Chris Martin, the rock star, I offer my sincerest apologies. For cricket fans who came here to laugh at their favourite Phantom, welcome on in (the following material is not suitable for minors who aspire to become record-breaking batsmen soon after their voices crack - The Match Referee recommends strict parental guidance as we do not wish to be responsible for a generation of failures):

I did warn you, didn't I?

Continued >> >>

Harbhajan Singh Is Back

I've been a great fan of Harbhajan Singh ever since he took it to Ricky Ponting with both bat and mouth during Team India's home series against the Aussies in 1998. He has unmatched passion for his country and pride in his play. Sometimes an eruption of this volcano of emotion forces him to do things that are not in his or his team's best interests: slap opposing players, mouth off to players who lift their games when sledged and least but not least, bowl fast and flat in Test match situations when he should be delivering with guile, loop and magic.

Over the past couple of series, sure he's got the odd 4-fer or 5-fer, but he has not been as consistent enough to inspire confidence that he can be depended on to consistently bowl match-winning Test match spells. With this in mind, I thought this tour of New Zealand would reveal a lot about Team India's premier spinner in the post-Anil Kumble era.

Thankfully, for the immediate future of Indian cricket Harbhajan Singh has not only stepped up to the plate in terms of results, but more importantly he has unveiled a revamped attitude. While he should be applauded for the change in his outlook, I must admit that I believe it took far too long to happen.

The naysayers will point to the lack of class and talent in the Kiwi ranks - granted, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder are not Ponting and Smith. However, they have both managed to score a couple of centuries during this series and have been involved in attacking partnerships that have frustrated the Indians for extended periods. During such times, I expected Harbhajan to resort to his ODI-style of bowling - fast and flat. Unexpectedly, he persevered with the loop and flight, and eventually got his man.

This new attitude will undoubtedly be tested by batsmen and batting line-ups of much higher pedigree during the next 12-24 months. This series has hopefully inspired Harbhajan to continue with this reformed ways. This series has hopefully reinforced for Harbhajan that he still has the magic.

Continued >> >>

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sport Pundit's IPL Fantasy Cricket League Review

Sports Pundit is sporting news portal that covers approximately 10 sports. Most importantly, cricket is on their list and it seems that they have accepted the greatest sport on this planet deserves an outstanding online fantasy game. To this end, Sports Pundit are busy promoting their IPL fantasy league that, in all fairness, is among the best cricket fantasy leagues you can find.

The interface is simple, the rules are simple and yet, the league incorporates most of the bells and whistles that can be found on better established and more popular fantasy league websites like that of the EPL and AFL.

The lowdown:
  • Each player in IPL2 is valued in stars, 1 star for the more obscure players and up to five stars (called "Star Picks" in the Sports Pundit world) for the high-flyers.

  • Pick a team of 5 batsmen, 1 all rounder, 1 wicketkeeper and 4 bowlers, with a maximum value of 35 stars (not an easy task, let me assure you).

  • Use up to 6 transfers each week of the season to earn maximum points.

  • Score the highest number of points across the entire league on any given week and you’ll win the official playing kit of your favourite team.

  • Score the highest number of points across the entire league at the end of IPL2 and you’ll win a trip for two to the ICC World T20 in England .

While I have a few reservations about the the value of certain players (eg. Mark Boucher and Jacob Oram, among others, are worth 5 stars and are apparently as valuable as Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya and Andrew Flintoff, while Virender Sehwag is only worth 4 stars), the five-star rating system makes it a lot easier to settle on the right combination at the outset. However, it will be interesting to observe how player values are updated based on their performances during the course of the tournament.

The Mini-league feature also allows players to participate in special private leagues and pit their managerial talents against that of their circle of friends. To this end, I have created The Match Referee mini-league. If you believe you have what it takes to challenge The Match Referee team, first register for the IPL Fantasy League, then join The Match Referee's mini-league (league Name: The Match Referee's Fantasy League and league password: thematchreferee).

Given that it seems Cricinfo will not be offering an IPL fantasy competition this year, this is your best chance to get one up on your friends and possibly win your way to England for the ICC World T20. See you there.

Continued >> >>
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