Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This time it's Kotlagate

The inability to produce a one-day wicket suitable to international standards should be a story of the past. But the Feroz Shah Kotla (FSK) groundsmen seem hellbent on proving me wrong in this past week. Will India still be chief host of the upcoming World Cup?

The ICC is breathing down the necks of the BCCI, amidst the fallout of 'Kotlagate', and the question is being asked whether India's pitches are fit to host the World Cup. Pakistan has already been removed as co-host; something about terrorist activity. And if India's incompetency strikes them out too, I expect South Africa would love to raise their hand for this one too.

India needs this. Bad. Real bad. Delhi is already rubbing its face in the mud with Commonwealth Games preparation, so another failure would demoralise even the most loyal Indian fans.

The egos must slide and the preservation of cricket's dignity in India must come to the fore. The bottomless pit of cash which is the BCCI should be spent handsomely in getting the curators from Australia to sort out this schoolboy error which has become FSK. Australian pitches have stood the test of time in a climate similar to that faced by curators in India, so why not take the pearls of wisdom that their curators could pass on?

Then again we are talking about the BCCI. A machine solely involved in self-preservation and showing its power in cricketing circles by shoving wads of cash down their counterpart's mouths. Hardly the father figure who will lead by example.

But knowing how important cricket is in the country where gods have names like Tendulkar and Dhoni, let's hope the issue is dealt with properly, so we can move on and enjoy the spectacle of the World Cup in India.

Continued >> >>

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What If...?

Did anyone else watch the re-enactment of the Wato-Kats run-out fiasco on the second morning of the Boxing Day test? Wat if Kats should have been the one to put bat-under-arm and done the walk of shame back to the pavilion?

During Warney's and Slat's review of the first day runout between the Australian opening pair, they played a split-screen clip: one down the wicket, and the other square-on to the crease. Everyone is in agreement that Katich grounded his foot first. But what the clip showed but neither the third umpire, Ashoka De Silva, nor the commentators noticed, was Katich leaving his crease shortly after realising Wato was crying foul next door. Fortunately - for Kats - the bails had been dislodged just before his Sunday stroll. But WAT if he had walked out just prior to the bails being blown at the other end? Then Wato would've been given out incorrectly, due to umpire ignorance; and still, would anyone know?

Shame it didn't play out that way, but what if...

Continued >> >>

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Team India Are Finally No. 1 In Test Cricket

World rankings, like averages and strike rates, can be very deceptive mathematical creations. Some people believe in them, many don't. On which side of the fence you sit depends almost entirely on how high or low your favourite team or player is placed - Ricky Ponting's goal in life went from "staying number 1" to "playing good, consistent cricket" as his Aussies descended the ladder of greatness and ICC rankings. However, we must live in the present and it is an official and indisputable fact that MS Dhoni's Team India are currently the best Test team in world cricket.

This was a journey whose seeds were sown as a footnote to the infamous match fixing saga and the Aussies' marauding of Sachin Tendulkar's Team India in 1999/2000. Indian cricket awoke from its decades-long slumber and became serious about winning cricket matches, at home and away. John Wright was installed as the team's first foreign coach, and with Sourav Ganguly as the powerful, ever-confident and aggressive captain, he formed one of the most formidable partnerships ever seen in world cricket.

Series wins at home continued with these two at the helm, but the real highlights were the regular away Test match wins that were added to the register. Unfortunately, the postscript to this era was the Chappell years. Team India appeared to fall back to the deep, dark abyss of the pre-Ganguly years. For a time it even appeared that Rahul Dravid, sometime captain, would be lost to the cause due to the politicking, pettiness and ineptitude of the powerful few.

Fast forward to England 2007, Team India conquered the colonialists after many nearly efforts against the Aussies, English and the South Africans. This was Team India's 'giant leap' and the foundation on which first Anil Kumble, and then MS Dhoni built this castle.

Details of victory after glorious victory are now folklore. In hindsight, it is irrefutable that MS Dhoni's ascension to the throne has been the most significant factor in Team India's sustained run of successes thus. His calm demeanour and unifying force are oft lauded. However, his talents with both gloves and bat in the 5-day format are seldom given their due. There is no better 'keeper-batsman package in world cricket today.

This feat could not have been achieved more emphatically. Two thumping innings victories against not-so-feeble opposition only serves to underline Team India's dominance over the previous 18-20 months.

The cliche goes that it's easy to get to the top, a helluva lot harder to stay there. It does not need me to preach this to Dhoni or the team - this is why Gary Kirsten exists. Indian cricket has traditionally been a poor front runner. The Indian media will play its part to ensure that the team is given every opportunity to lose focus. The BCCI has already played its hand with abysmal scheduling.

Despite all such external obstacles, the length of time Indian cricket stays at the top will depend entirely upon whether its individual members can win the battle in their minds, for the team has all the components to be a formidable unit for many years yet.

Having said this, now is not the time for answers. The road has been long and occasionally painful. Many corks need popping and bottle tops need opening. This is one party every Indian cricket fan needs to enjoy.

Continued >> >>
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