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Sight Screen

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The charade continues (-worma)

Justin Langer thinks that Warne has a 'great' appeal...one which reflects his passion for the game. Well...then ICC needs to make a passion-o-meter for excessive-appeal offenders then....I guess?
"He thinks it out and he gives it a big appeal. To me that's just part of the game, part of the great theatre of the great Shane Warne.

"Yes he's putting pressure on the umpires but to me ... they think it's out and they appeal accordingly."
I think Langer missed an ICC rule-book gift this christmas. Wonder if he has time, what with all the injuries, to look it up on the net?..its the rule about excessive appealing, just for reference Justin. And what's this about 'they think it's out'? Oh I get it...they're the Aussies...we should take their word for it, right? What if the umpire gives it not-out (as Roebuck points out in his column..link later)...I hope then he would be ok with penalizing of the 'same' players for over-appealing

And about the similarity with subcontinent situation he says
"In the past we've been critical of over-appealing on the subcontinent but if you look at it, that's almost the nature of the game in those circumstances," said Langer, who is set to return from a hamstring injury for Monday's third and final Test in Sydney.

"There are people around the bat, there's a lot of action, particularly when you've got class bowlers.

"India have (Anil) Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, here we have Warnie and (Stuart) MacGill.
Well...the same Indian team has been punished for over-appealing in the past (and not a gentle 'ohh it would be good if he refrained' by the referee). Also, the same SA team played in India recently (tests and later ODIs as well) without similar charges coming up? Its not as if they were steam-rolling us anyway so didn't find it necessary to complain.

Peter Roebuck, in his latest column, has this to say of the issue
Previously stoic in his rejection of unduly long appeals, Rauf finally wilted and sent Ashwell Prince on his way, though the gritty left-hander had clearly missed the ball. All summer the Australians has been over-appealing but the match referees had refused to protect their umpires. It's about time they earned their keep.
Well put. It's about time the official-dome decided that the Aussies are not above the law.

Khan reloaded (-worma)

Zaheer, as we know, has been working hard on regaining his peak form which, at the time of his debut, made him one of the most exciting bowlers to watch on the international circuit.

Baroda and West Zone coach Balwinder Sandhu speaks about the new (or regained) Zaheer that we now see slicing through all batting lineups this domestic season.
"Zaheer has shortened his run-up. He feels very comfortable and is accurate. He is able to swing both ways and is effective while bowling round the wicket. Now he bursts towards the bowling crease and his action is behind the ball. Right through the season, he has surprised batsmen with short balls and movement. Well, one cannot expect him to bowl consistently at 145 plus. I have videographed his bowling and have found out that he achieves good pace while in his rhythm."
Here's to hoping we get to see atleast a good glimpse of the Zaheer of old...the one who announced his arrival by clean-bowling the great Waugh at Nairobi.

Move over, India and Dada, here comes Sri Lanka

We are yet to recover from the unfinished business of Chappel-Ganguly when Sri Lanka drops, in all probability, the last bombshell of 2005. Rumours in Sri Lankan cricket circles suggest, among other things, that Vaas was perfectly alright when he cited injury before the third test. Now, haven't we heard that before?

The India-tour reports (ODI and test) have three significant parts all of which are potential scandals:
  • Vaas, who was elevated to vice captain met with fierce opposition from two or three seniors in the side. When he had to take charge for the injured Attapattu (sprained ankle in the first test), the obvious jealousy and envy bubbled over. As is the case with our own l'Affair Ganguly, the coach has a big role to play too. Moody is rumoured to have got Vaas the plum position, as repayment for getting him the coach's job. Little details such as Vaas and Moody sharing a common dressing room at Worcestershire have suddenly emerged out of nowhere. Now, none of us know if Vaas was frustrated at these politics or whether it was to throw his weight around that he decided to do this,. In either case, it doesnt augur well for Sri Lankan cricket that their leading bowler plays lead role in a controversy of this nature.
  • If that wasn't enough, Jayasurya is accused of hiding his injury so that he could be a part of the higher paying ODI series than rest and come back for the test series. Once again, when a selector suggests that a senior player suffers from poor form, there's more to it than meets the eye. If Jayasurya is indeed guilty of this, then he deserved to be out of the test team, perhaps for a longer period.
  • And finally, the ICC will receive video footage of decisions that Taufel and Ghauri made in the second and third tests, decisions which seemed to go in favour of the Indians. Tendulkar allegedly got the benefit of doubt on three occasions before he reached 40, on his way to the record-breaking 35th ton. Laxman, it seems, is another person who enjoyed the umpires' alleged incompetency. I hope that the footage also contains the two Tendulkar lbws which might, as well have gone the other way. A case of sour grapes?
I was advised that a beer in the morning is good to get rid of my hangover from last week's Christmas. I dont know if it is that or the extra spiked egg nog which leads me to this but didnt Sri Lanka have a gem of an umpire called Asoka De Silva? And K T Francis? Were Taufel and Ghauri as bad? Apart from the many debatable decisions that these two have handed out, I have this lasting memory of KT Francis's contribution in a Rahul Dravid dismissal. Dravid was judged to be run out when Tendulkar's straight drive crashed into the stumps at the bowler's end. Of course, the umpire didnt find it relevant that the bowler hadn't even appealed for the run out (meaning he may not have touched the ball on its way). Was it this match where we nearly chased 302? In which case, was it the same match where Jadeja was given caught off a beamer at a crucial junture.

Maybe, these Sri Lankan matters will prove a welcome distraction for us and we'll let Ganguly and Chappel do what they do best, help India on its way to cricketing excellence But knowing myself as well as the rest of my country's cricket fans, I doubt it.

Wishes for the New Year
In any case, 2005 was a decent year for cricket. I can proudly say that I adjusted my work hours well enough to watch almost every single one of the Ashes days. Indian cricket didn't reach the heights that we all expected it to. And it very nearly reached the depths that we thought it had left forever. Lets hope that 2006 produces our very own Ashes and the India Pakistan series produces cricket that thrills. There's a lot more to look forward to in the coming year. Apart from our clash with the neighbours, there's England coming home, India touring South Africa and England playing in Australia, three series which could redefine the pecking order in test cricket. Here's to a wonderful 2006, a year where cricket on the field occupies all the headlines..

PS: A personal thanks to Prem as well as all of the guys who visit and form a part of this blog and the DG. Its been a pleasure to associate with people of such cricketing knowledge. Thanks for bearing with whatever was my input, I have enjoyed every second I spent here and I hope there are many more memorable discussions and heated debates that have become an inseparable part of SightScreen.

Friday, December 30, 2005

India's quick bowlers

There has been, on the DG, on repeated occassions, debate on why there have been no genuinely fast bowlers coming out of India over the past couple of decades.
I had mailed Prem asking him for his opinion on this, and here is what he said --
Sometime in 1972, our school came up with a quintessential quick bowler. He was then in the 9th standard, and already six feet tall, very lithe, real quick (I know, he was my classmate, and the one I had to practice against).
That year, we played as I recall some 8 matches to win the inter-school cricket competition – for the 7th year running. What I remember most about that period is that at no time did our winning margin fall below the 150-run mark – and mostly, they were built on his efforts with the ball.
We used to open the batting together, too. In 1973, in one match early in the season, while running between wickets he pulled his groin muscle. It was, he said, a mild twinge, he didn’t though want to bowl and put more strain on it. So he decided – he was leading the side that year – to keep wickets.
He wasn’t the most classical of keepers, but he had this long reach – and in that game, snaffled a couple catches simply through reflexes and that reach. Our coach at the time was S Venkatraghavan – who, after the game, took him aside and talked to him of how there was no future in being a fast bowler; that if he turned his attention to keeping, he could conceivably represent India.
From that day on, he kept – and went on actually to play for India at the international level as a wicket keeper. That is the story of Bharat Reddy; it is also the story of how during the 70s and the 80s, your best friends tried to warn you AWAY from fast bowling, as being an essentially thankless job.
How would the country produce fast bowlers, given this? I think in fact that it has only been in the mid- or late-90s that seam bowlers have been accorded some glamour, some respect (a stray Kapil notwithstanding); and that in turn is reflected in the increasing number of youngsters taking to bowling quick.
It’s been just about 8, 10 years in total, and already we have more seam bowlers who can conceivably do international duty than we had in the previous two decades – so my take would be, the trend will keep up and as more players take to bowling fast at an earlier age, you will begin producing genuine quicks.
Genetics is a convenient answer, but somehow, a highly suspect one in my book. It’s a bit like, we are genetically incapable of top flight gymnastics – and yet a Mohini Bharadwaj can lead the US to a team title? She was born and raised here but her genes are all Indian; her parents were émigrés.
I honestly believe that training and opportunity is what we have lacked.

If wishes were horses, Part 2

Following Prem's post on cricketing wishes for 2006, a thread was launched on the DG for readers to contribute.

Here are some of the contributions:

Toney
Let me be very selfish in this regard
I want India to win the test and ODI series against Pak and Eng. I dont mind if the Pak series is a close affair, I want our guys to flatten whatever is left of Vasughan's men. Am I asking for too much?


fineleg
It is about Use appropriate Technology for Umpiring in Cricket
Too many times, it is highly irritating to say the least, when viewers can clearly call something as Out or Not-out based on action replays and angles, but the umpires do not have access to these. I wish Technology can play a more comprehensive role in Umpiring decisions - this is one of my New Year wishes.


aviral
India to win their next three test series against Pakistan, England and West Indies. I will gladly trade any amount of success in one day cricket for victory in the longer format of the game.
Tendulkar to throw caution to the wind and bat with the verve and adventure of yesteryear...
The BBCI to walk the talk and put in place the infrastructure that enables Indian cricket to be successful because rather than despite the system.


openforum
Tondulkar makin a debut at 16 and play like tendulkar did for india....


esvee
India team having two fast bowlers who can consistently bowl in the 150kmph range, by the end of the year 2006.


Thats it for now. As and when more people post, will add those in a new post. That would be on Monday or Tuesday.

Happy New Year, folks

May 20, I started this blog with no idea where it was going. Or even why. Some seven months later, I still don't know where this is going; the journey, though, has been fun.
Thanks for the company; for the many links/thoughts sent; for stories shared; old contacts renewed and new ones made.
To all of you, every best wish for a wonderful 2006 -- here's hoping Life brings everything of the very best.
PS: This blog shuts shop now, and will resume Monday January 2.

If wishes were horses...

...India would win the 2007 World Cup, drub the Aussies at home, top the ICC Test rankings and in their spare time, play some cricket. Here's a first batch of early mails of your wishes for the year:
Mehul Shah:
Introduction of rules / regulation that neutralize the result of spinning of a coin. Cricket is the only game where outcome of a match 'may' depend so much of on the toss. Regulation like super-sub only tend to favor the team winning the toss more!
Ball beating the bat. ODIs played on seaming/spinning tracks and more freedom to bowling side such that 250 is a par score and bowlers are not reduced to replacing ball machines. Daily doss of 300+ is only killing (at least my interest in) ODIs. (Though last 2 series in India v/s SL and SA were pleasant deviations from the norm)

Zainub:
I have just one cricket related wish for 2006: I hope Allah drops in a reasonably sized TV at my college cafeteria with all satelite and cable sports channels on it , and a bigger break could also help. Thanks for the great blog, Sight Screen is on my daily-must-read list now. And happy new year, in advance.

Soumya Bannerjee:
1. That Dada finally, finally, finally finds his form on the Pakistan tour. And if he doesn't, finally calls it quits. Enough of this tamasha already.
2. That the Board finally becomes a professional body with a proper constitution, with proper financial accounting and a decent website.
3. That Rahul Mehra's PIL finally hits its target.
4. That comments for Prem's blog are turned back on.

Abhimanyu:
I wish that you'd stop responding to these imbeciles on your chats, who do nothing but insult you, mock your cricketing acumen and waste everyone's time! Seriously, high time you ceased to reply to the coments of these idiots!

Net lot, as and when you guys send them in.

The Mumbai Mirror awards

Another player in the awards game; the Mumbai paper outs its list.
Look before you leap award: Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh may be known for out-thinking batsmen on the cricket field, but after what he did this year, he will not be known for his great judgement off it. The Punjab bowler, incensed with coach Greg Chappell after the controversy that erupted during India’s tour of Zimbabwe, called a press conference in Jalandhar to give his views on how the new Indian coach had “double standards” and had created an atmosphere of “fear and insecurity” in the team. Bhajji was censured by the Punjab Cricket Board, and was in grave danger of losing his place in the side. He made amends with some great performances subsequently, and having learnt his lesson, doesn’t speak ill of Chappell anymore. At least in public.

And more.

Shoaib's to-do list

With India, says the Pak speedster, it is not about revenge -- just unfinished business.
You looked reborn in the England series. How prepared are you to face India?
I am all geared up. It’s not revenge, as people are saying, but unfinished business against India.
I still regret that I couldn’t live upto expectations when India came here, but I did not lack commitment. I got only seven wickets, but doubting my integrity hurt me more than the lacklustre performance. I am always focussed for a series, as I am for the India series. A lot of people are now saying that I have a good chance to take a revenge, but that’s not on my mind. I want to do the same I did against England, and if I am able to do that, help my team win, it would be a huge relief for me.

Sauce for the goose

From Soumya Bannerjee, this mail:
With all the security fuss being made about Karachi in the upcoming Pakistan tour, did you notice that the Pakistan-India Asia Cup match was played in, guess where, Karachi? No advance security detail (at least not that we know of), no government directives, not even any concern raised by the media that our women were going to play there.
I guess women can look after themselves, right? It's high time Indian women's cricket came under the umbrella of the BCCI. At least the sterling performances of our lasses will not go unrewarded and they can get some of the five star treatment meted out to our men.

Absolutely on the money, this comment.

R Mohan on the year that was

The columnist lists the highs and lows. On a related note, where are your wishes, guys?

Sourav, meet Greg; Greg, meet Sourav

Yesterday, Sambaran Bannerjee -- a long time backer and a member of the selection commttee that picked the player for the seminal 1996 tour of England -- suggested that Sourav Ganguly needs to get tips from coach Greg Chappell ahead of the Pakistan tour. Today, it is former selector Pranob Roy's turn to echo the suggestion, while NCA (East Zone) chairman Gopal Bose thinks it is unnecessary.

Bajji's tune

Harbhajan Singh, who is due to appear in a Punjabi music album, does his bit in the ongoing game of verbal oneupmanship with Pakistan.
"The last series held in Pakistan was won by India and this time they would be under heavy pressure to ensure it does not happen again," Harbhajan said as India prepare to take on Pakistan in a Test and One-Day series starting early next month.

And then these:
"We have improved a lot under Chappell's guidance and as far as unity is concerned, earlier also it was there and now it has only improved further," he told PTI in an interview.
Reacting to Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq's comment that Sourav Ganguly would be under pressure to perform in Pakistan, Harbhajan said not only the former skipper but every member of the team would be under the scanner.
"As far as pressure is concerned, it is not only Ganguly, but every player will be under pressure to perform well in the neighbouring country due to the sentimentalities involved with India-Pakistan matches," he said.
Harbhajan said he was unfazed by reports that Pakistan were preparing bouncy pitches to undo the Indians. "There have been reports that fast pitches will welcome us. We will chalk out our final strategy after assessing the pitches."

No shrinking violet, this bloke

Viru Sehwag is an original -- not just in the way he bats, but in the way he talks, too. Consider this story.
"I believe this (poor form) is thing of past. In the new year, the people will see a new Sehwag with a new technique and I am confident of making good scores."

Ermmm -- I hope actually that we see the old Sehwag, with the old technique, and new runs.
That he would perform better as a middle order batsman, Sehwag begged to differ.
"I don't think so! I have played better than many players who have played for India in the recent past. I have only one century while playing in the middle order as compared to nine as an opening batsman. By any standard, it's a good performance," Sehwag said and cited that he fared better than contemporaries like VVS Laxman, Akash Chopra, Wasim Jaffer et al.

And finally, this:
Sehwag also seemed reluctant to attach to much importance to a coach's role in the team's success.
"Coach plays an important role in the team but it is eventually the team which has to perform."
On being asked who was the best captain he has ever seen, the one time lieutenant of deposed skipper Sourav Ganguly matter-of-factly named the southpaw alongside Aussie Steve Waugh.

Indian eves showing how

For the men, now preparing for the tour to Pakistan, an example to emulate. The bullettin underlines the nature of the match -- one opener makes a quickfire century, the spinners then run riot.
The win is worth celebrating, but in muted fashion -- for reasons cultural and otherwise, Pakistan has not been known to pay much attention to the distaff side of its cricket. Interestingly, while looking back at the year that was for women's cricket, Jenny Thompson had this to say:
International teams have already benefited from various mergers of their men's and women's boards, none more so than in Pakistan where this year the women's game took unprecedented steps forward, under the umbrella of the Pakistan Cricket Board who they merged with in 2004.
After years of trying to gain recognition from the government, the PCB and the public alike, Pakistan finally hosted their first match on home soil, against India Under-21. It was a massive, almost inestimable, stride not just for women's cricket, but for women's rights too in the largely conservative Islamic republic.
Only ten years ago the first moves to introduce cricket to Pakistani women - by sisters Shaiza and Sharmeen Khan - had resulted in death threats and court cases and even in 2003, playing sport in public was virtually unknown for women in Pakistan. But then came the India tour - which was immediately followed up with the first-ever Women's Asia Cup in late December, which was also held in Pakistan.

That also brings up a related issue -- that of the long deferred merger of women's cricket into the BCCI.
"We had spoken to the BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, a couple of years back about the merger and he had put it to the AGM of the Board. He then replied back saying that the merger is not possible now, but maybe later on."
Kulkarni said the BCCI had been approached again, a couple of months back.
"We have not yet received a response from the BCCI after that. We will be approaching the BCCI again in a couple of weeks," she added.
Kulkarni said she had spoken to ICC president Ehsan Mani in South Africa, and he assured her that the merger would take place.
"He said that he would speak to the BCCI regarding this matter. We are hopeful that a solution will come out soon," she added.

The time is right. Interest is catching on. The team is young, talented, and has produced results -- it could do with encouragement, and financial help. The reasons for backing such a merger are no-brainers.
Ahead of its working committee meeting in Thiruvananthapuram in June, then BCCI secretary SK Nair in fact said the issue of the merger was on the agenda. At the end of what turned out to be a contentious meeting, Nair then said the issue had not been taken up for 'want of time'.
Figures -- if you recall, much of that meeting was devoted to a bitter wrangle between Jagmohan Dalmiya and Tamil Nadu's Sreenivasan, over the issue of TN clubs having taken the BCCI to court over the television rights issue.
Water under the bridge. New year, new administration -- one that says it wants to bring about change in administration. I wonder if this issue is on its radar -- or if it, like the previous administration, will follow the 'delay as deadliest form of denial' route.

The Aussie appeal (-worma)

The issue of Aussie's putting pressure on umpires by their over(zealous)-appealing is not new. For example, it was raised during the recently concluded WI series, and I also commented on it here.

Although this time around, SA coach Arthur agrees that it didn't result in wrong decisions, but that, in my opinion, is missing the picture. While all agree that its putting undue pressure on the umpire, its basically leaving it to the human reaction of the official in question. This is what match-referee Chris Broad had to say about it
"There's got to be that competitive edge but there is a line that they cannot cross," Broad told reporters today at the MCG.

"But according to the umpires they haven't crossed it so I'm happy with that.

"I look at it probably from a television point of view and yes ideally it would be nice if it was toned down a little bit."

And it was even brought into focus during the match, when Rauf warned Warne
Broad defended inexperienced Pakistan umpire Asad Rauf, who warned Warne for over-appealing during the match.

And suddenly, the question popping in my mind is that why is it that all these officials are so umm...unofficial in their approach with the Aussies. What's this chatting and warning and "oh it would be nice if they toned it down...but then..." approach?

I don't seem to remember such friendly 'suggestions' coming the way of Indian players in SA...when they were punished en masse for overappealing.

Ohh well...lets sit back and admire the mighty Aussies....they're so darned good...what to do.
Asked if Australia was the "best" team in the game for over-appealing, Broad said: "They are the No.1 side in the world. They seem to be best at most things these days."

You're the best (-worma)

Danish Kaneria says that spinners around the world need to be encouraged and even pampered to keep them motivated
"A spinner needs to be constantly told that he is the best. He has to be pampered and reminded that he is the match-winner. A good bowling effort automatically follows,"
And Warne would surely agree with that.

Meanwhile, our own spin spine Bhajji remains quietly confident of doing well despite no-one really pampering him with the best tag. I guess its about realizing one's role in the team.

On a separate note, this small article reveals that SG, just like SRT, is also preparing specially for the Pak pace attack by practicing with a new stance and a lighter bat.

Aussie verdict (-worma)

So after Aus completed the formalities of the win today, both Ponting and Smith agreed that Hussey's ton in first innings was what made the difference. So, essentially, the chance dropped by Nel when Hussey was at 27 sealed the match.

Although I think restricting Aus to 355 should still have been considered decent work by SA bowlers (agreed that it could have been better) and it was essentially the SA batsmen who let them down, and not for the first time in this series. Poor scores by Smith and Kallis, their two linchpins of attack and defense (along with Gibbs) are hurting their chances badly.

Ponting was also 'quick' to praise Symonds' contribution in the match
"It's great to see Andrew do well," said Ponting. "He's a winner in both forms of the game.

"We should not underestimate what Andrew did with the ball in their first innings.

"He got those three wickets when South Africa were looking pretty good and he turned the game.

"Then his knock allowed us to get out there a bit earlier and have a good crack at them."

How to play (-worma)

Sorry, couldn't resist that one....but the story is that Fleming is going to miss the first ODI against SL, and his replacement in the starting XI can be Jamie How, despite Astle being recalled as cover (after being dropped from the original squad). Could foresee many such 'entertaining' headlines in coming times ('how to bat', 'how to open', 'Vaas bowled well, and how' as samples?)

And NewZealand, as many of us would recall, chased down 331 against Australia in their last ODI. Although this is a significantly different squad with Fleming, Astle, McMillan and Adams missing from the team due to various reasons. Still their recent good show against Aus coupled with SL's poor record overseas can mean a very tough challenge ahead for SL.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cricket bats are injurious to health

Forget guns. If this sort of thing keeps happening, they will soon be calling for a ban on cricket bats. To know why, check this. And this. And this. All this just in the span of December, mind -- I seem to recall a few other instances earlier in the year.
And just for fun, a blast from the past -- remember Inzy? Imagine if he had connected...

A for alphabet soup

Andrew Miller works his way through the cricketing alphabet. Repeat after me -- D is for Dalmiya, G is for Ganguly...

If wishes were horses...

...George Binoy would get to watch Sachin Tendulkar form part of an Indian team that brings home a major multilateral trophy; Anil Nair would get to play voyeur at exciting cricket contests; Dileep Premachandran would find that the marquee match-ups of the coming season meet and exceed expectations roused by last year's Ashes battle; S Rajesh will get to unwrap a series victory against the West Indies and, why not, even South Africa; Osman Samiuddin would stand witness to the baptism of a Pakistan player; Amit Varma will look up to see technology in a white coat officiating from the pavilion end; Anand Vasu wants good cricket and good beer; and Sriram Varma wants the Windies to bounce back (that pits two Cricinfo contributors against one another -- one wants a resurgent Windies, the other wants India to win a real series abroad; you guys need to pick up the phone and talk to one another).
The Cricinfo roster of columnists on what they asked Santa for Christmas. Your turn -- if you had one wish, what would it be? Mail me -- we could do a round up tomorrow evening.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, the same group, more or less, engaged in a best of times worst of times exercise.

So why not us?

That is the theme of this opinion piece -- if Bengal can demand Sourav Ganguly's inclusion in the national team, why not other states? Exaggeration as a way to make a point?

Bajaj begins signature campaign

Let the hoopla begin.
BAJAJ Allianz General Insurance has launched a good luck team India signature campaign for the forthcoming Allianz Cup India-Pakistan test series. This signature campaign will be implemented across all cities of the country in India simultaneously, as well as in Pakistan....
All signatures from various cities will be woven together and sent to Pakistan and displayed in the stadium on the first day of the test match. After the first day, it will be displayed in the stadium at a vantage point. There are also plans to exchange the replica of the signatures between captains of two countries on the eve of the test match.

Stand by for much more of this; the upcoming tour is apt to be hyped even more than such encounters usually are. Somehow, these things remind me of what Krishna Prasad wrote, during India's World Cup 2003 campaign.

Azhar speaks

It's been a while since someone spoke to Mohammad Azharuddin, sought his views on the current state of Indian cricket. The Times of India via 'Thompson Dialog News' plugs that hole here, in a brief interview.

Skipper Sourav

The CAB intends to ask Sourav Ganguly to lead Bengal against Tamil Nadu in the Ranji tie, Jan 3-6. Ganguly had, you'll recall, given up the captaincy immediately after he lost the national Test captaincy to Rahul Dravid.
t is learnt that the CAB top brass has planned to call Ganguly for tomorrow’s meeting where he is likely to be offered the captaincy as well as his suggestions are likely to be sought on the selection of the players. Ganguly after being chosen Bengal skipper, had passed the mantle to teammate Deep Dasgupta before the team’s first Ranji Trophy match this season against Maharashtra, held in Pune. It is also learnt that Ganguly will refuse to lead and instead, ask Dasgupta to continue as skipper.

The perils of silence

Five and a half years back, in April 2000, under pressure after the match fixing scandal broke to clean up its act, the BCCI had produced a document which was termed a code of conduct for players.

A day after it was released, Prem had done an analysis of it on Rediff, and had ripped it to shreds very systematically (as it deserved to be). He had also, in that article, made a crucial point: that it was important for the players to speak out against this, because if they didnt, as Harsha Bhogle said, they would only be asking for more trouble as time went on.

Injustice tends feeds on itself.

Five and a half years down the line, and in the midst of all this drama over Saurav Ganguly, maybe the same principle is at work, albeit differently.

Never mind the "opinions", the tag of "greatest ever captain" or even the cliched "prepare for the future, for the 2007 WC". People will believe what they want to believe, based on their perceptions and their notions.

The least that can be done in this case, is to make sure that all the facts that are known. If, after that, some choose to believe a wrong decision has been made, that injustice has been done, and it can only be set right by holding dharnas, burning effigies, and staging mock funerals, then so be it. A free country has to afford its citizens that right.

In this whole mess, have we even heard from, or tried to hear or ask, the people who really matter, whose knowledge and opinions will lead to justice being dealt to everyone? John Wright, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid? Why havent they spoken? Or for that matter, even Saurav Ganguly?

Every other Tom, Dick and Harry has spoken, given his opinion on how SG needs to regain form, what he should do to get his place back in the side, on what ails Team India and so forth. Yet, the people who matter, at the very center of this controversy, have chosen to remain silent.

And have thus taken this far, far beyond what it should have been. With their silence, the rumor mills have worked overtime, and everybody with a personal agenda has jumped in to exploit this mess. Forget politicans and actors in India, Graeme Smith used it to whatever extent he could during the recent ODI series, and now all of Pakistan is trying their best to use it to play mind games too.

This is not to blame Ganguly or Dravid or Wright or Tendulkar. It is a pretty damning indictment of the "system" that Indian cricket is, that insecurity is rife everywhere, and no one dares to speak out.

Yet, essentially, if we stop and think, we might want to consider the fact that it is precisely that tendency, to remain silent, that often leads to crises happening, and controversies existing when they had no right to exist in the first place.

With all due respect to Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar, this is not about "Old India vs New India" or "excellence vs compromise". It is about creating a system where the truth can be aired freely and the people who succeed are those who voice their opinions and the system permits them to do so.

Weapon of mass destruction

If you needed proof that the Sourav Ganguly issue -- which should have been dead and buried or at the least put into limbo following his naming for the squad to tour Pakistan -- has reached ridiculous proportions, consider this story, and this premise contained therein:
The issue has given former Pakistani cricketers like Moin Khan, Waqar Younis etc., a free invitation to jump into the swirling waters and stoke the raging fires. The latest to hold forth on the issue is former Pakistan captain Mushtaq Mohammed who said in Karachi (as reported in a city eveninger) that “his (Ganguly’s) presence is not going to benefit the Indian team in many ways”.
A few others also expressed their views on the subject, including a senior Pakistan Cricket Board official, who felt that this Indian team would not be the same as the one that came last time as “this time they have definite internal issues to sort out”.
It will be a moot point if the Ganguly issue becomes a Trojan horse of sorts through which the opposition can sneak into the Indian team’s mind-set and begin working on their destabilising mission from within. It will be naive not to expect the Pakistanis to use every trick in the book to exploit the prickly issue to their advantage.

Hoo boy -- the ludicrous mental vision of Moin Khan, Waqar Younis et cetera jumping into raging waters to stoke fires burning therein made my day. Wonder what else is in store, before the tour actually begins and we can move on from discussing what ifs to what-actually-happeneds.

DG post on Saurav Ganguly

Reader tffy pointed to this article, by Abhinav Goyal on his blog, about SG. Thought provoking, and worth a read.

On why Sourav Ganguly's exclusion is not a trivial matter
Abhinav Goyal


There are those who contend that the entire debate over Sourav Ganguly is a waste of time. I disagree. The debate over Ganguly's fate is a critical question of the current times even though it appears to be a trivial matter on the face of it.

Cricket, the oft-repeated cliché goes, is a religion in India. In the face of poor infrastructure, bad roads, unhygienic water supplies, electricity blackouts, public transport vehicles that hardly ever run on time and ever so often crash, corruption in anything remotely connected to the government machinery- legislative, executive and judiciary, a nonchalant fourth estate that pays more attention to Karishma Kapoor's wedding and her legal battle with her spouse than it does to actual matters to public interest and the growing economic divide in society, Indians find their hope and their despair in the performances of the Indian cricket team. So it is that cricketers, especially those who give the Indian public something to rejoice about, are Gods in India.

And Ganguly is way up there in the pantheon. India's most successful test captain ever. The Prince of Calcutta who was once described by Rahul Dravid as being second to none but God while playing on the off-side, Sourav won over Indian hearts the world over by hitting a century on his Test debut at Lords. Since then, he has given us many, many moments to cherish and relive but the defining moment of Sourav's career came six years after his debut at, coincidentally, the same venue- the home of cricket- Lords.

The image of Sourav taking off his shirt and waving it above his head when India beat England in the finals of the Natwest Trophy became the symbol of not just Indian cricket but of a brave, new and resurgent India in the 21st century. Sourav epitomized a new generation of India, one that was unapologetic for its colonial history and was not afraid to fight to the face the world outside. Bold. Bare-chested. Under Sourav, the Indian cricket team, once a team of chokers and under-achievers, transformed into a team of fighters that on several occasions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He was the Indian captain who would take the fight to the opponent on their turf. In a mirror action to the rapid strides India was making on the global stage in the IT and ITES industry segments, Sourav and his boys inspired us all to dream big. A dream they delivered upon time and again, reaching the acme during the tour of Pakistan in 2004. My father may not be a great fan of cricket but one could see the pride (and joy) in his face when India beat Pakistan in Pakistan. Joy felt and shared by every Indian.

After the series in Pakistan, it was time to consolidate upon the platform created and to take Indian cricket to the next level. A level where performances were the only criteria for selection and prima donnas were disallowed for the one thing Team India lacked was consistency. If not, the momentum built up by the team would be lost and a whole lot of hard work would go down the drain. The problem was this- Ganguly the batsman had long vanished in a heap of paltry performances. In order to set a high benchmark, he would have to walk down that path himself and that was not visible anymore. A year later, it was clear that Ganguly was just not the right person for the job. He knew it. He also knew he could get away with it as long as Indian cricket was run by his godfather, Jagmohan Dalmiya and he used it to his advantage. By doing so, Ganguly transformed into a symbol of past glory. A has-been. A mascot for people who are unable to keep pace with the world and who blindfold themselves so that they dont have to face changing times, assuming that their past deeds would be sufficient to carry them through.

Ganguly was a God in India. A God that failed.

There is no denying Ganguly's legacy and his contribution to Indian cricket. There are many moments of joy that Sourav Ganguly has provided us for which we should be, and are, grateful. Do those moments, and the man who made those moments possible, merit a place in the Indian cricket team?

What makes the question of Ganguly's inclusion in the team such an important question is that it asks the bigger question that India has now, inadvertently, been called to answer. It is a choice between past glory and continuous improvement. Between emotion and merit. And India has to answer. If it chooses emotion and past glory and asks for the reinstatement of Ganguly to the team based on the past, India can go back to its unquestioning, uncomplaining life accepting all its problems and cricket as its escape from those problems.

If, instead, it chooses to take a step forward to a system where merit and performance are not optional, it will have to answer even bigger questions. Why doesn't the same apply to every sphere of our life? Why do we accept corrupt politicians and a highly dysfunctional government machinery? When India dismisses the Bengali sentiment running high in Ganguly's favour as blind emotion, it will need to answer why it votes on the basis of language, caste, creed and religion. When it demands to know the credentials of the five selectors who choose the Indian cricket team, why doesn't India ask for the qualifications and the bonafides of its elected representatives who make decisions on its behalf- decisions that affect its daily life.

And this is why the media (for whatever reasons- TRPs, pressure from Ganguly's sponsors whose crores of Rupees are now effectively down the drain, etc) must continue to ask the question each and every day till India knows, for sure, the choice it wants to make. A choice we all have to make for India. Of a secure, known past or an exciting, potentially promising future. India, Deal Ya No Deal?

Cricket at 70?

Just read this article that Prem had linked to, on the orthopaedic association conference, and Sachin's injury.

What I found bemusing was the very last line:

Dr Hoy feels that as long as the rehabilitation of a player is good, age is never really a factor.

"Age is never a factor. A sportsman usually stops playing because he is just bored. I mean, Tendulkar could play till he is 70 if he wants to," said Dr Hoy.


Surely not true in sports which require skills such as strong eyesight, hand-eye coordination, and quick reflexes, such as cricket? Those sort of skills do weaken with age (although to what extent is not entirely known).

I suppose Stephen Redgrave is a good example, he did win medals at the age of 40, and that too with health problems, but even then, that was in an endurance based sport, rather than a skill centric one.

A year for Sachin to recover

Former Rediff staffer Ashish Magotra, now with DNA, has this story of the annual Orthopaedic Association conference.
Dr David Young, who has operated on the likes of Ponting, Murali and others, was an attendee.
Young knows about tennis elbow not because Sachin Tendulkar was afflicted but because it is his business to know. "Tennis elbow destroyed former Aussie cricketer Dav Whatmore's career. He was scared of being operated upon. Every batsman would admit that he has had some form of tennis elbow," he said.
Young felt that given the way Sachin plays, anyone could have predicted that he would eventually get tennis elbow. "I don't think you can prevent tennis elbow. I think it will take between 1-2 years for him to recover his full strength once again," said Young.

Breach the Wall, says Rashid Latif

The former Pakistan stumper believes Rahul Dravid will be key to the upcoming Test series. And, in contrast to concensus that suggests fast pitches plus the Pak pace attack will be key, says he thinks the Indian batting lineup is where the answer to the outcome of the series lies.
"Inspite of the fact that our cricketers are well- groomed, India's front batting lineup will be a tough nut to crack.
Moreover, they need to target Dravid. Pakistan's hopes of winning the match depend on demolishing the formidable Wall," says Rashid.

Karachi in doubt?

The headline of this story says Karachi's position as venue of a Test in the upcoming series hangs in the balance. The story, however, seems when reading between lines to indicate the venue will get a thumbs up. You pays your money, and you makes your choice.

Indo-Pak 'Ashes'

PCB chairman Shahryar Khan, on Indo-Pak cricket.
Is too much Indo-Pak cricket going to affect fans' enthusiasm?
Earlier this month when I met the BCCI president, Mr Sharad Pawar, we discussed this issue. In future, we plan to make it a once-in-two-years event, like the Ashes. On the other hand, we have to understand that India and Pakistan did not play a proper series for many years. So, we also need to make up for the loss.

Tendulkar for sale

Brand Tendulkar, the Economic Times points out, is up for grabs -- December 31st sees the end of the Rs 100 crore contract signed five years ago.

In god we trust

A story that links the Pakistan team's recent vein of success to an increasing belief in the power of religion, here.
So what can Pakistan’s recent success be put down to? According to the Guardian’s David Hopps, who was in Pakistan for England visit, ‘Pakistan’s cricketers have never pursued their religious beliefs as devoutly as they do today’. He adds: “Bismillah” (“In the name of Allah”) or “Inshallah” (“God willing”) stud their every utterance. They pray together and discuss religion together.”
The Sunday Telegraph’s Richard Sydenham states that the conversion of the team’s only Christian, Yousaf Youhana to Islam, is one factor that has created a stronger bond between the players. Youhana, now known as Mohammed Yousuf, told his team-mates a year ago on the Australia tour of his conversion. However he had secretly converted in 2001. Sydenham spoke to Pakistan’s number four batsmen, in Multan’s Holiday Inn, after Pakistan victory in the first Test and discovered a man content with himself on and off the field.
He said: “For the last 18 months the team have tried to pray together five times a day from first light and that shows discipline. Islam gives protection and respect to every human being, every living thing in the world. It’s also the most peaceful religion in the world. I didn’t feel this when I was a Christian but I don’t regret it. I’m glad I had the chance to see the difference.”

Harsha on the year that was

...and, more specifically, on his pick for Cricketer of the Year. Here.

Asia Cup in September?

The PCB would like to host the Asia Cup in September 2006. On another note, Sharad Pawar takes over as Asian Cricket Council chief in January.

Enter, left, Tondulkar

I wonder what dreams his parents dreamt when they named him. Actually, 'Tondulkar' is his surname, so scratch that. Vinod Kambli, here, on the lad who eclipsed his own schools record.

Venues switched

For the record, the security concerns spoken of yesterday have led to a swap in venues for the first two ODIs in Pakistan.
Elsewhere, Wasim Akram has joined the growing lineup of former Pakistan players who see the upcoming contest as a no-contest.
"The advantage of pitches is with Pakistan, they have a transformed Shoaib Akhtar who can rock the Indians on hard pitches," he said. Akhtar, considered to be the world's fastest bowler, took 17 wickets to help Pakistan beat favourites England 2-0 in a Test series early this month.

The scary part is not that such statements reduce the series to a mathematical formula -- make fast pitches and win; the really scary bit is that there is a little over two weeks to go before the series actually kicks off. Imagine how many more statements of this kind -- and the corresponding ripostes from the Indian side -- we all have to endure before the focus can shift to the actual action.

Listen to this man

It is, thus far, a reasonably quiet day news-wise; the lull might be a good time to throw up a story datelined yesterday.
Chief selector Kiran More has written a letter to board president Sharad Pawar to make it mandatory for cricket stars to play in domestic season from next season onwards.

More to the point, pun unintended:
The dapper former Indian wicketkeepers line of argument is that fringe players would benefit a great deal just by interacting with big players, leave aside the technical and mental inputs they would avail.
The presence of stars would also highlight a few of the unseemly aspects of Indian cricket as stars are more likely to come out in open against badly managed affairs.
A recent case was that of Virender Sehwag hitting out boldly against a pitch afforded to Delhi in a Ranji Trophy tie. He also attacked Delhi selectors for ignoring his suggestions and not including the players he wanted.

There's more (oh damn, there we go again), but the point is clear, and it is well taken. In fact, it's a point we had time and again raked up on Rediff -- this piece by Mohandas Menon being one of many on the subject.

Younis Khan - Cautiously Optimistic

Younis Khan in this article has tipped Danish Kaneria to be the trump card in the forthcoming Test series against India. "He is the best leg-spinner in the world today after Shane Warne. I think Kaneria gives us the edge," he said.

I just hope that articles like these do not put Danish under too much pressure.

Younis also backed the inclusion of Ganguly in the team. He was of the opinion that Ganguly's experience might come in handy specially in pressure situtaions. "I think Ganguly is a terrific player. India won a lot of matches under his captaincy, which can never be overlooked. His return will surely add experience to the team," he said.

But it is current skipper Rahul Dravid, whose wicket will be most highly prized by Pakistan's bowlers, according to Younis.

I have been closely watching Pakistan since the last few months (Pakistan in India, Pakistan in West Indies and England in Pakistan series thanks to Dish Network). I do believe that there is a definite change in the Pakistan camp. They look like a very united unit (reminded of the times how they used to play under Imran Khan), they now play with a plan in mind! (thanks to Bobby) and are backing each other.

I personally know someone in the present Pakistani team, I was talking to him on the phone the other day and he was telling me how Shoaib has all of sudden become a team man. According to the player, Shoaib actually joins the team for morning prayers !! Now those of you who know Shoaib and his social activities this is breaking news...

Anyways, I feel it is going to be one heck of a series as both the teams have done fairly well in the recent past.

Sachin on Imran (-worma)

Unlike the headline in this report, Sachin doesn't actually trash Imran's 'boast'...just emphasizes that most players in today's world are used to playing in different conditions.

And it's not as if the winters in Pakistan are much different from northern India where we do play often during our season (Kanpur, Delhi, Mohali can get as cold as Lahore I guess?)

Actually the main reason for linking to the article is that its the only known instance in history of mankind that Finland (or Finnish) and 'cricket' have been mentioned in the same report :-)

Mushy role (-worma)

Mushtaq Ahmed can be appointed assistant coach of Pakistan team, as this report suggests. He took up the role, despite being a contender for an actual spot in the playing XI, during the English series. And it seems that the team management was impressed. Not the same with some other board members. According to them Woolmer should be able to take care of any job with the word 'coaching' in its definition.
He also maintained that not everyone in the board or the ad-hoc committee was in favour of appointing an assistant coach with the team as they felt that this post was not really necessary in the presence of a well paid and full-time professional coach in Woolmer. "The coach is someone who should be able to manage everything," the source said.
It's always a similar story around here, atleast with some people, isn't it? Resisting changes...even the ones which all around us are quickly adopting (notice the quick assessment of bowling coach needs in Aus and equally quick pinching of Cooley from England)

Next please (-worma)

This Aussie-SA match is way too much on the post-Ashes predictable lines. Aus batting messes up...bowlers (Warne, Lee mainly) come to the rescue...then Aussie batting recovers a bit second time around (well if you get a first innings lead, and have Warne, McGill waiting you don't need too many runs to defend) and then the bowling turns on the screws. Again.

Symonds finally gets some diamond-studded runs to his name, although this would just be enough to buy him a bit more time, not really remove the shadows of doubts. Taking a few wickets is not actually hurting his cause either.

SA batting has been really disappointing (not that they could have chased 300+ against Warne and co.) with their captain leading the way.

Another case of a good team meeting the best in business, and failing. Just not good enough.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pakistan's point of view on "Sight Screen"

Hi Readers:

I have been a regular listener of "Panix Station" on Rediff and I have always enjoyed Prem's expert opinion on cricketing matters. To my surprise and for some strange reason "Panix Station" stopped featuring on Rediff. Being a fan of Prem and Panix Station, I followed him to his Blog "Sight Screen".

However, during the last Pakistan - India series on Panix Station and now on Sight Screen, I felt that the discussions lack the "Pakistani Perspective". I thought that Prem should have had someone from Pakistan on his blog to discuss/comment from Pakistan's point of view as well. Also, someone with a little more insight on Pakistan cricket, its domestic cricket structure and upcoming players will not only add value to the blog but will also make discussions much more interesting. I pitched the idea to Prem and he was kind enough to make me a part of his Blog. I am really thankful to him for giving me the opportunity. So from now onwards once in a while you will see some interesting articles/opinion from me.

I have infinite passion for cricket (which by the way is not rare to find in our parts of the world). In my first post, I would like to tell you a little more about myself:

My High School Years: I went to Aitchison College Lahore. If you haven’t heard about Aitchison, it is one of the best institutions in Asia established by the British in 1886. It is the same high school that produced some of the best cricketers in the world (Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Rameez Raja to name a few). I was lucky enough to be selected in Aitchison College’s cricket team.

My College/University Years: My father persuaded/convinced/forced (whatever you want to assume/conclude) me to realize that out of a population of 140 million it would be extremely difficult, in fact impossible for me to make it to the Pakistan Cricket Team. So instead of going for trials of Pakistan under 18 (for which I was selected from my high school) I ended up at the University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore. Still not willing to let go of cricket, I played for my University as well. I ended up with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration.

My Professional Career: I was never a fan of Engineering so I started my professional career as a banker and started working for Abn Amro Bank. Abn Amro ironically happens to be the sponsor of domestic cricket in Pakistan. I could still not let go of cricket and while at Abn I was a regular member of Abn Amro Cricket Team. I worked there for two years in Corporate Banking and then decided to move to the USA to get my MBA.

While in Pakistan, I played active club cricket all along.

Vermont, USA: I got a scholarship from UVM (University of Vermont) and thus decided to do my MBA from here. After completing my MBA I got a job at KPMG LLP and since then have been working here. I still play cricket for a local club here (Chittenden County Cricket Club) and open the bowling attack for this club.

Once in a while you will see my analyses, articles and comments from a slightly different angle - from "A Pakistani Perspective"

Thanks again Prem....

Sehwag-speak

An interview in the Hindustan Times, with the vice captain. Clips:
India will have an answer to every missile Pakistan fires at us. Be it pace or spin, India have the batsmen to match them. Even if they give us a cement track, we have bowlers who can torment them. Moreover, the Pakistani batsmen are not known to be technically strong. We will prepare our strategy only after looking at the wickets there.

And, ahem, this -- so typical, you can almost hear the man speak:
Last time, you made 309 in Multan and were given the ‘title’ of ‘Sultan of Multan’. This time around, Multan is not a Test venue … would you be missing Multan?
This title was give to me by the media. Actually, I am feeling a bit strange about the fact that a Test is not being played there. But it doesn’t matter… whether the match is played in Multan or Karachi. I could get a new title somewhere else! My aim would be to play a big knock whichever the venue.

PostScript: And so to the end of the day; today is the office Christmas party (I know I know, Christmas was three days ago but there was a strike, remember? Anyways, who needs a reason to party? Off for the day, see you guys tomorrow.

Anyone feeling generous?

On his cricket blog, Sriram has a list of awards in various categories for the calendar year. Anyone have additions to make?
Correction, that blog is Kalyan's -- as he pointed out just now -- not Sriram's.

The force is with Pak, says SRT

Couple of interesting comments from the batsman, ahead of the Pak tour:
“I think this Pakistan team is definitely better opposition this time round. I think at the moment, they have very good momentum. We have also defeated Sri Lanka and tied the ODI series against South Africa. Pakistan are better but we have been doing well too. I think it will an evenly matched series,” said the 32-year-old.

And on the form of Inzy and Akthar, this:
“Well, Inzamam and Shoaib were there last time round too. We have faced them before. We need to focus on what we need to do, not what they can do.”

Train to Pakistan

There have been enquiries,both on blog and the DG, about visas and travel arrangements for the Pakistan tour.

Well, more information can be found here on Amit Varma's blog. He will be covering the tour, and his email address is mentioned there as well.

Matter of money

This used to be an annual preoccupation for Rediff till the BCCI wised up and put its annual financial statements out of reach of the journalist. Now it is the turn of the Economic Times to take a look at the balance sheet (knowing how the BCCI operates, I'd be surprised if the document was readily available; more likely, someone in the current regime bootlegged a copy to the journalists). Interesting -- if not entirely surprising -- findings in the story:
But the expenditure pattern is not very encouraging. Its spends went up by 70% last year. Now sample this: BCCI spends Rs 5.02 crore for running the day-to-day affairs. And it bled by Rs 3.47 crore last year by way of legal expenses, which is more than twice the amount that it paid former coach John Wright.

Contrast that figure -- the board's expenses on day to day running (keep in mind the BCCI has a token office with minimum permanent staff; most of its activities are run by 'honorary' officials) with what it spent on cricket development, as exemplified by the National Cricket Academy:
The board spent Rs 16.39 crore on domestic tournaments, Rs 27.13 lakh on the National Cricket Academy and Rs 88.02 lakh on the zonal cricket academies.

An interesting item in the expense sheet, when it comes to back room personnell, is this:
Former coach John Wright got paid Rs 1.5 crore in fees and expenses, the team physio Andrew Leipus was paid Rs 74 lakh and the board forked out Rs 49 lakh for the trainer. The team consultant, Sunil Gavaskar, drew Rs 10.29 lakh in fee.

Did you know Team India actually had a 'consultant' -- and if yes, what his duties were?
When Sharad Pawar took over, one of the first things he said was that the board's finances had to be redrafted; that it was pointless to keep earning money and putting them in various accounts, where they did nothing but accumulate interest, and that the board needed to look at ways to make the money work for the game. In that context, consider this:
The board’s profit was, however, just Rs 4.8 crore in ‘04-05, up from Rs 4.01 crore last year. According to the balance sheet, the board transferred Rs 26.26 crore to the general reserve, out of which the income was Rs 4.78 crore, and the remaining Rs 21.48 crore were transfers from its seven earmarked funds such as infrastructure development fund, curators training fund, Ranji Trophy fund and pension fund, among others, to the general fund, swelling it to Rs 157.58 crore.

Did you, for instance, know that there was a curators' training fund with a few crore tucked away in it? This is what Pawar was talking of, actually -- the practise, down the years, has been to create a series of funds: ground development fund, cricket development fund, stadium development fund, infrastructure development fund... dozens of such; and to keep dumping crores inside these funds. Then, at the end of the year, blocks of money are shuffled around among the various funds, and from there to the general reserve, to present a fiscal picture that is largely smoke and mirrors.
Good work by the Eco Times here; if the reporters now dig a bit deeper, into the breakup say of the Rs 5.02 crore spent on running the BCCI, much fun will result.

Best foot forward

Scott Styris is apparently re-inventing the wheel, where footwork is concerned.
The remedy was suggested by Middlesex professional Ed Smith and coach John Emburey, who both urged Styris to forget about his footwork and to concentrate on developing a more balanced position at the point of impact.
"I've really subscribed to the no-footwork theory," he said. "I know that sounds strange but it's not as bad as a lot of purists would imagine. It just means that I'm trying to get myself into a position where I'm hitting from a stable base.
"I feel that most of the best players around the world have limited footwork but are very strongly balanced when they strike the ball; it's quite a noticeable trend."
With that in mind, Styris opted to take a leaf out of their book and reduce, rather than exaggerate his foot movement, in order to give himself a more effective strike base.
The moved proved a success from the start, not only opening up the offside for Styris but also adding extra shot options around the wicket, something he attributes directly to the ploy of making balance a bigger priority than foot movement.

Ahem! Someone needs to send Styris the bible of the no-footwork theory -- in other words, a video of Virender Sehwag batting. That is precisely the Indian vice-captain's formula: stay still, limit movement to the minimum, focus on balance and hitting off a strong, grounded base.

Man versus Machine

Sachin Tendulkar's preferred practise mode appears to be the bowling machine -- an effort, he says, to get used to reacting at speed.

Change in Pak venues contemplated

Security issues, per this story, are causing the PCB in tandem with the Indian security detail to think of changes in venues for the first two ODIs.
Elsewhere, renovation work has begun on the Faisalabad stadium.

What's to see?

A story on how the Indian security detail inspected Pakistan venues has this interesting bit in it:
Even without inspecting the stadium, the Indian delegation, visiting Pakistan to assess security arrangements for Team India's forthcoming tour, has given the go-ahead to Peshawar to host one of the five ODIs between India and Pakistan on February 8.
The five-member recce team led by Yashovardhan Azad, after discussing security measures with the provincial police and local administration yesterday, decided that the arrangements were ''good enough'' to give the green signal to the Indian team to play the match at the Arbab Niaz Cricket Ground.
''We do not need to visit the stadium to assess the security measures. Last time we inspected the ground and its surroundings and I hope the security will remain the same for the upcoming Indian cricket team's tour to Peshawar,'' Azad said.

Leads naturally to the question -- why inspect any of the venues?

Talk to Chappell, Sourav

Sambaran Bannerjee -- a former national selector and one of Ganguly's more vocal backers -- suggests that he should seek out Greg Chappell for some batting tips ahead of the Pakistan tour.
“Not only Chappell, he should also approach Sachin Tendulkar as to how to prepare mentally for the tour,” said Banerjee.
“I would rather encourage him to make specific plans for the tour. He should ask bowlers to bowl from 18 yards and that too on green surfaces,” said Banerjee.

This bit is interesting:
Banerjee also has no doubt that Ganguly should drop any plans of accepting the offer to open the innings in Pakistan.
“He should make it clear that he wouldn’t open the innings. That’s not his position.”

Ahem -- it wasn't Yuvraj's position. Nor, earlier, was it Laxman's. But anyways...
Banerjee didn’t miss the point in reiterating that Ganguly should have agreed to play for Bengal against Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy rather than do some lighthearted practice in the nets.
“Nets would serve little purpose. A day in match equals about 70 spent in nets.”

Thanks, Nandu, for the link.

Sourav to stand tall

Ganguly, per this PTI story, is retooling his stance as part of his preparation for Pakistan.
The improvisation, that includes keeping the bat in the air and not firmly rooted to the ground as he did earlier, is expected to help Ganguly keep his head still and would also give him a bit more time to face the Pakistan quicks.
But Ganguly felt it was only a minor adjustment.
There is no secret in this. I don't believe that a player can change his stance overnight. But minor changes have to be made with respect to the condition in a particular country," he said in an interview to 'Channel Seven.' "When you go to England, or Australia, you need to make some changes. Similar is the case for Pakistan," he said.

Kumble on spin bowling

The latest issue of Sportstar contains an extended interview with Anil Kumble.
The magazine also has a Makarand Waingankar column that looks at the task ahead for Sharad Pawar. Makarand, who is well inside the inner circle of the administration, invariably comes up with interesting insights; this particular column is no exception. Quoting one portion at length:
There is one point that is common in all the criticism and that is the need to change the selection policy. One school of thought feels that the BCCI should have a three-member selection committee, and the other feels that in the current five-member selection committee there should be cricketers who have played at least 20 Tests. Further, some feel that the selectors should be paid a monthly salary.
The BCCI did appoint a nine-member committee in 1997 to discuss and suggest the formation of a three-member selection committee. The committee suggested that the BCCI should have a three-member selection committee but, though all the nine members were part of the BCCI's Working Committee, none of them asked for the change. This is cricket politics. Today the same members are asking for a change.
I am not convinced about the 20 Test matches criteria. A couple of years back, a selector who played more than 50 Tests and was the Chairman of the state's selection committee couldn't recognise a main player of his state team. He told the player to send a certain player to him to be reprimanded, and the player had to inform the selector that he himself was that player.
Some years back, the Chairman of the Selection Committee of another state rebuked a player for not taking wickets in the last few matches. The player had to inform him that he had not been selected for those matches.
In Mumbai, when the selection committee was entirely made up of top former Test players and one of them was a former India captain, a player was dropped because one of the selectors said the player was 38 years old and not 22. It was when the player, traumatized by the asinine and groundless reason for his career being halted, was taken to a psychiatrist, that they realised their mistake.

Pegging his piece on India's away record, Frank Tyson talks of what it takes to play away from home.
And finally, from that magazine, S Dinakar's review of the year gone by.

No neutral umpires

The PCB, this story says, will not be asking for neutral umpires for the ODI series that follows the Tests. What is of particular interest is the reason why:
"Apparently, the Indians didn't take it seriously because they never bothered to get back to us on this issue at all. Feeling they were not interested we also dropped the idea because you can't have neutral umpires in ODIs without the consent of the touring team," he was quoted as saying in 'The News' today.

Amazing, the number of times 'the Indian board did not get back to us' keeps popping up in stories; makes you wonder just what the board, with all its committees and administrative infrastructure, does do.

Slow day

Talk of slow news days -- outside of the Waqar Younis statement referenced by Worma, there seems to be nothing of Indian cricketing interest, at least as yet, up there on the net.
Stumbled on this story of an Indian captaining England's U-19 team in the upcoming World Cup, but outside of that, nada.
Will keep an eye on stories, and be back here as and when something material to this blog appears.

Pot, kettle, black (-worma)

Waqar tries mindgames before the Indian series, or atleast his version of it, by taking a ill-conceived jab at Saurav Ganguly
"I think the Indian selectors have taken a step back by picking Sourav because he is certainly not a player in form. I saw him batting in the New Delhi Test (against Sri Lanka) and he was clearly struggling to put bat to the ball", Younis said.
Although I'm not sure which match was he watching.

Also sites the examples of Aus selectors trying out new faces (emphasis mine)
"The Australian selectors threw in three to four youngsters against South Africa instead of relying on big names. The teams are not built just on talent but how that talent is used and nurtured."
Again, not sure what match is he watching..because Hussey and Hodge aren't really youngsters. Symonds is been re-tried here..and Jaques is the only youngster being blooded against SA.

Also takes a dig at the Indian batsmen
"The Indians have their grey areas. They depend heavily on their strong batting but even then collapse like a pack of cards. They are devastating and poor at times," Younis said.
Which again is mis-directed because the recently concluded SriLankan series was won over not by mountains of runs thus displelling the fears of over-reliance on batting (or atleast not always). True that at times the Indian batting collapses...but then, in today's scenario, which lineup in the world doesn't? I would still think its amongst the best...current form of a few constituents notwithstanding.

And btw, on trying youngsters...can someone please confirm if Mr Younis has actually really retired or not? No seriously...I still don't remember him actually 'conceding' retirement :-)

Razzaq unfit again (-worma)

Razzaq has been hospitalized with a chest infection...and following my comments from yesterday, in light of this news, the tour match against India becomes more important for Pakistan management now.

Going by their choice against England, it's quite likely that they would again look for a genuine batting replacement for Razzaq. Kamal, Raza are probably going to be watched..but it can be a newcomer (Bazid?) as well. Or maybe they would like to boost their bowling attack with an additional pacer (and thus have Gul take that spot)...although I'm not sure Woolmer would be that convinced with their batting strength.

Be interesting to watch out for development..

The irony (-worma)

A day after Merv Hughes declared that the Aussie selectors were evaluating Symonds as a genuine batsman, he took 3 SA wkts to bring their innings to a premature end. Perhaps he meant 'genuine bowler' instead?

The match itself is once again playing on predictable lines, with SA batsman squandering the chances gift wrapped for them by their bowlers. Well...actually...in this case the wrapping was missing..what with the last wicket stand of Hussey and McGrath. Those hundred runs have perhaps defined the course of this match.

With SA looking at a chase of over 250 instead of 150+..and with Warne and McGill ready to go..its going to be another uphill task for them from here on. And then..they have Symonds the bowler to negotiate as well ;-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More on Gul

The 21-year-old speedster, subject of an earlier post on this blog, is apparently Pak skipper Inzamam ul Haq's preferred weapon for the Test series against India.
It’s a well-known fact that the Indians are no more pace-wary. In fact, the likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman prefer the ball coming on to the bat. That was the case the last time they were in Pakistan. Akhtar’s and Sami’s pace was the right kind of fodder for India.
The only bowler who made the difference was Gul. The man from a the same village from which squash champions Jansher and Jehangir Khan hailed, featured only in one innings of the Lahore test, but that was enough for him to win Pakistan the match.
Not with his pace, but his ability to move the ball both ways at great speed. The medium-pacer ripped the heart of the Indian batting by claiming five wickets in his 12-over spell. The Indian batsmen on that day had no answer for Gul as he kept them guessing.

The youngster apparently can't wait:
“I’m delighted with the news that I have been named in the squad. It gives me an opportunity to win back my lost place. I think in 20 months, I have lost a lot of ground and it will require my best performance to get back in the team,” he said.
“It’s nice to get a comeback game against India because my last best international performance was also against them. But it is not going to be easy this time because India is a very strong batting lineup but I think I am bowling well.”

It's an interesting facet of the upcoming series -- players in Pakistan have been making confident noises of late. So much so, even Azhar Mahmood wants a go.

The warm-up squad (-worma)

Prem already commented, and just to add a point on the Pakistan tour match squad - it seems that Pakistan has this theory (or atleast a recent attempt) of throwing the literal kitchen-sink of reserves behind their warm-up tussles against the touring parties.

This one is no exception..while Gul has performed at the top level (and against Indian team too) this squad has the strong fringe and former international presence in Farhat, Raza, Bazid Khan, Kamal, Iftikhar and Arafat...some of them started the downfall of the mighty Eng team right from their first tour match.

Interestingly, though, not many of these would be in immediate consideration of a place in the actual Pakistan XI except maybe Gul as already disclosed by Inzy. With the return of Razzaq (injury), and Afridi (suspension) the middle order position would be all be packed. Although it would pose the traditional problem for Pakistani management - having to play just 3 regular bowlers along with Afridi and Razzaq as allround backup.

Chappel signs contract

Sorry if this is old news, I certainly didnt see this till now. Greg Chappell, John Gloster (team physio), Gregory King (trainer) and Ian Frazer (bio-mechanic expert) signed the contracts which are valid till the end of the 2007 World Cup.
As part of the news article, there's also the little bit about the Indian cricket team being the most valued brand across all sports in terms of sponsorship revenue. A comparison with other teams such as Juventus, Chelsea FC and Real Madrid is given. The figures are mind boggling and lets hope the money is put to good use.

Sunny's shoes

From Business Standard, this story of company shenanigans Sunny Gavaskar appears to have gotten involved in.

Packer's game (-worma)

In memory of Packer, BBC reproduce a Jonathan Agnew column done at the occasion of 25th anniversary of the WSC in 2002. Interesting reading...especially for the less initiated like me.
I've spoken to a lot of people who played World Series Cricket and they said it was some of the hardest cricket they ever played.

Catching the fad (-worma)

Over recent months we have seen the slip in catching standards of Aussies (in Ashes and beyond) and England (bravely led by KP) have been much criticized. And now...its the turn of the impossible to happen. Even SA have slipped. As we saw in this match, a couple of fluffs by Nel and Kallis (first a sitter, second definitely catchable) cost them 200 runs...and this when Aus ended up with 355 allout!

And that's not all, as this report suggests, SA have dropped 7 chances in 1.5 tests so far, costing them 435 runs. And see that in context of the meager scores that Aus finally managed in the two matches...and one realizes what SA could have achieved if only they were even close to normal.

I remember recently reading a Bob Simpson article about falling catching standards around the world, and specifically in Australia. Seems like the virus is highly infectious.

More on Ranji

From Arvind, this mail on the Ranji issue in the headlines today, that makes a point worth considering:
This is regarding the Ranji issue. After watching the recent India-SL series and hearing all the fuss made about the SG ball by the Lankan commentators, I'm inclined to beleive that there is a considerable difference between the SG and the Kookaburra ,which will be used in Pakistan. This being the case,I think its absolutely vital that Kumble,being the first choice test spinner, plays the warm up game in Pakistan with the Kookuburra rather than a Ranji game with the SG.Otherwise he'll be bowling in a Test match without any match practise with the Kookuburra ball.

Ganguly responds to Ranji letter

The former skipper cited 'family reasons' for missing the game; Niranjan Shah says the explanation has been accepted, but in future, a player has to cite 'better reasons' for missing games.
What, 'I want to spend Christmas with my family' is not good enough? Geez, hard to please, these blokes.

Pak A side for India warm up

A strong side has been named to take India on in the warm-up game ahead of the first Test; an interesting entry into the ranks is Umar Gul, last seen devastating the Indian batting lineup in the first innings of the Lahore Test in April 2004. His victims on that occasion -- Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman (also dismissed by the same bowler in the second innings) and Parthiv Patel. The spell reduced India from 1/68 in the 13th over, to 6/127 in the 28th. Makes you wonder if Sehwag, Ganguly, Patel et al will face, in Ranji competition that has been made mandatory, anyone quite as challenging as Gul and his fellow quicks.

Pitch perfect

Last Tuesday, we had referred to reports that match referee Clive Lloyd had called for an ICC inspection of the Motera pitch.
Dileep Premchandran, on Cricinfo, counters the match referee's case, such as it is.
The reality is that the Delhi and Ahmedabad surfaces were no worse than many others prepared around the world. Perhaps the sight of slow bowlers taking so many wickets was an eyesore for a man who hardly ever included one in his side, but there was nothing sinister at work. Unlike the early '90s, when designer crumblers were the norm, Indian pitches these days involve plenty of hard work for the spinners too. There may have been the odd exception, like the Mumbai special that defeated Australia last year, but that was certainly no more diabolical than the two trampolines that New Zealand dished out on India's last tour there - Hamilton saw first innings scores of 99 and 94.
Rather than celebrate the distinct nature of pitches in different parts of the world, this latest episode seems to suggest a yearning for uniformity and blandness that does the game no good at all. Ball may certainly have dominated bat in the two India-Sri Lanka Tests played to a finish, but in a batsman-dominated world, that was something to celebrate, not condemn. Hopefully, the ICC will see sense, send the alleged report to the dustbin where it belongs, and focus on issues that matter - like dodgy actions and Zimbabwe.

The headline of the piece uses the word 'prejudice' -- and it is apt. If bad pitches are an ICC preoccupation, fine, no quarrels -- let the global body assess all pitches around the world and make determinations. But when one official out of the blue targets one particular pitch (seemingly not because of how it behaved this time round, but because of how it acted ages ago, when he played on it), you tend to raise eyebrows.
Incidentally, in that earlier post, we had posted a trivia question on the only known instance of a game being abandoned due to a poor quality pitch. That was in January 1998, when the first Test between the West Indies and England was called off after the pitch was deemed too dangerous to play on. The venue? Sabina Park. The West Indies team manager for that series? Clive Lloyd.
The views expressed by commentators from either side on the nature of the wicket?
"This pitch is not fit for Test cricket or even club cricket for that matter. It is completely substandard. Our fast bowlers don't want to seriously injure anyone," said Holding. "It is an embarrassment."
Botham was similarly scathing. "The pitch is not worthy of international cricket. It is a disgrace. Someone is going to get seriously hurt," he said.

The view of the match referee?
Barry Jarman, the match referee, was distraught at having to call the match off. "I am crying tears and blood. People have come from England just to watch this match. My heart goes out to them."

And finally, this is what Clive Lloyd had to say on that occasion:
"It is very sad because thousands have turned up to watch the match and it is disappointing for them. Cricket never fails to surprise me. It is just unfortunate at the moment but that is what has happened."

Deja vu - glitch in the matrix? (-worma)

First his selection was as an allrounder...and controversial...now its clarified that its as a genuine middle order batsman. And still controversial. We are, ofcourse, talking about Andrew Symonds.

Either way...he's close to the proverbial axe falling on his head. And rightly so...considering the extremely high cost of the space he is occupying in that team. But its really surprising that Aus selectors, as they clarify now, chose him as a genuine batsman over so many other contenders...including Clarke, Katich and that mother-of-all-scapegoats Martyn. But not only that, I wonder if even otherwise he was the best middle order bat available to them from their domestic circuit. Remember he was chosen over Hodge and Hussey as well...for that middle order slot.

Surprising, to say the least. Coming from Aussie selectors, known for taking much more rational decisions.

The Ranji affair

Not much to do for me just now since all cricketing bases have been covered by Worma and Ruchir with usual thoroughness.
The one story, outside of what they have covered, that merits linking is this, from Outlook:
Against the backdrop of his skipping the match against Gujarat, former captain Sourav Ganguly was today asked to play in a Ranji Trophy match before leaving for Pakistan for the tour starting January 5.
Vice-captain Virender Sehwag, veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble and second wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel have also been asked by the BCCI to play in a Ranji Trophy match before arriving in Pakistan.

And this:
Shah said that these four players would be reaching Pakistan after playing for their respective state teams in the Ranji Trophy Elite Division league matches (round 6) beginning January 3.
"We have taken this decision as we thought that all players chosen for the tour will not be needed to play the opening tour three-day warm-up game on January seven. We also wanted to give importance to domestic cricket," Shah told PTI from Rajkot.

This issue is actually two issues. See it through a wide angle lens, and it's a good sign if selectors are going to ask players, irrespective of seniority (not just Ganguly -- vice captain Virender Sehwag and veteran Anil Kumble are also part of the list), to turn out for domestic games. The BCCI has a rule that says international players should turn out for domestic games when available; that rule however has been flouted, more often than kept, by the stars.
Their argument has been that they play so much international cricket, it is physically impossible to also turn out for domestic games during the brief rest periods they get. Fair enough; the answer to that could be for selectors to keep an eye on schedules, and get individual players to turn out depending on their recent workloads.
In this particular case, though, I suspect the selectors, pissed off that Ganguly didn't play Ranji despite being asked to, have gone the extra mile to prove god knows what. True, not all can play the warm-up game (though in the past, as a result of arrangements with the host board, we have had situations where most players have batted and bowled in the leadup game). However, you would think it is imperative that players with question marks regarding form and fitness would benefit more from getting to Pakistan early and playing the warm-up game, rather than racking up runs and wickets here at home.
Dhoni is for instance the first choice keeper, so it would have been useful had Parthiv Patel kept in the warm-up game in Pakistan so the team management can get a closer look at the returning 'keeper. Similarly, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag logically would have benefited more from getting their feet wet in Pakistan, rather than playing domestic cricket here and then flying out on the eve of the first Test.

Warming up (-worma)

Younis Khan obviously rates Pakistan's chances very highly in the home series against India...and counts on Kaneria as one of the key figure in their team. But saying this...
"He is the best leg-spinner in the world today after Shane Warne. I think Kaneria gives us the edge,"
..I believe, is stretching it too far..ain't it so? I mean if he had to ignore Kumble, McGill etc...then he might as well have counted Warne out too.

Also has this to say about the upcoming Pakistani team
"Our team has been doing very well and I think it will remind people of the unbeatable team which we once had under Imran Khan.
Which again, I believe, is a touch too soon to speak of..for this team. It's on the right path, that I agree, but still has some distance to travel.

And speaking of Khan sahab..he rates Pakistan as favourites against India for the coming series. But thats him. Didn't he lash out at Inzy for calling Pakistan as underdogs going into the English series.

From across the border

Imran Khan has put the favourites tag on Pakistan for its series against India. I always love it when former players do this and are then proven wrong. He has a point when he says the wintry conditions will benefit Pakistani bowlers. But I wonder what will happen if our bowlers get the better conditions against a Pakistan line up that, barring a couple of batsmen are suspect against the moving ball. I feel Pathan will be licking his lips and Agarkar is dangerous when he gets a little help from the enviroment. To top it, Zaheer Khan has been in top form during the last couple of months and will be raring to prove a thing or two.
He also has something to say about the way Board matters are conducted in Pakistan.
Imran, however, lashed out at the functioning of the Pakistan Cricket Board, saying it was time to put in place a democratically-elected board as in Australia and India.
"There is one-man show in PCB. One man is taking all the decisions. By the way, what are the qualifications of present board officials who are working on ad hoc basis." He said since the PCB did not have a constitution, it made it easier to avoid accountability. "The constitution ensures accountability for irregularities and transparency in affairs," he said

Oh how little he knows, especially about the Constitution part!!

Moin Khan states the obvious when he says Ganguly willl be under pressure in Pakistan. Perhaps, it is part of the mental disintegration tactics that everyone in today's cricket employs. But is he making these statements as a former test player empathizing with one of his kind or as a dumped player trying to make a comeback? If it is the latter, he has taken the right steps by praising Inzy's captaincy too. BTW, wicket keepers think alike. He reminded me of one More when he said
if Sourav is in the team, he has to be in the playing lineup than being on the substitute bench

PCB may ask the ICC for a replacement for Darrell Hair for the last two tests against India. So, what happens if the ICC refuse this? After all, if every country starts to ask for umpires of their choice, the ICC will be in a fix. The PCB should have done this with some tact. Now that this request is out in the open (from an unnamed Board source, who else), they run the risk of playing host to an unhappy Hair. Of course, if Steve Bucknor replaces Hair, it'll be taking home advantage to another level.
The cricket board also wants to appoint neutral umpires for all ODIs too. They are waiting for approval from our board.