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Sight Screen

Monday, January 23, 2006

Battle of Indians in Kenya

Kenya has jettisoned its old cricket body following allegations of mismanagement, and founded a new one. The head of the outgoing Kenya Cricket Association? Samir Ghai. The boss of the incoming one, Cricket Kenya? Samir Inamdar. We Indians are truly everywhere.
Inamdar said the change of the name was effected because the KCA had lost its glory in the public.
"For us to restore the lost glory of cricket in the country, my new office decided to change the name and start afresh," said Inamdar.
"Cricket Kenya has started afresh and we are not ready to think of the past and forward and improve the standards of the sport in the country," said Inamdar.
"Time of politics in cricket is gone and we are out for serious business of improving standards of cricket in the country," said Inamdar, adding his dream is to leave a legacy as the most successful cricket administrator.
Newly appointed coach Roger Harper said he has watched Kenya play competitive cricket and said the country has world class cricketers.

PS: The hacker issue being resolved, am posting again here.

Sourav plays motivator

From a Mumbai Mirror story, these two vignettes:
Inspiration, it seems, can come in any form. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who’s had a disappointing tour of Pakistan so far, joined the Pakistan team on Sunday to hear Maulana Tariq Jamil speak.
Jamil, a young preacher from the Tableeghi Jamat sect, is a big hit with some of the Pakistan team members and whenever the team plays at Faisalabad, the devout in the team make it a point to listen to the motivating talks of the maulana to lift their spirits. Including Shoaib Akhtar, which is slightly surprising.

And this:
The former India captain, it appears, has taken things in his stride and is doing his bit to keep the morale high.
For instance yesterday, when Shoaib Akhtar was spitting fire verbally and with the second new ball in the post-lunch session, Ganguly dashed out of the pavilion with a water bottle in his hand during the drinks break.
He was seen egging Mahendra Singh Dhoni after the wicketkeeper batsman had just faced the music from Akhtar. India was in dire straits at that stage and had just lost Yuvraj.
Some of the Pakistan fielders could not let the opportunity go by and there was some banter exchanged between them and Ganguly.

UP versus Bengal

That UP would make the final was pretty much a given; Mohammad Kaif, as it turned out, scored 64 to ensure his team nailed the win by a sizeable 5-wicket margin against Mumbai. The more interesting game though is Bengal versus Baroda, where the former, having already gotten into the final on first innings lead basis, is now pushing for an outright win.

BCCI no to 20-20

You would have expected the BCCI, especially in its current mood, to have jumped on Twenty20 as an additional revenue stream -- but no. We don't need that, is the Board's view -- so much so, it is now saying that if the Commonwealth Games includes cricket in the Twenty20 format, India won't play. Elsewhere, other interesting news out of the working committee meeting; the most notable being that preliminary moves are being made on the subject of merger of the women's game with the men's.

Prospects for day 4

Realistically speaking, with 180 overs left in the match and only one and a half innings over, this should be easy -- a draw clearly looms. But if you stretch the mind a bit, you can imagine one winning possibility for either side.
First, Pakistan: To win, it has to blast out the remaining Indian batsmen for, say, 47-odd runs tops in, let's say, 10, 12 overs. It then has to go out there and blast away, adding about 300 runs off say 70 overs tops, to build a lead close to 400. It can then look to try and bowl India out on a 5th day wicket with something in it for spinners.
Next India: A winning chance would have to revolve around Dhoni and Pathan, aided and abetted by the other tailenders, clearing the deficit and if possible, adding say 100 runs at least by way of lead. It can then throw everything it has into flat out attack with the ball, knowing two things: one, that Pakistan is two batsmen short with both Inzamam and Malik out of action; and two, that even if it backfires and Pakistan make runs, there is not sufficient overs for Pakistan to erase the 100-run lead, build a sizeable lead of its own, and still have overs in hand to bowl India's in-form batting lineup out.
Talking of a result here sounds ridiculous -- but it just could happen; then again, as the detective chappie said, there is a vast gulf between the probable and the possible.

The Dhoni effect

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's maiden career hundred, broken down by region, makes for interesting reading. Sometimes, such weightage on one side of the wicket could argue a predominantly one-sided player -- but in this case, the profusion of runs on the leg side was more a result, IMHO, of the barrage of short stuff he was subjected to, and which he countered by hooking and pulling with unexpected ferocity.
In fact, yesterday's innings settled, for the time, one question I had in my mind. Dhoni has till date come across as a batsman who is very happy on the front foot; what was unclear was how he would cope with short stuff directed at him. Yesterday, he did very well; well enough to infer that the short ball per se does not bother him. What remains is to see how he goes against that line on a more responsive wicket.
Dileep Premachandran, meanwhile, points out that while Dhoni shares some traits with Adam Gilchrist, the Indian is his own man, in the way he goes about his batting.
What Dhoni shares with Gilchrist in his prime is an unshakeable self-belief and the ability to turn a match on its head with thrilling counter-attacks. The similarity ends there though. Gilchrist has made the vast majority of his runs in classical fashion, with splendid drives and cuts and precise lofts over the infield. Though he has improvised often enough, he rarely flirts with the unorthodox or the plain outrageous. Dhoni, by contrast, seems to revel in that realm, and that was exemplified by the cheeky paddle-sweep off Danish Kaneria, and the whipped-tennis-forehand-like shots with which he picked up several runs.
....
At 281 for 5, with India in a mess largely of their own making and the Pakistani bowlers scenting further success, a counterattack of some ferocity was required. Dhoni provided that with some shots that will linger long in the memory. The savage pull for six off Shoaib announced that he wasn't going to be intimidated even by lightning pace, and the two successive sixes off Kaneria provided the proverbial middle finger after the bowler had stupidly decided to rile him. But each time you thought that he would get carried away, he knuckled down and patted back a ball or two, regaining composure before once again launching an onslaught.

As he showed in a couple of run-chases during the one-day series against Sri Lanka, there's far more to Dhoni than just the big-hitting. Sloggers usually fail because they let the adrenaline take over, but in his case, the rushes are interspersed with periods of relative calm. As with Shahid Afridi during his devastating knock of 156, there's a method to the madness, even when it's not easily apparent.

The curious case of Shoaib Akthar

Osman Samiuddin's story on Cricinfo, incorporating Bob Woolmer's comments, underlined for me the most curious part of play on the evening of day three. Check this comment out:
India's collapse post-lunch, when they lost four wickets for 45 runs in just under 11 overs was due in some part to a blistering six-over spell by Shoaib Akhtar. But as he tired, Dhoni and Pathan both settled down and Woolmer rued the possibilities another two overs from Shoaib would have brought. "I don't know why he didn't bowl more. You have to ask him that question. I wasn't out in the middle and I haven't asked the captain. Maybe two more overs in that spell might have turned the game, but you never know. But as an ex-cricketer I wouldn't have liked to be out there facing him. As a coach of the team, I would say it was a very good spell."

I personally don't know if two more overs could have changed the match -- I mean, short of crystal-ball gazing, who knows? The point though is that Akthar was bowling at blistering pace at the time; Dhoni was counter-attacking furiously. When you have something like that going on, one or the other combatant has to give, at some point -- either the bowler loses it entirely, or the batsman makes the one fatal error. Seemed strange, at the time, when he went off the attack; made me wonder, as I remember doing in the WC in South Africa when he went off after just the one opening over, whether he really has the stomach for a fight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, Virender Sehwag went on record to slam the DDCA and suggest that all was not well with the way the selectors picked the Ranji squads. Now, coach Madan Lal comes up with similar statements:
Does that mean there’s not just cricketing reasons behind this poor performance?
Frankly, we started this season on the wrong note. There were a lot of squabbles right from the start and I wouldn’t agree with the manner in which the probables were picked. You pick a squad from just 20-30 probables, not 50. I am shocked to see the way affairs in DDCA are run. You don’t need many people to run this, just a few honest people who will think only about cricket. You must identify exact role of people who will run the game. Otherwise, everyone will interfere and that’s not good.
....
Is it true that you wanted to quit last season itself?
Yes, I didn’t want this job this season because things were not falling in place, again due to a combination of factors I have already said. But I took the job again only because I told myself that quitting wouldn’t solve things. My nature is to keep fighting, I am still trying to make the best atmosphere for the team, trying to create bench-strength but I must admit that things haven’t changed much. I am very disappointed with the team, they have let me down; trust me sitting in the dressing room and watching the team go down like that almost gave me eart-attack.
The oddest bit is that Arun Jaitley, who heads up the DDCA, has thus far not had a thing to say about these affairs, or even the infighting within the DDCA that saw deliberate acts of sabotage at the Firozeshah Kotla when India were playing Sri Lanka. Much to say about Sourav Ganguly, but nothing about the stuff happening on his own home pitch.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Shifting news

For those of you who just arrived here....the news is that SightScreen has moved to the new rediff-based home here

Check it out, for latest updates from the SightScreen folks there. Although do bear in mind that its in experimentational phase. Comments, feedback welcome.

p.s. This was posted earlier too....have moved it up here just to redirect all new arrivals here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blog of the Year

Sightscreen has been voted the best Indian sports based blog for 2005.

Upcoming seasons

More news on the board's rescheduling of the next few seasons.

So,apart from more cricket with the big nations,it will also not participate in the Champions Trophy in 2008.

Is this really a good thing? It is one thing to want to completely maximize revenue, but surely there is also a larger picture, beyond revenue and prestige?

Which is, that if smaller nations like Bangladesh and Kenya and lesser powerful yet established countries like SL and NZ get totally marginalized, what does it do for the game?

How will Bangladesh or Kenya ever develop? And is it fair that the cricket loving countries of SL and NZ are deprived of a chance to see their players participate in top-level sport, simply because they have lesser financial clout? How fair is it on the players of SL and NZ ? The likes of Jayasuriya, Murali, Vaas, Bond, Astle,Fleming, they have enriched the game as much as a Sachin or Waugh.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shifting news

For those of you who just arrived here....the news is that SightScreen has moved to the new rediff-based home here

Check it out, for latest updates from the SightScreen folks there. Although do bear in mind that its in experimentational phase. Comments, feedback welcome.

Dancing Darren

If you want to retain your place in the side, don't take time off to go dancing. That seems to be the message for Darren Gough, who failed to make the tour party to India despite making his hopes for a berth very clear these last few days. Says the Telegraph:
Having ruled himself out of the pre-Christmas trip to Pakistan to appear on the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing, which he subsequently won, Gough, 35, made himself available for the second half of England's winter schedule.
But the promising performances of Lancashire's James Anderson and Liam Plunkett of Durham in Pakistan have prompted the selectors to keep faith with them in preference to Gough for the seven-match one-day series which follows the Test series.
Chairman of selectors David Graveney said: "Darren asked the selectors not to consider him for the tour of Pakistan for personal reasons and we respected his wishes.
"With Liam Plunkett and James Anderson performing well in Pakistan and Simon Jones now available for selection again, the selectors feel the priority is for these players to gain as much experience of one-day cricket as possible ahead of the World Cup."

Also, this:
The Test squad was far more predictable, although the selectors have confirmed they will be adding another spinner, possibly Northamptonshire's Monty Panesar or Ian Blackwell of Somerset, to the 15-man squad before it departs.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gulu Ezekiel looks at the Indo-Pak series and finds the keen edge missing.
It is a double-edged sword. The more India and Pakistan face each other on a cricket pitch, the more it appears like just another contest. This is good for the game as the lower the tension levels, the better the quality of play.
On the other hand, the alarming frequency — this is the third series in two years — also means the novelty value of Indo/Pak cricket is being lost.

Could explain why the stands are less than half full.

Moving the Sightscreen

Sachin Tendulkar wants bigger, broader sightscreens. Me, I have to shift mine -- to this address. Few points:
1. During the Test, I will, hopefully, be doing an hourly take on the action thus far, on the blog; also, quick takes when a wicket falls or something of real import happens. End of play, I switch to doing a match report for Rediff.com
2. I'll be adding on the contributors you are used to, plus others, in the coming days.
3. Comments are being left open, and will be moderated by Rediff's tech crew. They will keep it clean, any action they chose to take at any time is their call. I'll try and catch up on what you guys have to say -- but since I have to watch the match, do posts, make notes for the report etc, I won't be in the comments field answering queries.
4. You will see only the most recent posts on the page. To read all posts of a particular day (do note, I only really started updating it this afternoon), please click on the respective date, in the archive-style calendar top left of your screen.
5. You can read the posts by clicking on the 'More' link; easier though is to just click the 'Blogs' tab on the top navigation panel, where you get the full versions.
6. This blog platform is a work in progress -- we hope, in course of this series, to add various bells and whistles, and get it as close to state of the art as possible.
Thanks, you guys, for keeping this one going -- see you in the new home.

Anyone know Kris Bran?

Anyone out there know this lad, whose name I found in this story? Let me know, if yes? Might be interesting to get in touch with him and hear of his experiences at first hand.
"I was waiting for this series for last two years. I will support that team which will play good cricket,” Kris Bran, a cricket-crazy US citizen, says.

How teams are picked

Lokendra Pratap Sahi again -- this time, on the Sourav Ganguly issue.
ccording to The Telegraph’s sources in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), manager Raj Singh Dungarpur was assigned to “convince” captain Rahul Dravid and, more important, coach Greg Chappell about the need to include Sourav in the series-launching Test at the Gaddafi from tomorrow.
....
Apparently, the captain and coach’s initial (and consistent) stand was that the in-form Yuvraj Singh wouldn’t be “sacrificed” and Sourav could only make it as vice-captain Virender Sehwag’s partner. It's not confirmed, but Dravid may himself have informed his predecessor about the new role.

Also, this:
The move for Sourav’s comeback --- he didn’t play the last Test, in Motera --- was initiated late last evening after a very senior BCCI official telephoned Raj Singh, asking him to place a “suggestion” before Dravid and Chappell.
Basically, that it would be “sensible” to utilise the former captain’s experience (86 Tests) in a tough series. What, perhaps, wasn’t conveyed is that relegating Sourav to the reserves would start another controversy. If he didn’t have a place in the XI, what was the point of bringing him to Pakistan?

The Telegraph's take on the team

Lokendra Pratap Sahi, in his preview of the game, names the Indian lineup:
Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble

Playing it straight

In Cricinfo's paper round, spotted this gem:
And the last word, actually a delayed soundbyte, goes to Dilip Vengsarkar. A couple of days back he was asked about the threat Shoaib Akhtar presents to the Indians and the former Indian captain shot back, "He'll be a threat if he bends his arm." Ouch....

Show me the game

A blog post yesterday spoke of the problems cricket fans in Chennai are facing. Obviously, the people of the southern city are so incensed, they are among other things sending off letters to the editor -- even of papers as far away as Kolkatta. From the Telegraph's letters page, this lament:
Once again, Doordarshan, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and All India Radio have together ensured that the average Indian — whose support is what makes cricket not only the biggest game in the country but also BCCI the richest sporting board in the world — would not get to watch the Indian team play in Pakistan. This is, indeed, a shame. As the country that provides the maximum support for this game (by virtue of being the most populated cricketing nation in the world), I would have expected the BCCI and others to place a strong case before the Supreme Court, and the government of India to take a strong stand, that Doordarshan should be permitted to telecast the tests and one-day matches. Ten Sports is a satellite channel and does not have the reach that Doordarshan has. With or without advertising rights, Doordarshan should be allowed to telecast the matches so that the majority of Indians can watch live a contest they have been waiting for. If Ten Sports does not want to give any terrestrial feed to Doordarshan, then the government should ask the former to turn itself a non-pay channel for the duration of this tournament. I wonder what ‘activists’ like Brinda Karat are doing. Perhaps cricket interests her less than Ayurvedic medicines.
Yours faithfully, R.B. Easwaran, Chennai

Tension good, per Chappell

The national coach suggests that some tension is good for the team, and adds that he's glad the series is finally getting under way.
On a related note, and purely coincidentally, I was this weekend spending some time fast-forwarding my way through DVDs of the Indo-Pak tour of 2004, especially the one dayers? Remember game 1? Inzamam won the toss, inserted, and the Pak bowlers got off to a horrendous start with fours, sixes, no balls and wides propelling India to a run rate of just under 10 in the first 15 overs?
At the time, the commentators -- if I remember right, it was Ian Healy in tandem with Rameez Raja -- made a point that the start of a key series is always marked by tension. And that is one good reason to bat first -- when you bowl, the comment went, all 11 of the players are out in the field, all bearing the tension. Whereas when you bat, while your openers are out there doing their thing you get to sit in the dressing room, absorbing some of that tension, assimilating it, and moving beyond it to the job on hand.
Donno why I tossed that bit in here come to think of it. :-)

Kumble and Agarkar to open

No, seriously. If you recall the recent stories, the fact of Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag opening in the nets the day before the Test was enough to let loose a firestorm of comment and analysis. Turns out, per this Deccan Herald story, that it was actually Kumble and Agarkar who opened, so what do you deduce from that? And Jaffar -- who some reports said did not get a net -- apparently did bat.
As the day wore on, news trickled in from well-placed sources that he had been asked by the team management -- which was pretty firm in its opinion that Yuvraj Singh shouldn’t be kept out -- if he was willing to open the batting, an invitation Ganguly gleefully accepted.
Even as the Ganguly-Sehwag combine was succeeded at the nets first by the Rahul Dravid-V V S Laxman pairing and then by the Yuvraj-Sachin Tendulkar duo, it became increasingly clear that as things stood then, there was no place in the scheme of things for either Jaffer or indeed Gautam Gambhir, who has opened for the country in 13 straight Test matches since his debut against Australia in Mumbai in November 2004. If, as appears imminent, neither Jaffer nor Gambhir partners Sehwag in the first Test, why India then brought three specialist openers on tour will be a big question, for they could so easily have instead drafted in an additional paceman who could at least have helped the side out in the ‘nets.’

Windfall for Ten Sports

If you've been wondering why private broadcasters are all het up over the GoI directive mandating that they provide Doordarshan their cricket feed for free, here's the answer -- there is money, potfuls of it, to be gained and lost.
It's time to bring out the calculators for the SET Discovery channel distribution bouquet. Ten Sports, the sports channel in its second bouquet, will not have to share content with pubcaster Doordarshan for live telecast of the three India-Pakistan Test matches.
One benefit of this: SET Discovery is now looking to increase the subscription revenues it expects from the Indo-Pak Test series by anywhere between Rs 150 million and Rs 200 million, according to senior executives in the sports broadcasting business.
The growth will come from smaller cable operators and Ten Sports will also be able to increase its penetration across the country. Besides, One Alliance (the brand name under which SET Discovery operates) will be able to streamline outstandings and improve its collections from the ground.

Prasar Bharti rethink?

Is GoI finding the whole 'give Prasar Bharti your feed gratis' ukase a bit of a hot potato? Financial Express, in a gossipy item, provides early straws in the wind:
There seem to be signs of a rethink on the October guidelines mandating compulsory sharing by private channels of live sports telecast feeds with Doordarshan. Even after deliberation and approval by a group of ministers and endorsement by the Cabinet, they weren’t enforced for the Indo-Pak cricket series. It was challenged in court by Ten Sports, but there was no interim stay granted by the judges. Cricket board chief and Union minister Sharad Pawar has left it entirely on DD to make its case before the International Cricket Council on the matter; in court, too, though the I&B ministry is formally a party, the onus is on DD to handle the matter.

Simon Jones the 'key'

Righto, guys, by now you've accumulated enough 'keys' to the Indo-Pak series; time to start a new collection of lock-picks for the Indo-England series. Here goes, from Angus Fraser:
India is a destination where spinners thrive, but it is the availability of Simon Jones that will give England renewed confidence when they depart for Mumbai on 12 February. The presence of Jones in Pakistan would probably not have changed the result of the series but his aggressive and intelligent fast bowling was sorely missed by England as they failed to control the majestic batting of their hosts.

Apparently Jones will come to India ahead of the squad:
In an attempt to make up for four months of inactivity Jones will travel to India on 26 January for 10 days of intensive bowling. In Chennai, he will work with Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach, and Dennis Lillee, the Australian Test legend, before returning home on 5 February.

Fraser picks his Test and ODI squad:
Probable Test squad (16): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S P Jones, S J Harmison, L E Plunkett, M J Prior, S D Udal, I D Blackwell.
One-day squad (15): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, L E Plunkett, S P Jones, S J Harmison, I D Blackwell, J M Anderson, V S Solanki, O A Shah.

Do note that Madhusudhan Singh Panesar, who per this story yesterday was likely to make the squad, doesn't figure in Fraser's cut.

Independent view on Akram

Angus Fraser in the Independent weighs in on Justice Qayyum's remark yesterday, in an interview to Cricinfo, that when summing up his investigations on the match-fixing scandal, he had been a touch soft on Wasim Akram.
Besides a who's what in the Akram affair, Fraser's piece also contains a quote from Akram's lawyer:
Wasim's solicitor, Naynesh Desai, responded to Qayyum's comments: "It beggars belief that he can say something like this six years after the event. He is not suggesting that Wasim lied to him, but that he had let him off because he liked him. It looks like the judge is peeved about something and he is having a pop at everyone. How can he help Saleem Malik on his appeal when he banned him from the game in the first place?"

Beamer trouble for Brett Lee

Peter Roebuck suggests that sooner than later, Brett Lee could land up in court or worse for his occasional slips-of-the-hand. The key bits:
Australia must think long and hard before including Brett Lee in their 50-over side. So far the selectors and Cricket Australia have been fortunate that none of Lee's beamers have caused permanent damage but these deliveries are extremely dangerous.

The legal viewpoint:
As far as the law is concerned it does not matter. A track record has been established. Lee bowls beamers in one-day cricket. At critical moments he sends down deliveries that endanger the lives of his opponents. It is a fact. Both cricketers and the game itself abhor this delivery because it is potentially lethal and utterly unfair. Indeed, it breaks the unwritten code between batsmen and bowler. Bean-balls are incomparably more dangerous than bouncers because they elude detection by avoiding the usual channels studied by batsmen.

Cricketing law:
Determined to stamp out beamers, the cricketing law-makers have decreed a bowler sending one down in Test cricket is immediately put on a last warning. If he sends down another beamer, he can not bowl again in the innings.
Not so long ago, a nervous West Indian fast bowler sent his first two deliveries of a Test match in Colombo straight over the batsman's head. Although it was clear there had been no malice, the bowler was banned. The laws did not allow room for manoeuvre as the stakes were too high.
Yet Lee has bowled eight beamers and is still running around in the Australian 50-over side. Ricky Ponting has spoken about using him early in the innings. It is an acknowledgement of his responsibilities towards opposing batsmen. Clearly he fears that Lee may again imperil batsmen when he tries to send down a yorker by way of subduing an opponent cutting loose towards the end on the innings.

Ganguly to open, again

Maybe they are all drinking from the same teapot? Shriniwas Rao, for the Indian Express, reads the same tea leaves and in a piece that is very similiar to others on the theme elsewhere, says Ganguly will likely open in place of Gambhir.
This, from Rao:
What were the ripe symptoms? At the decked-up Gaddafi Stadium today Sourav Ganguly opened the batting at nets; he gave VVS Laxman and skipper Rahul Dravid some good fielding practice; spent around half an hour with Ian Frazer and Greg King polishing his fielding skills and later faced some serious pace from the bowling machine in the presence of the team’s computer analyst Ramki.

CMJ on the Prasar Bharti deal

Doesn't say much, the Christopher Martin-Jenkins story in the Times. Obviously, the Indian government's ukase that Prasar Bharti should be given, gratis, the feed for live games is a hot button issue on the ICC agenda, but nothing concrete has emerged from the ongoing conclave about the tenor of the discussions held thus far. Meanwhile, CMJ has this to say:
India is to cricket’s economy as the Gulf States are to the world’s, so this populist decision threatens to be as disruptive to the sport’s financial wellbeing as a reduction in oil supply from the world’s most capacious wells. Broadcasters, marketing companies and cricket administrators met to share information, clear the air and plan for the altered circumstances that will affect future television deals involving India.
Rights for the Test series between Pakistan and India, starting today, had been gained exclusively by Ten Sports, so Prasar Bharati is allowed to show only highlights each day. Other agreements already signed could be affected by the decree. Unlike Britain, India has only one terrestrial broadcaster, so the decision will affect countries such as New Zealand and Sri Lanka, who make more money from overseas rights than from domestic agreements when they play India at home. An ICC spokesman said: “No competition for rights means less income.”

Javed Miandad on the Test

The maverick Pakistan star has his own take on the upcoming contest (Thanks, Ramesh Teeka, for the link).
Many people will be pondering whether the Indians should go in with two spinners or just one. As far as I am concerned, the solution to this dilemma exists in the simple principle of thinking positive. Who are India’s prime wicket-takers? You need only one good ball to get a wicket in the game of cricket. Which members of the Indian team tend to bowl more good balls than their colleagues? Both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh must play. You need to take twenty wickets to win a Test, and if your main bowlers can’t do the job for you, no one can.

In through the out door

Shane Warne, whose marriage crumbled around him last year, considers a comeback to one day cricket, after having officially retired from the short form, and suggests he may look at playing till he is 40. (In passing, his captain tells him to make up his mind, and suggests the spinner doesn't qualify for automatic entry into the side). Muthaiah Muralitharan, who got married last year (to Madhimalar, of the Chennai-based Malar Hospital group) meanwhile is considering quitting after the World Cup. Maybe there is a co-relation between domestic bliss -- or lack thereof -- and cricketing longevity after all? Ah ok, just jk.

Why Sourav will play

Just in case you guys had any doubts left -- Sourav will play. So says Mumbai Mirror. Coz he had a smile on his face. Coz Gambhir and Jaffar didn't. Coz it stands to reason. Or simply, just because.
Not to be telling tales out of school, but all of this reminds me of a story dating back to when Sachin Tendulkar led India Down Under. Those who followed that series will recall that he was, at the time, fighting a running war with the BCCI and Jagmohan Dalmiya, over the question of Mohammad Azharuddin. To cut a long story to size, JD wanted Azhar in the side; Sachin was adamantly opposed. Halfway through the series, Sachin reckoned that his batsmen had been thoroughly demoralized by the Aussies, and didn't have enough fight left in them. He figured he wanted someone who didn't give a damn who the opposition was, who could carry the fight to the other side -- and the name he picked was Ajay Jadeja.
When he asked for Jadeja, though, he was told that he would get his wish only if he agreed to take Azhar as well (why Dalmiya was so hell bent on getting Azhar back into the side is one of those eternal mysteries; let it lie).
At this time, a former Indian batting legend who was part of the commentary team in Australia, and who shall be nameless, took Sachin aside and gave him some advice, the gist of which was: 'Let Azhar come. Then send him out to open, or if that is too much of an ask, send him at number three. Brett Lee will do your job for you.'
Any resemblance to the current situation is -- no, seriously -- entirely coincidental. Actually, think of this -- if Sourav does open, and if his hunger, his determination to prove his point, and his recent return to form all coalesce, and give him the confidence to go out there and pray freely, then his experience, plus his bowling, gives the team that much more heft than either Gambhir or Jaffar could.

Ah yes, we needed that

In Allahabad, the kids are up -- and praying, says this report, for the success of the Indian team. Now read this:
The students also expressed anguish over the non inclusion of local lad and mercurial talent Mohd. Kaif in the team.

Vignettes from Pakistan

Amit Varma, on his blog, on the Indians at practise, the Abdul Qadir academy, an ISO certified cricket academy and much else. Elsewhere, Siddharth Vaidyanathan spends Eid with the Kamran Akmal family.

The Harsha Bhogle preview

The series, says the commentator/columnist, will likely hinge on two key factors. On the ennui-inducing coverage that precedes a contest of this nature (and if you think this was repetitive and boring, wait till the England series begins and, more, wait for the next round of the Ashes):
A test match starts and the build up ends and there is relief on both counts. Few things can be more exciting than a good bowler running in to bowl to a good batsman and few things more dreadful than sundry comments from usual suspects. If the fizz in this series has been missing so far, it is because we heard the same things twenty months ago and ten months ago. Insipid is probably the right word. But we have created a monster and now we must feed it; those that speak against too much India-Pakistan cricket are spot on. Indeed, the journalists have a difficult job and they have been more serious and earnest than the people they have had to interview!

As to the two factors that could influence the series, Harsha says:
That is why I believe one of the two defining factors in this series will be how long India’s openers keep the middle order insulated from the new ball. It is something Sehwag and Aakash Chopra did very well on two good tours. It will be the difference between a well-set batsman playing the support cast of bowlers and a charged up fast bowler bowling to the middle order.
The other factor that tends to influence a lot of series is how the bottom five go head to head against each other with the bat. India probably win that 4-1 on batting reputation though we need to factor the quality of bowling they will be facing into that. Akmal rated higher than Dhoni at the moment but you would rather have a tail of Pathan, Agarkar, Kumble and Zaheer (or Harbhajan in that mix) than Shoaib, Naved, Sami and Kaneria.

I've been waiting for someone to bring up Akash Chopra's name -- I believe axing him was one of the bigger mistakes the Indian selectors have made in recent times. At the domestic level, he and Gautam Gambhir were pretty akin in terms of batting styles -- both good runners between wickets, both aware of the utility value of the short single, both free flowing strokeplayers.
When Chopra came into the national team, the side wished on him a job, and a mindset -- his role, and this was clearly told to him, was to hang in there. Let Sehwag go berserk if he choses, you bat steady, see off the new ball, we don't care if you are 25 not out at lunch on day one but the 'not out' bit is key.
Chopra took on that role, and performed it, often batting well within himself. His partnership with Sehwag in Australia was a very big reason for the team doing well (and the running between wickets of the pair, in fact, drew appreciative comment from Aussie commentators and even players, who said they were taken by surprise).
Once the team began doing well, though, the mindset changed -- Chopra began to be seen as too 'stodgy'. During that phase, the poor guy didn't have much of a clue what was going on -- there was much critical comment, but neither the team management nor the selectors really bothered to convey to him that he could maybe revert to his normal form of play. As far as he knew, his role was to form the buffer, see off the new ball; increasingly confused and disoriented, he kept switching between one way of playing and the other, until he got the axe. Gambir, the 'strokemaker', was picked -- and now the selectors want cover for Gambhir, having realized that his flash contains a risk factor even higher than Sehwag's.
With Sehwag at one end, and with quality players to follow, India needs one rock solid opener at the other end; unfortunately Chopra, who in the meantime was doing the hard yards in England, has totally fallen off the radar.

Afridi on the attack

More confirmation, if you needed it, that the 'greentop' is apt to help spin more than pace -- the home side is believed to be considering Afridi instead of Razzaq, to bolster the spin department. Inzamam hasn't actually come out and said Afridi is definitely playing, but the all-rounder seems to know what is in the wind.
"I have been told that I would be batting at number 6 which I think is a very crucial spot. But I am not overawed by that position and would maintain my natural aggressive style. I think that is also what the public likes. I promise whatever may be the situation, you will find the same attacking Afridi," he said.

For Canadian readers...

...the news, that Asian Television Network has secured rights for the Indo-Pak series for that territory.
Meanwhile, Willow TV has gone official, with details of the package and the sign up amounts -- so all of you who've been holding your breath waiting, let it out now on the count of three...

Tale of two coaches

On Rediff, this look at the two back-room men who will, whether they like it or no, have much attention focussed on them as this series unwinds.

The Cricinfo previews

Osman Samiuddin talks of the sheer predictability of pre-match press conferences.
Pre-match press conferences should generally be taken with pinches of salt. In them the pitches are never poor, always sporting and with a little something for everyone. Team compositions are never announced, only inferred. No one player holds the key to anything, all players in the opposing camp are vital and unless a real minnow is involved, both teams start evenly. The toss is always important but never unhealthily so and first sessions are always crucial but not critical.
The first question pitched to Inzamam-ul-Haq regarding the state of the pitch was banal enough but because it wasn't about goodwill, hospitality and political ties, it told a story in itself. For the first time in three series, the cricket takes precedence and it hasn't come soon enough because both teams are playing some decidedly competitive cricket.

Considering the point I was making in the previous post, about Ganguly providing a stock bowling option India actually needs, Osman makes a similar point about Pakistan's choice of one of its openers:
For continuity's sake more than anything else, Shoaib Malik, as Inzamam and Bob Woolmer have been keen to assert, is likely to retain his position as opener. Against a long and strong batting line-up, his bowling will provide one of two much-needed things - relief for the main bowlers and occasional partnership-breaking potential.

The Indian team meanwhile has been playing its cards very close to its chest, and that is apparent even in this preview by Siddharth Vaidhyanathan, which has nothing new to offer. The pitch preview, meanwhile, offers more evidence that spinners, not quicks, could well be the decisive factor especially in the back end of the game.
A bone dry surface with prominent vertical cracks and one wondered what all the fuss was about. Inzamam-ul-Haq termed it "a sporting wicket", adding that it should offer help to both the fast and slow men; Rahul Dravid stressed on the cracks on the surface, hinting that spin might be key; Greg Chappell stuck his neck out to say that he thought the pitch would support the spinners from the third day itself; while Bob Woolmer spoke about the moisture beneath the surface, that may cause the ball to grip and turn.

Read that in tandem with this bit about the sunshine and diminishing fog, and what's the betting you are talking of a pitch that could begin to 'go' by the third morning?
The last two days have been pleasantly warm, with a mild breeze ensuring against any discomfort, and the bright sunshine, since around 8am this morning, eliminated any threat of fog.

Elsewhere, the usual roundup of quotes from Woolmer and Inzy, and from Dravid here, who says he is happy with everything -- the pitch, the ground, the weather, his team, his new born baby...
Finally, statistics have little direct bearing on what is to come, but still this stats package has points of interest -- especially on the role of spinners, and of the toss.

Ayaz on the team composition

What 'team composition' -- all the talk during these hours leading into the first Test is will HE play or won't he? The only way you can tell is if Dravid talks -- and he is not. 'We know what team we want to play' is all the captain has said -- understandably so, since it is not in the team's interests to let the opposition know what the thinking is, and a team list can be quite revealing of planned strategy.
So everyone is left, as Ayaz is here, to extrapolate from visible, and not so readily visible, signs.
More grist to the rumour mill about Ganguly’s inclusion comes from the fact that a couple of his staunchest critics have turned benign over the last couple of days. A chastened Raj Singh Dungarpur has been able to keep his emotions in check and dwell instead on what a ‘wonderful player on the off-side the left-hander’ is. Greg Chappell, meanwhile, has harped on Ganguly’s role as mentor. So, has something been brewing?
At the post-practice press conference, skipper Dravid chose to be characteristically solemn in delivery and uncharacteristically enigmatic in content. “We know what team we want to play,” he said, while refusing to disclose the final composition, sparking off widespread speculation in the media, the Pakistan dressing room and, one suspects, even his own.
But professional face readers would not have failed to see the furrows of worry on the foreheads of young Yuvraj, and especially Jaffer and Gambhir, at the manner in which net practice had progressed earlier.
None of them got an extended run with the bat; Ganguly not only got that, but also spent a good half-hour against the bowling machine calibrated to the speed at which Shoaib Akhtar is known to hurl the cherry in his current good form.

You know what, unless the conditions on the morning of the game create sufficient reason for a rethink, India will play two spin two pace; Zaheer Khan will likely get the nod ahead of Ajit Agarkar, and Sourav Ganguly will replace Gautam Gambhir to give India a lineup that reads in batting order Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. With just four bowlers, India has a logistical problem in that the faster bowlers need to be conserved for attacking bursts -- asking each of them to bowl 20-25 overs in a day will reduce them to stock roles.
To solve this, the team will likely use in rota Sourav, Yuvraj and Sehwag to play the stock role, keeping one end down while the attacking regular bowler, spin or seam, is used at the other end -- especially in the second hour after lunch, and the first after tea, when conditions are best for batting and tightening the game down is the logical gameplan.
How do I know? I read the leaves at the bottom of my tea cup. What the hell, works just as well as watching a furrow on a brow. :-)

Champions in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta

The three metros have been chosen as venues for the Champions' Trophy later this year.
"Our ICC development international (IDI) has already agreed to give the Champions Trophy to India and it met today to finalise all details of the tournament," ICC president Ehsan Mani told a news conference in Karachi.
Mani said India had not raised the issue of abolishing the Champions Trophy after this year's edition.


NB: Blogger has a scheduled outage at 3.30 PM, says this notice here, so blog posts might not be possible for a part of this evening.

Seen and not heard

Indian players are apparently in a bit of a fix; some of them are contracted to talk to various TV channels, but the BCCI has banned anyone from speaking exclusively to any one section of the media.
The players have written to the board Chief Pawar, who was attending a meeting of the international cricket council at Karachi on Thursday and is slated to reach here by Friday evening, to deal sympathetically on the issue and allow them to fulfil their contractual obligations, a team source said here on Thursday.
Asked how many players have sent such a request he said, "about six". So far they have been watching as mere spectators rival team players like Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq talking exclusively to television channels, including local ones.

Never been clear to me why the BCCI feels the need to interfere in these things. I mean, if a player wants to 'leak' something or get his point of view across, it is simple enough -- he whispers in a journo's ear, the journo writes up the story, the media both print and electronic across the country pick it up, and there you go, cat out of bag.
So it is not like blocking players from talking on air is going to accomplish anything real; it is merely one more of those irritating rules some guy dreamt up that makes no sense to anyone at the receiving end. I've seen some of these 'exclusive' player comments to various sections of the electronic media -- and if at all you want to ban them, it could only be because the comments themselves are banal. Maybe it is time the board learnt to take the 'cricket' in its title more seriously than the 'control'?

Telecast/webcast update

Finally -- and not a moment too soon -- Dish TV has announced it will be telecasting the series live. For those who prefer to watch on the Net, Willow has also announced its webcast, though it is yet short on detail about pricing and such. So now you guys can breathe easy; frankly, so can I. :-)

Nissar Trophy created

They've been talking of this for a few weeks now, and finally it's a done deal -- a Mohammad Nissar trophy to be played for annually by the winners of the domestic competition in India and Pakistan.

Inzy in a a spin

For weeks now, all talk has been about fast pitches, greentops, pace batteries and such -- and now, with the hours ticking by, here we go, the exact opposite route. Says Inzy:
“I expect high quality of spin bowling as both the teams have bowlers like Anil Kumble, Danish Kaneria, Harbhajan Singh, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik. The wicket has moisture underneath but with bright sunshine, I am hoping that the spinners would have a say as the Test progresses,” Woolmer said on match eve.
Inzamam echoed his coach’s opinion. “I am glad that the weather has eased out and there is bright sunshine. The wicket looks sporting and lively. It should assist the pacers earlier on but I foresee a big role for the spinners in the later stages of the game,” he said.

All said and done, I get the feeling it's going to be a win-toss-and-bat sort of track. Dew is a given considering the time of the year -- but that would be equally true if the series were being played here in India. With dew, comes a certain assist for the quicker bowlers early on -- but then again, in Tests, the done deal is to be a bit watchful in the first hour of play anyways.
If all that is being said about lack of prep time for the curator is true, the logical expectation is that the wicket might at best have good bounce initially, but will start getting lower as the game moves into days three, four and five -- which is when you want your slower bowlers having a say.
Be interesting to see which side takes first strike -- and with it, IMHO, an early advantage in the Test.

'Edge' with Pak, says Srinath

The former fast bowler, in his preview, says the home side has the edge both in terms of firepower and psychological.
Team India's win against Pakistan in the last tour in 2004 came at the backdrop of their successful tour of Australia. It is always easy to carry forward the positive energy from one series to another in back-to-back series.
India's brilliant showings down under did cast a shadow on the Pakistan team, thus giving India a psychological edge over the hosts. But this time the tides have changed, especially after Pakistan did well against England.
Players' frame of mind before a high and intense series is always crucial. This time the initiative clearly rests with the hosts.

PM will go, says Pawar

Do you have moments when you wish politicos either wouldn't be naive themselves, or at the least expect that we readers are naive?
The PM has said he cannot go for the cricket -- but BCCI boss and Federal Cabinet Minister Sharad Pawar tells reporters that a visit cannot be ruled out. It's an unnecessary remark for Pawar to make in the first place -- given the PM himself has commented on the invite, there really is no need for a Cabinet colleague to take a different tack, or even to talk of it. If asked, all he has to do is say that the PM is the best person to speak of his own schedule.
More to the point, there is this:
According to The News, the BCCI chief said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had visited India last year during cricket series, so Manmohan Singh's visit would not only benefit the cricket but also improve other bilateral matters.

How? I mean, how does the chance of lasting peace between the two nations become improved by having Singh sit ringside watching a game he is not even all that interested in?
Oh, you mean that outside of the cricket, the two leaders can discuss and resolve other issues? That is where the naivete comes in -- if the leaders have issues of importance to resolve, and solutions to propose, discuss and possibly accept, do they need a cricket series as excuse to do it? Isn't peace in and of itself important enough for the two to meet? Geez.

A job well begun..

is a job half done.

One of the key factors in India's successful test series in 2003-04 in Australia and Pakistan was that they started both series very well. Saurav Ganguly's 144 in Brisbane and Virender Sehwag's triple in Multan set the tone very well, and put the opposition on the back foot.

Sunny Gavaskar also made the point that on foreign tours, it is the first test where India has always faltered badly, and once that happens, it is very difficult to fight back.

Pakistan isnt exactly a "foreign tour", especially now with the pitches also being "regular sporting wickets" rather than the promised greentops. Yet,given the immense hype and build up, and the inevitable pressure, the first day or two of the test series could be crucial, in terms of grabbing the momentum and putting the pressure on the opposition.

In this respect, if Sehwag,Sachin,Pathan or Bhajji can land a few killer blows, it could make a huge difference, no?

Poll results and Open thread

An open thread has been started on the discussion group for the first day of the Lahore test match.

Also, here are the results of the poll run earlier this week on the outcome of the India-Pak series.

There were two thousand and forty five votes, as compared to the previous polls, which had between 300 to 400 votes. I guess this blog is seeing a lot more traffic now, with the test series starting in less than 24 hours.

62% of the voters predict that India would win by some margin, with 33% going for a 2-1 win. Another 17% predict a drawn series.

A miniscule 3% predict a whitewash either way.

The conclusion I can draw from these results is that almost everyone feels that this series is going to be a competitive and closely fought one.

Exciting times lie ahead.

Quick update

Folks, given the game this evening, I need to finish a few things early afternoon so I can shift to cricket mode. Will be on blog and posting only from about 2 pm onwards, today. Catch you then, take care meanwhile

ICC meet (-worma)

According to this BBC report, BCCI did not raise the issue of abolishing Champions Trophy at the ICC meeting in Karachi today. Also, the venues for the 2006 edition have been announced as Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.

There were a few other contentious issues in the agenda..like the Indian initiative to change the ICC calendar, the ICC's concern on the GoI directive for compulsory sharing of match feed with DD etc. But no news on these yet....watch this space.

Team? (-worma)

And to add some desi ghee (trans: clarified butter) to the speculative bonfire, here's cricinfo's *likely* starting lineup for India. Notice Saurav in the opener's role there. And here's how that bit added up
Considering that he was one of the first specialist batsmen to pad up in the nets, and that he practiced against the bowling machine after that, just might. He may not necessarily replace Yuvraj Singh, but come in for Gautam Gambhir.
..indeed we live in interesting times...but can we fast-forward please.

Pakistan opener confirmed (-worma)

Inzy confirms that Malik would be persisted with in the opening position.

And from the sound of it, its going to be a regular subcontinental 'sporting' pitch i.e. not underprepared or flat dead one.

Update: And Siddhartha Vaidyanathan confirms on cricinfo that it is indeed a subcontinental pitch...infact even come cracks visible.

And Dravid confirmed that the playing XI has been finalised.

Also, its been sunny in Lahore...match looks likely to start on time (bad news for those who were planning on extra sleep)

Quick response to slow one? (-worma)

Remember some time back Prem started the discussion about Shoaib's 'new' slower one...and I made a reply post in analysis...taking hints from Hoggard's article on the problems faced by English batsmen. One aspect of that was the height of the sightscreen, and how English batsmen seem to have faced difficulties sighting the release of the ball?

Well..here's the good news...the Indian batsmen (Sachin in particular) has requested for an increase in the height of the sightscreen, and ground management at Gaddafi have already agreed.
"They have said that Tendulkar has asked for the changes because he feels he might not be able to sight the ball leaving the bowler's hand properly in the backdrop of the current sightscreens," Altaf said.

More management (-worma)

After the fiasco at the Media Interaction event, as I pointed out here, and Prem also here, comes another one. This time during the team's visit to Imran's hospital. And even Dravid seems to have lost his cool on the occasion.
"“How many times do I have to speak to the press? I have already told you I am not going to talk today,"” Dravid told an embarrassed Walia within earshot of a few journalists as the Indian players prepared to leave for practice.
And by the way, if you think about it, this one could be coming directly from the first fiasco...where the team was *expecting* to interact with the media closely, and were denied the chance due to mis-management.

Harsha's plan (-worma)

As Prem had been pointing out for past few days, now Harsha has a look at the problems in our domestic games...and his research says its not the absence of stars (or not *just* that). What is found missing is positive cricket (or an intent of positive cricket), good pitches (not the 'good pitches' phrase as used in ODI cricket implying a true batting beauty) and better trainers and physios for domestic teams.
It is only when you play positively on good pitches that you get good cricketers. There are two elements to it: good pitches and positive cricket. By the look of it, it is a combination that is eluding us and the BCCI don’t seem to have noticed it either for I haven'’t heard anyone say that six rounds into this year's Ranji Trophy we have had some pathetic cricket.

There’s more trouble. Lakshmipathy Balaji hasn’t been playing (a fact that seems to have escaped some demonstrators in Chennai!), and we have seen virtually nothing of VRV Singh either. Ashish Nehra has vanished and seriously Munaf Patel remains the only contender for a new ball bowler’s slot.
Speaking of pacers....it would be really interesting to know what's up with Balaji - on whom I last read a cricinfo piece by Anand Vasu saying he's recovering and looking forward to the Ranji..but is still missing from TN squad and Nehra - who was last heard saying he is targetting the Pak ODI series for the comeback, which would mean high time for him to start playing domestic matches now?

And as for sporting pitches...the simple solution, IMO, would be to mandate Saurav Ganguly to play in all our domestic matches...for these days he cannot seem to come accross anything but a sporting pitch :-)

G'night, guys

1.30 here, more or less, and tomorrow is endless with work in the morning and the match at night. Off to bed, back with updates around noon my time tomorrow. Till then, adios.

Justice Qayyum's soft corner

Remember Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the Pakistan high court judge who headed tthat country's probe into match-fixing? Story on him here.
Justice Qayyum told Cricinfo that he hadn't wanted a "great player" like Wasim to be banned, especially towards the end of his career. "For Wasim I had some soft corner for him. He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me. Two things - one, I didn't want that the cricket should be deprived of his participation, and the other was that I didn't want that towards the end of his career... he should be banned or something like that. My idea was not to find people guilty and then punish them. It was more of a case where I had to do something to put an end to the practice in future. What had happened had happened. You couldn't turn the clock back but you had to make sure they wouldn't repeat what they were doing."
When asked whether any other player had been let off lightly, he replied, "The quantum of punishment is more of one's subjective decision, and I was lenient towards one or two of them."

Hair-raising officials

Alright, so that's a weak pun -- what the hell, it is 1 am here, you expect Shakespeare? To the point -- Rediff has a story on the officials for the upcoming series, an aide memoire of sorts that, if you are an Indian fan, might reopen old wounds.

Puffing up Pathan

Nice little puff piece here, on Irfan Pathan.
Although his display against Pakistan is not spectacular; he averages over 40 with the ball and 18 with the bat. But come Friday, Irfan Pathan will surely have some ideas up his sleeves to tackle the in-form arch-rivals.
Pakistan… Beware!

Ummm.

Extreme cricket

I promise -- no, I really do -- to never crib about those endless Ranji games where the number 11 batsman comes in and strokes a century at a run a ball on designer batting pitches. I mean, just what the heck is going on in our domestic cricket anyways?
Mumbai, with a fairly decent batting lineup, manages 175 against Maharashtra; the latter, in their turn, are tottering at 90 for six in 34 overs at the time of writing this.
Karnataka in its game against Gujarat; and Hyderabad against Baroda, also feature in the list of low-scoring games.
Bengal in its game against Railways; Tamil Nadu versus Delhi where Delhi, after being in a bit of strife, now recovering albeit slowly; and AP versus UP where the former has managed to take the first innings lead, redressing the balance somewhat.
Lots of interesting names featuring in these games; not least a seemingly rejuvenated Munaf Patel who seems to be firing on all cylinders of late, and the young hopeful Piyush Chawla, who managed 3/43 to take his first class wicket tally to 31 in six games in his debut first class season.

Stand in line, Sunny

Rick Eyre's been doing innovative stuff on his cricket blog; here, he corrects the prevalent impression that Sunny Gavaskar is slated to do the world's first podcast. Actually, it's Rick himself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We are like that only

Clock about to strike midnight, I'm about to turn into a pumpkin. So a fairy story -- a few days old, but stumbled on it just now amidst random browsing. Check it out, it's funny as heck. Rick Eyre, while posting on this, comes up with a headline to match.

Pawar-Musharraf meet

Busy schedule for our newest cricketing boss.
Pawar, who would arrive in Karachi by a special plane tomorrow to attend the ICC meeting, would fly to Islamabad the same night and meet Musharraf Friday morning before proceeding to Lahore to watch the first day's play of the first cricket Test.
Though described as a courtesy call, it is believed Pawar, also Union Minister for Agriculture, will be meeting Musharraf following the Pakistan President's interview to an Indian TV channel in which he sounded bitter about the lack of response from the Indian government to his initiatives and peace proposals.

History then, and now

A curtain-raiser to the 2006 Indo-Pak series, looks at cricketing relations between the two sides down the years.
Their history can be traced back to the times when cricketing icons Lala Amarnath and Fazal Mahmood graced the game.
Both of them were born in Lahore and played against each other in club cricket. They were also witness to the gory bloodshed during the Partition days, which left a lifetime scar on their psyche.
Amarnath came close to being butchered on a violent train journey but was saved just in time by a police officer who arranged a Sikh's 'kada' for him, according to cricketing folklore.
On another train journey, Mahmood came in the line of fire of extremists but C K Nayudu brandished his bat and rescued him.
"Amarnath lost his ancestral house in Lahore, along with all his trophies and mementos, including the bat with which he had lashed India's first Test century, a piece of equipment he literally worshipped," according to Wisden.

Rs 560 million and counting

That's the amount bet thus far, apparently, on the Indo-Pak Test in Lahore. And considering that this is supposedly the take from just a few select centers, the mind boggles at the sort of money on the line here. Oh, and? The odds are supposedly on an Indian win.
He said the satta or betting market has billed India as favourites for the first Test despite the visiting team having a poor track record at Lahore.

Among Indian batsmen, punters predict success for Indian captain Rahul Dravid and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni but are shying away from Tendulkar and Ganguly.
Raja's associate Asim Bhai said: "We have promised to offer four times higher amount on actual bet for Rahul and Sachin, three times higher amount for Dhoni and double amount for Virendra Sehwag and V.V.S. Laxman in both innings.
"Market has shown good response for Dravid and Dhoni but people are reluctant about Sachin."
He added that betters are not keen on Ganguly and opener Gautam Gambhir, for whose success only a 60 percent higher amount is promised.
Raja and Asim said that bookies would lose 80 percent of their amounts if Dravid and Dhoni failed to hit half-centuries in any of the innings or if Sachin or Ganguly hit a ton.

One other bit?
The market is also betting on half-centuries from Yunus Khan, Mohammad Yusuf and captain Inzamam-ul-Haq among Pakistani players but predicts failure for speedster Shoaib Akhtar, popularly known as the 'Rawalpindi Express'.

Cricket blackout in Chennai

And to think we in the US were worrying -- check out the telecast situation in Chennai.
With the Indo Pak cricket series set to start on Friday, cricket fans in Chennai are downcast. Thanks to the Union government's decision to implement the conditional access system, CAS, on an experimental basis 28 months ago, most will miss the series, which will be telecast on Ten Sports. The experiment seems to still be on and Chennai viewers will again be deprived of a chance to view an interesting series between the arch rivals.

Seven skippers for Windies

Actually, it's an interesting move -- the West Indies cricket board has reportedly identified seven players with leadership potential, and is holding a training camp for them.
Beside Chanderpaul were his deputy and fellow Guyanese Ramnaresh Sarwan, Jamaica captain Wavell Hinds and countryman Chris Gayle, Trinidadians Daren Ganga and Denesh Ramdin, and Sylvester Joseph of the Leeward Islands.

If India were to indulge in such an exercise, who would you pick? On second thoughts, forget it -- we have enough problems with past captains, current captains and future captains already.

Ah, now we know...

Let you guys into a secret? We reporters know there is precious little point in sidling up to a player or coach and asking him to whisper the team's secrets into our shell-like ears.
In fact, on occasion teams use the media to float disinformation campaigns designed to fool the opposition into thinking someone is playing, or some particular strategy is being planned. But tell us the real McCoy? Oh no -- never have, never will, for obvious reasons; yet, come the eve of a Test or a series and we trot up and ask those same questions all over again. Call in Pavlovian.
Debashish Dutta -- who seems to have been swept up in the mounting excitement, if you judge by his comment that 'The two neighbours bite the bullet in the first Test starting tomorrow" -- cracks the code for Mid-Day.
“I’ve told my batsmen that Shoaib will bowl a few good deliveries but you could always expect loose ones as well. So, just be cautious in facing the good deliveries, especially in the beginning of the innings,” Chappell told Mid Day last night.

Also from Chappell -- and wouldn't you give an arm and a leg to have been watching Virender Sewhag as he heard this? -- is this bit:
Asked how his batsmen have been preparing for the battle against speed, Chappell said, “We are watching his videos, which is a routine affair but for the Lahore Test, I will not support attack from the first ball. I do not want to lose a wicket in order to attempt a boundary. It is a five-day game. You have to be patient.”

As Rahul Dravid said a few days back, come a cricket series, you ask, we have to say something.

Brits clone Bajji

Here's one for the books -- apparently England is likely to bring along a Sikh spinner when it tours India this March.
Madhusuden Singh Panesar (23), who has already represented England's Under-19s side twice, is tipped to be selected in the England team in view of the spinner-friendly pitches in India, thus being the first Sikh to represent the English team.

Anyone reading this from England? Appreciate more info on this guy, can you help?

Enter, Hercules

Huw Richards, writing in the International Herald Tribune, says coach Woolmer and skipper Inzy have a job on hand -- getting Pakistan to translate enormous potential into performance. Nice turn of phrase here:
Inzamam descends from a line of Multan shrine-keepers and bats like an extremely large deity with exquisite hand-eye coordination, but he is laid back to the point of suspended animation.

GM signs on Baroda

General Motors becomes the latest to sponsor a domestic team -- Baroda being the beneficiary, for a period of three years. Neat -- more and more state teams are signing on sponsors; the players hopefully will finally get a fair wage for playing as more money comes into the coffers.

No greentop

So how many stories referencing how many legends did we read, about Pakistan's greentops waiting for the Indian team, these last few days? The rubber about to hit the road, and suddenly, it's all a media concoction.
All talk about Pakistan sprouting a crop of green tops to greet the boys from across the border has dissipated like hot air over the ocean. The pale strip of 22 yards in the centre of the imposing Gaddafi Stadium, if that is the one the first Test will be played on, though not bereft of grass, looks nothing like what the local stalwarts and cheer leaders of the home side have been brandishing as a potential weapon.

And this:
“I have never said I was preparing a green top. It is you guys (media) who have been been harping on this for quite some time,” he told a few reporters at the stadium here this evening, ignoring the fact that it has been elements from the Pakistani camp who have been orchestrating this green top campaign.
Mr Zahid said the state of the pitch, which is commensurate with the conditions obtaining in these surroundings, would have bounce but the medium pacers would have to bend their backs in order to be successful while the spinners could expect some assistance on the fourth and fifth days.

Feeling right at home, boys?

Sachin, please don't try this

Did you guys catch this story, by Mike Selvey in the Guardian today? Here's the bit I found funny:
A study of athletes at the University of Nevada apparently has shown that nine minutes spent yelling positive statements - "I'm going to dominate today" or "I'm the definition of speed" - at a level to drown out a 747 on take-off can improve athletic performance more effectively than 20 minutes of the contemplative yoga moves that are popular as warm-up routines. So a good yell and it's up periscope. It will be in the submariner's handbook before long.

God help us all if Sachin Tendulkar gets hold of this study -- can you imagine him yelling 'I am going to hit my 37th or is it 38th century today' for ten minutes straight, in that absurdly childish treble of his, while you are trying to sleep next door?
On another note, seems like there is nothing you can not research these days. Come up with something truly goofy, and they seem to line up with open wallets, ready to fund you. Anyone in the mood, try this: research which side of the bed cricketers get out of on the morning of a game, and check out the co-relation between that, and performance.
If you decide to explore that topic, a friendly warning -- get the hell out of the hotel before the guys have all woken up and the foundations shake with yells of 'I will get Inzy's edge with a doosra'... 'I'll hit my uppercuts above not into the slips'... 'I will not back off when someone bounces me'... and such.

Not so Barmy for the Army

This story should make you smile -- much fuss in England over the fact that Cricket Australia announced it will limit the number of tickets on offer for England fans wanting to watch next winter's Ashes Down Under. No rethink, says CA -- Aussie players want to play before Aussie crowds.
Glenn McGrath -- whoever else? -- says that is just how it should be.
"If you play in front of your home crowd, and they are 90 per cent English, it's not really a home crowd, is it?" fast bowler McGrath said.
"I am sure there will be plenty of English supporters over. At the end of the day, it is our home ground, we are playing in our home country, we want to get as many Australians in as possible."

And to think just the other day, English papers were fussing over the venues for the upcoming India-England series on the grounds that adequate five star facilities were not available for the beer-swigging foot soldiers of the Barmy Army -- not to rub it in, but hey, at least you can actually buy all the tickets you want, no?
Update: Now Michael Vaughan says the Barmy Army will find ways around the problem of limited tickets, and turn up in their numbers to support England.

Pak pacers ready...

...says this story by Amit Varma, here writing for The Guardian. A key bit:
But how much will there be of that?. The first Test begins in Lahore tomorrow but, if the start is delayed because of fog, do not blame it on Friday the 13th. Lahore is experiencing its coldest winter in 39 years and each day's cricket is likely to start late and end early. Between 15 and 20 overs may be lost every day, which amounts to 75 to 100 overs in the Test. A lot of gripping drama may be cut short because of that and a 1-0 series is likelier than all three games ending in a result, as happened the last time India visited.
The pitch for the Test is not a greentop, as many speculated it would be, but the conditions are expected to help the swing bowlers.

The tandoori Ashes?

'ashes' lower case, what's more? Tanya Aldred in The Guardian, on the Indo-Pak series.
For years the rest of the cricket world pretended to be bewitched by our beloved Ashes contests and their cultural references to shared soap operas, the weather, convict jokes well into their third century and Richie Benaud, allegedly still in his first. But times they have a-changed. Now India and Pakistan can admit to finding their own contests just that little bit more thrilling than ours, stoked up as they are with the blood of partition, Kashmir, the oscillating threat of nuclear war, the curiosity of the closest of neighbours and the odd pelting with stones of a captain who finishes up on the losing side. And tomorrow it all kicks off again in Lahore - the passion, the madness, the cricket - for the first of three Tests followed by five one-day internationals.

Also, this:
There is plenty of spice on and off the pitch. The ongoing Sourav Ganguly affair for starters (the former captain was dropped against Sri Lanka but then included in the touring squad for Pakistan after parliament debated the issue and effigies were burnt of India's coach Greg Chappell in West Bengal).
Also look out for . . . The re-emergence of the lacquered locks of the Rawalpindi Narcissus Express Shoaib Akhtar. The stamina of Sachin Tendulkar - will he still have the hunger after overtaking Sunil Gavaskar's record of 34 Test centuries? The growing stature of Inzamam-ul-Haq as captain and his alleged coming together with exercise. The rivalry between two foreign coaches - Bob Woolmer, who took over as Pakistan coach in June 2004 inheriting what he called the most unfit side he had ever come across, and Chappell, who became coach of India last May and amid torments of leaked memos ended up giving the media the finger from the team bus. There is even a row about Indian broadcasting rights that would make the ECB feel at home - Dordarshan, the state-owned channel, will not show live footage of the series but 90 minutes of each day's highlights, much to the delight of the bosses, who might now actually see some of their staff turn up for work.

The media meet that wasn't

Amit Varma -- on India Uncut, surprisingly, and not on his cricket-centric 23 Yards blog -- has this hilarious take on the confusion that surrounded the media interaction arranged so the cricket media could meet the Indian players ahead of the first Test.
Reading it makes you wonder -- just how difficult was it to organize a proper press meet anyways? I remember the first time I came across this kind of exercise. Australia was in India under Steve Waugh, to mount that famous assault on the 'Last Frontier'. By the time the team landed in Mumbai, the management had been flooded with so many interview requests, they realized if they honored them all, Australia wouldn't have time left to play any cricket at all.
So this is what they did -- they hired a ballroom at the Taj, and lined up ten tables. At each, sat one Australian player. The Indian newsmen were split into groups of three. Each group was sent to one table, so you got to talk to the player sitting there. At the end of 5 minutes, the groups were shifted one place each, and so on, till each group had gotten its time with each of the ten players.
Then the players left, and the second lot came in, took their places, and the whole thing started all over again. Bottomline, inside of two hours, every journalist present there -- and believe me, you never saw such a crowd! -- had met every one of the Australian players, and left satisfied.
Alright, not entirely satisfied -- some 'senior journalists' figured they deserved more than such democratic treatment, and angled for private time with players; such requests were met with a firm 'no'.
How difficult -- no, seriously -- is that to arrange? But then, I forget; the manager on this tour is a certain Raj Singh Dungarpur, who is hot stuff when it comes to narrating memories of how cricket was played in the 1960s, but not so hot when it comes to the here and the now. Might also be worth spending some thought when picking a media manager -- I mean seriously, how many media conferences has GS Walia organized and for who?

Quick pitch, slow pitch...

Donno about you guys, but I can't wait for the series to start; the flood of reports -- a lot of them going back over ground well covered, several contradicting several others -- is beginning to confuse the heck out of me.
Here's one from the Indian Express, which starts out with the news that the Indians are not talking of their strategy for the first Test against Pakistan.
Stop press, folks -- no team in its right mind is going to 'unveil its strategy' so the opposition can read all about it over breakfast on the morning of the big day, geez!
Elsewhere in that story, this:
Captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell made their first routine visit to the stadium to inspect the pitch and were seen having an animated conversation with the chief curator at Gaddafi, Aga Zahid.
Zahid, who is overseeing the preparations on the field in consultation with Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, wasn’t forthcoming yet on what Pakistan team management has to say on the nature of the wicket. ‘‘Everything that is being said or written is a media hype,’’ said Zahid, pointing out to the track from the boundary which in his view isn’t necessarily a fast bowler’s paradise. Rumours persist that Pak is currently worried about the lack of sunlight that is making their pitch-preparation exercise a damp squib.

And also this:
Meanwhile, the PCB has dropped the idea of staging a Twenty20 charity encounter against India during the current tour to raise funds for the October 8 earthquake victims. The decision to cancel the proposed match was taken after discussions with the BCCI officials as it was felt that it would not be possible to squeeze in the extra tie due to a tight schedule.

Lots in a kiss

Make a rule, and sure enough someone will want to try and break it. Come to think of it, some rules just ask to be broken -- vide the one unveiled in New Zealand, which banned same sex kissing after two women snogged while watching the Black Caps take on the Sri Lankans last Sunday.
So now, thanks to the hoopla, something that would have passed as a fun moment has become a cause celebre -- and prompted attempts to challenge the ban.
The Beige Brigade, which calls itself a group dedicated to keeping cricket fun, says it will run a "Pash for Cash" competition during the upcoming West Indies tour.
It is a revolt against "fun police" who stopped two female fans kissing at the one-day international against Sri Lanka at Napier's Mclean Park last weekend, the group says.

Snakes and ladders

With India and Pakistan set to go head to head, the ICC does the math and comes up with what a win will mean to either side, with reference to their positions on the ICC Test rankings ladder and, more importantly, with a view to hunting down Australia which as on date is top of the tree.
Rahul Dravid's men are currently second in that table with 115 rating points, 14 behind Australia, but they can reduce that deficit with a series win against their arch-rivals.
A repeat of their success of 2004 in Pakistan when they won 2-1 would give India a total of 116 points, a 2-0 victory would lift them to 118 points and a clean sweep would leave India on 119, just 10 rating points behind Ricky Ponting's side.

And if the series goes in favor of the home side, then:
The home team will be keen not only to extract revenge for that loss to India two years ago but also to build on their two Test wins over England late last year which lifted them to fourth in the LG ICC Test Championship table.
If Pakistan can win the series 3-0 they will have 111 rating points, will overtake India and relegate Dravid's side to fourth in the table, and also leave themselves just two points behind England.
Any series win for Pakistan will not only boost their rating but also drop India back below England.

ICC Trophy in doubt?

Champions Trophy may not happen, this story says. You've got to wonder how credible this is -- the BCCI had earlier clarified officially that it has told the ICC it will host the 2006 edition of the Trophy; it merely wants the ICC to consider scrapping it from next year on. In any case, tomorrow's (actually, today's, if you are thinking India time) meeting at the ICC headquarters could produce much of interest, as India pushes also for a redrafting of the international fixtures.

Attritive battle between Powar and Munaf

From DNA, this story of a battle within the Mumbai-Maharashtra Ranji war now on at the Wankhede.
The second day’s play, though, had all the ingredients of a classic bout - resilience, showmanship, cheering from ringside, ferocious blows, and at the end of the day, a promise to resume unfinished business in the second innings.
Patel cut Powar into two, shared words and looks every time he beat or came close to beating Powar. Powar responded by applauding Vinit Indulkar, his current roommate, for every short single they ran, for every bouncer Indulkar avoided, and coming up with two when thrown a word at.
To start the day off, Patel continued the hostile ways he had shown late Tuesday evening. Abhishek Nair and Nishit Shetty were castled, and Amol Muzumdar, around whom Mumbai’s batting has revolved in Wasim Jaffer’s absence, pouched by ‘keeper Satyajit Satbhai. And when Powar walked into the ring, Mumbai had already lost six wickets for 47.
Patel’s tail was up and he was generating concerning pace and bounce. Powar, true to nature, started jumping out of the crease in the most unimpressive of manners, but kept managing powerful hits. Even mis-timed strokes somehow kept finding gaps as Powar kept disturbing the line and length of all the bowlers.

Incidentally, is it just me or do you guys think Munaf Patel has begun hitting his straps again?
Elsewhere -- Blogger misbehaving today. Given that -- plus a scheduled 4 pm gym time, plus other stuff that needs doing -- will be out of here till late evening (around 9.30 pm actually) my time. You guys take care.
Additional post: From Gopi, this mail about webcasts:
The web streaming is for Ind vs Pak series is also available on www.livecricketon.tv . They are affiliated to www.sportingstreams.com , which in turn provides live streaming of most of the cricket being played in different parts of the world.
These guys are claiming to use new technology for streaming videos (by Abacast), which should reduce the buffering issue that most of the web streaming faces.
They are charging $27 for 3 tests and ODI seems be around the same.

Knock knock who's there?

A friend back home in India just alerted me to a peculiarity he noticed on the Sitemeter attached to this blog. His mail:
What's with your blog? The average number of visitors per day was as of this morning 3,951 and average page views 6,915. But today, it is what, noon or so for you in New York?, the number of visitors is already 8,710 and the page views 13,820. What's up with that, mate?

Darned if I know. :-) Nice to have all you new folks on board -- but who are you, and what's with this sudden surge? Mail me.

Memories of days past

From Pakistan Times, this story of the Bagh-e-Jinnah, where India played its only warm up game ahead of the Test series; the story looks at the ground as a repository of historic links between the two cricketing nations.
Among the priceless items in the museum is a small portion of turf from Lord's ground in London, which was presented to Bagh-e-Jinnah by Lahore-based Waqar Nisar, son of late Indian speedster Mohammed Nisar who bowled the country's first ball in Test cricket in 1932 against England at Lord's.
Waqar, born and brought up in Pakistan, was presented the turf by Cricket Club of India (CCI) president Raj Singh Dungarpur, here as the Indian team's manager, when the club honoured Indian greats like Mohammed Nisar at a function in Mumbai in 2003.

New voices

The world's first woman commentator will be in Lahore for the Indo-Pak Test. Curiously, she will be seen but likely, not heard.

Yet another 'key'

To add to your growing collection of 'keys' to the upcoming Indo-Pak Test series, this one from former coach Anshuman Gaekwad:
"Considering the current form of the Pakistanis and the huge experience of international cricket that India carries with it, I think both the teams are on equal footing," Gaekwad told PTI here.
"But the key to the entire series will be the battle royale that will be fought between the two coaches (Bob Woolmer of Pakistan and India coach Greg Chappell) in the dressing rooms," he added.
"It will be their ability to devise strategies, to out-think the opposition, to churn out surprises which will hold the key as to who will win the series," the former Indian opener said.

Dish TV update

We just had a call from Dish, which appears to be in a huge fix. Per them, they are still awaiting word on the telecast rights (weird, since they have telecast rights to all events in Pakistan); so much so, they have even designed promotional advertising (which they need, to publicize the coverage and ensure maximum subscriptions), but cannot release them because they don't at this point in time (2 PM, here in New York) have a clue whether they will get to telecast the event or no.
Strikes me that whoever is in charge of overseas rights (this would, given they are the hosts, refer to the PCB) is guilty of myopia -- the US is a huge market, with people of Indian, Pakistani and even Bangladeshi origin all wanting to buy into this series. For this opportunity to slip completely off the radar in this fashion argues bad thinking and worse planning.
We will meanwhile keep an eye on the various players, and update with news, if and when.

Proteas in a fix

Bobby Simpson's latest column looks at the current state of South African cricket -- not quite on-topic, on-message for a blog that looks primarily at Indian cricket, but the column is worth your while because the insights into strategy offered by Simpson are as relevant for the national team as they are for the Proteas. A sampler:
I have always claimed that there is only one hard part in batting and that is judging the length of the ball. If you get it right you play correctly forward when the ball is up and back when it is pitched short. In theory, a fairly simple thing to expect your batsmen to do. Unfortunately, in world cricket it is becoming an epidemic as batsmen are caught straddling the crease and are easy victims for the bowlers.
South Africa right now are probably heading the world in this department. In the second innings in Melbourne, by my calculation, at least six of the batsmen were out when they miscalculated the length of the ball and were left in a no man's land to counter the delivery that dismissed them. It is impossible to judge every delivery right, but it is vital to get as many correct as you possibly can.
I would like to wager a small amount on the fact that most of the South African batsmen don't watch the ball right out of the bowler's hand, but watch an area somewhere around the hand.
Tests have shown that batsmen who watch the ball right out of the fingers of the bowler, pick it up at least a metre sooner than those who don't. This is obviously a huge advantage as it allows batsmen the extra time to assess where the ball will pitch and thus get into the right position to play it.