" Cricket Etcetera was voted as the Best Cricket Blog by Google during the World Cup 2007 "

Sunday, April 29, 2007

So, what are the rules of cricket?

Those final moments left me more confused about the rules of cricket than ever before. In particular, the World Cup rain/bad light rules. Surely, the ICC can do much better, at the very least for the showpiece event of the game they administer.
What is a reserve day? When is it used? More importantly, when can it not be used?
Why was the match reduced to 38 overs in the first case? Wouldn't it be a smarter idea to complete the match over 2 days, allowing maximum opportunity for the maximum overs to be played? If, the ICC is okay with that long a World Cup, they can't mind an extra day for the final.
Could the umpires, technically have asked the teams to come back the next day to complete the remnant of the final? Didn't we have a complete match already, as Sri Lanka had already faced the minimum 20 overs?
If it's technically possible for the match to be completed the next day, why was Jayasuriya so worried about the rain clouds hanging over his head? Why didn't Mahela Jayawardene accept the lights that were offered earlier?
If the match could have been completed when it finally was, then why the hurry or need to reduce those 2 overs off the Lanka innings for that very short rain-break?
Wouldn't it have been more sensible to start off with a 35 over match instead of a 38 overs one, allowing for anticipated small-breaks in the middle - those irritating breaks which matter more than the one at the beginning?

A dark, bizzare end to a sad World Cup

The Australians are celebrating their third successive World Cup win, and funnily enough the final match of the 9th Cricket World Cup is still not over. Even as I begin writing this piece, the players are trotting back to the pitch to complete the final rites of this most amazing finale of the final.
What happened was this: It was absolutely dark at the Kensington Oval, Barbados and Sri Lanka needed an impossible 60+ runs to win the match in the remaining 3 overs. So, when the umpires Aleem Dar and Steve Bucknor offered the lights to the batsmen, they took it. Everyone thought the match was over - Ponting and his men began their celebrations, the groundsmen got busy removing the 30 yard markers, the presentation podium was being dragged in - but wait, said Aleem Dar. The match ain't over. 3 overs still left, and with a reserve day left, technically the teams were supposed to come back the next day to finish off the match !!
So, the final 3 overs were played in pitch-darkness, and the saddest Cricket World Cup came to a farcical end. Thankfully, the team which won it wasn't a farce. The Australian team was like a juggernaut, crushing everything that came their way, and they deserved the Cup, like no else has done before, the super West Indies of the 70s included. Congratulations, Rickey Ponting. Adieu, Glenn Mc Grath and Russel Arnold.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Astro-il-logical Cricket

So astrology is quite scientific, eh? This post is dedicated to all the astrology buffs, the one who believe that the stars decide your fate and everyone else's, and that Bejan Daruwalla and all others of his ilk can foretell almost everything. I picked up this data right from the website of one of India's leading astrologers, Bejan Daruwala's Ganesha speaks.

League Matches:

Match 1: Pakistan vs West Indies - Daruwalla predicted Pakistan would win. Wrong.

Match 2: Zimbabwe vs Ireland - Zimbabwe was tipped to win. Match Tied. Wrong, again.

Match 3: England vs Newzealand - England was predicted to win. Wrong.

Match 4: India vs Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka predicted to win. Correct.
The problem I have is not that he got so many wrong, but the way he went about carrying out his business of forecasting. In every single match that involved one of the minnows, the stronger team was tipped to win. So Mr. Bejan Daruwalla got it wrong every single time there was an upset. India and South Africa were supposed to beat Bangladesh, Pakistan was supposed to beat Ireland. So was Mr. Daruwala going by the stars or by the stats? How is it that when an expert like Daruwala studied the stars, they were always favouring the stronger team? How was it that the he got it wrong each single time there was an upset?
Not too dissimilar has been the case with the tarot card readers on Set Max. They have got it more wrong than right. If it's supposed to provide entertainment, that's alright - but too many people in this country get misled by these idiots, who work on a simple law of averages. If you make predictions for 5 people, chances are you will get a couple of them right - and they become your ardent devotees. Since every idiot goes to 5 such expert idiots each one of whom sings a different fore-tale and everyone can't go wrong, because there are only five possibiliites, another devotee is born, who besides devoting himself to his master, does some wonderful word-of-mouth publicity for his guru. The Guru who has the best mix of glib and percentage success becomes a Maha-Guru !!
Consider this gem:
Considering the planetary positions on the match day and their effects on match playing countries and their players Ganesha feels that in this round 8 teams that qualify for the next round would be Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Newzealand, West Indies and England.
I don't know much of astrology but do know a bit of astronomy and geography. Tell me, what kind of an alignment of the stars would suit India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but not Bangladesh. Suits England, but neither Scotland nor Ireland. And suits the whole gamut of islands that form the Caribbean :) :) :) Next time round, Mr. Daruwalla, do pick up your basic geography text book or the atlas as well before you go about predicting everything that's going to happen, everywhere.

Should Sri Lanka bat first, or second?

So i thought Sri Lanka would do it. Then i pined my hopes on Fleming. Then, on Graeme Smith, again. And now, its Sri Lanka once more. Surely, i'm going to get it right, this time round.

In about 48 hours from now, we will have a new World Cup Cricket Champion. Or will we? It's been 18 years now, and it's getting more and more boring to watch the Australians bull-dozer their way over everyone else. It's frustrating to see that one of the top stories on Cricinfo after the semi-final between Australia and South Africa is on "South Africa's lowest ever ODI scores". Can't get worse, can it? Warnie was probably right when he said that the South Africans are too boring to win the World Cup. Which leaves us with Sri Lanka.

In about 48 hours from now, the Jayawardene-Moody strategy of un-exposing Vaas & Muralidharan may be beginning to be hailed as as a master-stroke. Ponting may lose his control over his tongue yet again and tell the world that it was the illegal Malinga who stopped him from emulating Lloyd. BCCI may rue the fact that they chose Greg Chappell and passed the ace to Sri Lanka. Marvan Attapattu's ODI career may come to a permanent close. So much can happen on the 28th of April 2007. Only if everything goes right - that is. Let's look at just one, the first one.
When Jayawardene goes out for the toss with Ponting at the Kensington Oval, Barbados he cannot forget history. Especially, two decisions. One - which Ganguly made in South Africa after he won the toss in the 2003 World Cup Final. No one can forget the carnage that Ponting and Martyn unleashed on the hapless Indian bowlers. Two - the last one, which Graeme Smith made. Australia's weak link is their bowling..if you want to beat them, the only way is to bat first, put up a good score and put some pressure on the Aussie top order. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka and Jayawardene, there are only two options for the guy who wins the toss - and neither seems to be working against the Australians. What should he do?

One way or the other, I'd go with Ganguly unless there is a threat of the wicket crumbling in the second half. The World Cup final is a big thing, Australia or not. What happened on that day in South Africa cannot be allowed to terrorize the progeny for ever. Gilchrist is not in the best of nick, and Hayden and Ponting will not want to miss out now. Let them face the heat, first. If they come out trumps, well they are good, and you will have to give it to them. But make it more difficult for them - let Ponting and Buchanan worry about what a good score is going to be. Let them worry about making the most of the powerplay overs - before Murali comes in. Batting first, Lanka would be chasing )(an imagined) 300. Batting second, it's unlikely to get much worse. And if it does, there will be the inspiration of the 1996 chase to look upto.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thank you, Lara

'It was a joy to watch Lara bat.'

Nothing else mattered more, or counted for more. Not his world-record 365, and not his world-record 400. Not even the mammoth 32,000 runs he piled up in international cricket. Nor his 501. These are mere numbers, and unlike Don, for whom I need to factor in the 99.94 to understand the man's greatness, I don't need those crutches for Brian Lara.

Lara, I have seen him both batting and battling, both his opponents and team mates. I watched him stand against the might of Australia, all alone, well almost - he had Courtney Walsh for support, and not with the ball, but a bat. Still, he came out triumphant. I saw him handling the wiles of Muralitharan on the spinning Lankan tracks. Three tests - of cricket, of patience, of skills and Brian came out trumps every single time. Yet, he had no reason to smile - every one of the 3 times. If you didn't follow Lara, as I didn't Don, let me give you the crutches: In that 2001-02 series, Brian Lara scored 688 runs in a 3 test series and yet ended up on the losing side every time. The remaining team put together scored just about 200 more than what Lara added single-handedly.

But it was a joy to watch Brian Lara bat - even as the great West Indies team of the 70s and the early 80s sunk further down, Lara still gave one reason to every cricket fan to come and watch West Indies play. Because, once Lara walked into the centre and wielded his willow, you forgot everything else - the gloom and the despair were dispersed, even if temporarily. While Lara batted, there was hope. While Lara batted, a victory was possible. While Lara batted, the old man in the stands in Antigua smiled, again. While Lara batted, the pride and honour of West Indian cricket was momentarily restored.

While Lara batted, cricket looked beautiful.

Thank you, Brian Lara for all those wonderful moments, and more.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cricket Et cetera

Women add colour to everything,

including Cricket.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Get high on life, and not the Shoaib Akhtar way

Remember Nandrolone? That's what Shoaib Akhtar ingested to get into trouble. The problem is he ain't the only one - just a bad shining example. While Akhtar and Ben Johnson and many other sportsmen may have popped those pills or injected themselves for enhanced performance, there are many, many others who do it for a momentary high. What one doesn't realize, or ignores is that the momentary 'high' is followed by a long 'low'.
Drug addiction is a problem - one of the biggest ones which affects the world today, especially the youth. But there is hope - it's not incurable. Proper treatment can rid one of this habit, once and for all - and you can lead a perfectly healthy life post the treatment. One of the finest drug addiction treatment places is Stone Hawk. So if you know someone who is addicted, let him know that there is help available - at Narconon Stone Hawk. So, let the healing begin and start a fresh, new chapter in life.
(StoneHawk Toll-free Number: 1-888-227-9193)

Monday, April 16, 2007

(Mint-Fresh)Cricket Stories of the Day

Once every few months, I get up early - like real early, when the sun's just come over the horizon, and the world is still a blushing pink. Today was that day - and as it happens every single time that I do this bizzare act of early rising, I was confused. Now what? I managed to convince myself that i was out of cigarettes, and so I went down to fetch a pack. Also got along a copy of today's Times of India (i am otherwise a Hindustan Times reader) and HT's new business daily, Mint.
More than Mint, it was TOI which i found to be refreshing.

& since this is a cricket blog, let me get that connect by doing a round-up of today's top cricket stories in the TOI, the minty fresh ones. Here i go, with my first cuppa tea of the morning:
- Rankin's sole-to-sole session with Garner! Big Bird helps tallest cricketer in World Cup find shoes that fit.

- Little man Ponting is actually close to 6 feet tall (he is 5'10). Blame Hayden for that wrong perception.

- West Indies lost because of poor fitness: Lloyd. In another section, it was also mentioned that the Windies are not completely out of the World Cup yet. There is a theoretical possibility of Lara's men making it to the semi-finals.

- Fleming sympathises with South Africa. SA has a poor net run rate, and Fleming understands captain Smith's problem - it's a bit too late in the day to improve on the run rate front, so better go for outright victories.

- BCCI ok with Sachin, Yuvi reply. Did they have an option? What would Pawar have done if Sachin had given him a reply a la Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct - "What will you do? Charge me for smoking?"

- Tendulkar, Zaheer Booed: Go back, fans tell players in Ahmedabad, upon their arrival to take part in the Twenty20 tournament.

- Jayawardene feels Aussie middle order is suspect. The rest of the world too, Mr. Jayawardene. The problem is to get the top order out early, so that the middle matters.

- Langer flays Aussie over Sledging. "I don't believe in it. It is something that has disturbed me over the years, particulary when Glenn Mc Grath and Ram Naresh Sarwan were involved".

- Toxicology result 'encouraging'. Woolmer was poisoned before he was strangled. Investigating officer Mark Shield has enlightened us with three possibilities: Someone gives up easily / There could be a massive break-through / We are in for the long haul. Wow, Mr. Shields, we didn't know about these earlier.
And this one is from the business daily, Mint.
- The BCCI believes it has identified one reason for the game's slow rot in the country: the use of the wrong kind of balls. Proper white balls made by Kookaburra Sports Pty Ltd cost close to Rs.3500 per ball, and while the BCCI had been importing it for the important games, youngsters were still practising on the cheaper red cricket balls. Expensive indeed, as the BCCI has footed a bill of Rs.5.40 lacs for the Platypus balls which it has imported for the National Twenty-twenty championship. No Indian cricket manufacturer, including SG, makes the white balls. Let's see if the BCCI does indeed go ahead and get the expensive white balls for the domestic cricketers 'unimportant' matches. Think about it - the world's richest cricket body is yet to provide its players with good pitches and the right kind of balls. Any wonder, Sachin is being booed in Ahmedabad instead of being celebrated in Trinidad.

Australia vs Sri Lanka: Detailed Forecast

Here goes my next round of predictions, as the Cricket World Cup jamboree reaches its final phase:

April 16: Australia vs Sri Lanka, Grenada
Mahela calls it right, and elects to bat. (enough people have told him by now that it's the only way to beat Australia, so he just ignores the damn pitch and everything...)
Jayasuriya is dropped on the very first ball of the match. Ranjit Fernando tells everyone who are watching Set Max a brand new thing: 'this may be a very costly mistake.' (do non Set-Max watchers also have to bear Fernando?). Jayasuriya plays the same shot again on the very next ball, and the same fielder makes the same mistake again. Ponting can't believe that Hussey has dropped dangerman Jayasuriya twice in two balls and our man in the commentary box gets more excited. "This is surely going to be a costly mistake." Jayasuriya gets more excited, the bowler bowls a similar length again but the batsman is cautious this time - he plays a defensive shot, and there is no need for Hussey to hold or drop a catch. The ball hits the inside edge of the bat, and deflects to the stumps. Fernando is quiet.

Tharanga plays the innings of his life, and Jayawardene plays his best innings in the last year. Chamara Silva and Vaas chip in with quick 30's as Lanka post an imposing 312. Mandira Bedi is very happy - she looks nice n chirpy in her yellow n brown Satya Paul sari. ( the sari has large motifs of a lion holding a knife or something in its paws. Satya Paul is going crazier.) Ian Chappell bears the brunt of her chirpiness as Mandira is sure that the Aussies are surely going to lose the match now, and she wants Ian to say that and provide some logic to that end. Chappell thinks that Hayden and Ponting hold the key, but Mandira doesn't like that comment so he quickly adds that Murali and Vaas are the keys too.

Well, Ian was right. Ponting and Hayden were the important guys indeed. Both scored fine centuries, and the score stood at 235/4 at the end of over no.40. Mahela had delayed taking his final power play and he had taken the last one only at the end of the 36th over. Play is held as there ensues a serious conference on the field between the Lankan top guns. The captain throws the ball to Murali, who has just an over left. Gamble.

And how it pays. Magician Murali snares two wickets off his penultimate balls, and Lanka is strong favourties now. Just 4 wickets left and an asking rate of 8.5. It's too much, even for the Aussies, as they finally capitulate, bringing an end to their defeatless streak since 1999.
to be continued

Bangladesh face their first upset

It's funny: after ejecting India out of the World Cup, and then upsetting the Protean apple-cart, Bangladesh are now struggling against Ireland. As I write this, Banladesh are reeling at 169/8 and still 75 runs away from victory. Captain Habibul Bashar still stands as his side has disintegrated at the other end against Ireland, their easiest opponents in the Super-eight.
Is it the pressure of playing a match as the favourites? Bashar's men also struggled against Bermuda, and for a brief period during that match, coach Whatmore was a very worried man. To have allowed India to sneak in through the back door would have been too much to bear, even for Bangladesh.
Well, this defeat doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things - both Ireland and Bangladesh are well and truly out of reckoning. But it would be a dent for the tigers, as a victory here would have meant Bangladesh would finish with a minimum of 4 points - at par or may be over West Indies. But no one can take away the fine performances the young Bangladeshis put up in this World Cup.
Bashar and Whatmore should relish the fact that a Super-Eight defeat for their team is being branded as an 'upset' - that's quite a distance that the Bangladesh Cricket team has travelled in four years.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Over to Twenty/20

Have you heard of a $ 24.5 million prize money cricket carnival which could be happening next year, again in the West Indies? Just to give you an indication of the magnitude of that amount, the winner in this current World Cup will go home with just 3 million dollars. So, thats more than eight times!!

Antigua based American billionaire, Allen Stanford plans to stage an International Twenty/20 Cup next year - and if the past is any indication, it will be anything but similar to the current insipid affair going on in the West Indies. And, unlike Subhash Chandra in India, who is making similar noises, the Texan Billionaire is not completely new to the arena. In fact, he is well entrenched and successfully so, and Stanford has also shown that he has the financial muscle to pull it off.

Only last year, Stanford ploughed in 34 million dollars into a very successful Twenty/20 tournament involving 19 Caribbean nations. The series introduced black bats, orange balls and most importantly it pulled thousands of fans into the stadiums - as the entrance was free.

With the first Twenty/20 World Cup happening this year in South Africa, reluctant entrants to this concept like India also introducing a national Twenty/20 championship and Chandra & Stanford throwing their cash-rich hats into the ring, Cricket might be standing at the threshold of another revolution. The empty stadiums in West Indies, even for key World Cup matches and the overall drop in enthusiasm amongst fans in the middle of cricket's biggest show might just be the catalyst Twenty/20 was looking for.


Texan Billionaire Allen Stanford doesn't seem to have the best of relationships with Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Specner, who has thinks Stanford is "haughty, arrogant and obnoxiously behaved". In the past, there has also been some controversy over how Mr. Stanford came to acquire a citizenship of Antigua & Barbuda. However it's not all that bad. The billionaire head of Houstan based Stanford Financial Group was last year appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation , and he is the first American to be Knighted by Antigua 7 Barbuda. He has a dual citizenship, being a citizen of Texas, United States as well.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A letter to Clive Lloyd

Dear Mr Lloyd,

I urge you to take your leave of West Indies cricket. I do so, not because I have any reservation about your immense ability...
read more

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Make Ravi Shastri the Captain

I don't know much about what transpired at the Cricket Centre (BCCI headquarters) in Mumbai on the 7th of March - there was the current India captain, the coach, the top brass of the BCCI, the chairman of selectors and as many as 6 former India captains ( Shastri, Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Kapil Dev, Chandu Borde and Venkatraghavan). But the results are there for us to see, and if this is what the brighest cricket minds in India together came up with, it's indeed a sad state of affairs - and the future of Indian cricket looks only grim.
1. Reduction in ODI match fee / Contracts scrapped : I guess the BCCI never really wanted to share so much of the cash with the players, just that they were forced into it. When they got their first chance, the Board did what it had always wanted to - tighten its purse strings even further. Do these fine brains really think that reducing the match fee from 1.6 lakhs to 1.0 lakhs will goad Sachin further? That Sehwag is more likely to be consistent if he is paid less. Aren't they turning the basic principles of management upside down?
2. Venkatesh Prasad as Bowling coach : Is that the best we can do for our team? Is that the finest bowling coach that the world's richest cricket board could come up with? This guy has an ODI average of 32+ over his career, he took 5 wickets in an innings all of once and his speed didn't really set the pitch on fire. I mean this bloke was a fine gentleman, but inspiring? The BCCI was always in love with him - I could never understand why he was so often made the captain of the Board President's XI ( he might be the record holder for that, am pretty sure). And now he has been thrust on the team as the Bowling coach - i fear Munaf will lose further speed, and Sreesanth will go down the same way.
I'm not a big fan of Ranjit Fernando's commentary skills, but the Lankan made a very pertinent point during a recent Lanka match in the World Cup - queried by his fellow commentator about Lasith Malinga's action, Fernando told him in no uncertain terms that had Malinga been in India, he would have been sent to the MRF Pace Academy, his action would have been converted to classical, and he would lose about 10 -15 mph and become like one of India's many medium-pacers.
3. Restriction on advertisements: What Dravid or Pathan or Dhoni do when they are not playing cricket is their private business - unless they are intaking Nandrolone or some such pills!! Has the board started catering to every idiot on the road? There is no other logical explanation to this bizzare ruling of '3 endorsement per cricketer' except for gallery-play.
The one much delayed but sane decision was to remove the zonal selection system. Everyone knew that this one was straight out of the dark middle ages, yet it took a World Cup disaster to get it sorted out. That's how our BCCI works - any wonder then that Sachin will be playing the Twenty-20 cup next week and not a World Cup match.
What could have been done?
- The BCCI should have set some deadlines for itself to get the pitches in India to be of whatever type they should be of. Surely, we can get 5 real bouncy pitches if we want to. One person should have been made accountable for this - and I think it's time for the BCCI President to raise his hand for this - after all this has been cited as the biggest reason why India keeps failing abroad, and it wouldn't be wrong for the biggest cricket official to take up the biggest challenge. Let's see, Mr. Pawar, if you have the heart or the guts for that. ( or if you think that being the Agriculture Minister of the country is a tough job, then please quit and let someone take up this one as a full-time occupation).
- Come up with some original ideas ( and not just copied from the Australian or English cricket boards)
- Make Ravi Shastri the captain of the Indian cricket team
If Rahul Dravid has to be retained as captain simply because of the TINA factor, then why can't this board float the idea of a non-playing captain. Let Dravid be responsible for on-field captaincy only, while Ravi Shastri can take care of everything else. Every expert agrees on the fact that Shastri is one of the finest cricket brains in the country - with a simple tweaking, we could exploit those Marathi grey cells for the fullest advantage of Indian cricket.
- Quantify selection / dropping procedures
This is circa 2007, where the smallest companies in the world work on well-defined and quantified models for their business. Then why is that Cricket, one of the biggest business, works in such out-moded fashion. Why does the entire nation need to debate on Raina's exclusion or Sehwag's incusion? Can't we create a mathematical model which will be transparent for everyone to see - the board, the fans, the experts and the player himself. If someone in India can't do it, get Messers Duckworth & Lewis to do it for you. Let Sehwag know what is expected of him in terms of runs, averages and strike rates - wouldn't that be nice?
Now, i'm not saying that it has to be purely mathematical - neither is that the case with other businesses. You can allot a certain percentage to the 'quant' data and some to the 'qualitative' data. Give the captain a certain say - may be, he can be given the power to overrule 2 'quant' anomalies per year. So, if Dravid thinks that Sehwag needs to be included irrespective of whatever he has scored in the past year, so be it. I respect Dravid's cricketing acumen, and like Vengsarkar, i want a happy Indian captain. But then Dravid must also know that he cannot go about doing it all the time - he has 2 chances per year, so he will use it intelligently, and sparingly.
There is so much else that can be done - just that someone needs to sit down and think. If the collective IQ of our former cricketers is not good enough, I recommend we use the fine brains of Ramachandra Guha and other cricket experts. It's no one's case that only former players can think - if someone else can do the thinking, so be it.
If you liked this article, you may also like to read 'Rahul / Azhar vs Ganguly: A matter of Captaincy"

Preview: Newzealand vs Sri Lanka

newzealand vs sri lanka cricketThe Fleming-os takes on the Lankans at the National Cricket Stadium in Guyana tomorrow, and this match may be important in more ways than one. The semi-finalists for this World Cup have more or less been decided, so there shouldn't be too much excitement on that front. However, tomorrow's match may be important for a more important reason.

Newzealand is currently at the top of the Super Eight table, with 4 victories and a net run rate of +1.728. Australia are close behind, with equal number of points but a slightly lower run rate. Both these teams are yet unbeaten in this 9th World Cup, and close on their heels on the points tally is Sri Lanka. They have lost that one match to South Africa, by the narrowest of margins and are currently at 6 points and a NRR of +1.549, actually a wee bit better than Australia's.

From whatever we have seen so far in this World Cup, the Australians definitely look a class apart - the ghost of the VB series has well and truly been buried, and I don't know if it's possible, but they look better than they have ever before done in the World Cup. Australia hasn't lost a World Cup match since 1999, with 2003 being a clean run, but even then, they didn't look as convincing. This time round in the West Indies, besides being convincing, they give you that feeling of a juggernaut - unstoppable and crushing.

Well, if this Aussie juggernaut is to be halted, I think either of Fleming or Jayawardene will have to raise their hands. The Sri Lankans have that right variation in their bowling arsenal, and if Hayden and Ponting could be removed early, Lankans are in with a chance. On his day, Malinga can irritate the best of batsmen with his awkward line and pace. Vaas is always good, and so is Murali. If Lanka bats first and can get 260-280, it will all boil down to Hayden and Ponting. Remove them early, and the advantage is with you.
I fancy the Kiwis for a wholly different reason - because they are indeed a bunch of Fleming'os. Stephen Fleming is the best captain in the cricket world, almost without argument and he has built a team of world-beaters out of a collection of some otherwise very average cricketers. What Fleming has instilled in his men is a sense of fearlessness, which has stood them in good stead. Whether Australia set 280 or 320 as a target, if there is one team which has the best chance of reaching it, it is the Kiwis. Here's one team which doesn't get bogged down by the loss of an early wicket or two. (keep telling my friends that here's a team of 10 irfan pathans + 1 fleming, and since they don't have a tendulkar or a ponting, there is no fear of him getting out, so if 2 pathans go, they know that there are 8 more to follow. this is an exaggerated simplification, but not too far off the mark either). Plus, they have the astute Fleming - he is bold enough to delay the power-play till the 30th over if need be, yet not silly enough like Lara, to wait till the 44th. He's smart, and uses his resources in the most efficient manner. What he will need is a bit of luck, and a bit of Bond - to rattle Hayden and Ponting.

When Sri Lanka takes on Newzealand tomorrow, we may find out who is going to be the likely challenger to Australia. This may even be a rehearsal for a likely semi-final match between the two. Either ways, it's going to be an important affair - and more than anyone else, it's John Buchanan and the Aussies who would be following the match with the greatest interest.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The Cricket Field" - A poem

A beautiful poem on Cricket.
The author is Arthur Salway and it is simply called "The Cricket Field".

Fortunate indeed this field;
It’s destiny is not to yield
A harvest made with wheat and corn
From rutting plough or harrow born,
But cleared of lump & stump & thicket
Is set aside for playing cricket.

In winter gentle sheep may graze
Preserving turf for summer days,
A picket fence thrown round the square
Should hoof or human trespass there.
Some say we should share – use the land
Clearly, they don’t understand.

This field shall always take its name
Only from England’s noblest game.
Despite its level disposition
And most favourable condition
Hockey posts shall not be found,
This is no recreation ground.

Four generations, maybe more,
Since long before the first World War,
Cricketers long gone, & some
Who play today, & those to come,
All sow unmixed the seeds of cricket
And harvest only run & wicket.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thank you, Bangladesh

Bangladesh' stunning upset victory over South Africa has breathed some much needed life into the World Cup.
Needing 252 to win, the Protea innings folded for just 184, in spite of a valiant attempt by Herschelle Gibbs who came in only at no.7 as he was battling a calf-strain. Earlier in the day, Bangladesh amassed a fighting score of 251 after they got off to a rather sluggish start coupled with loss of early wickets. It was Ashraful's knock of 87, the highest by a Bangladeshi batsman in this World Cup, which was chiefly responsible for the score crossing the important 250 mark. After making a safe start, Ashraful played some real cheeky shots in the fine leg area to raise the tempo in the last 7 overs. Mashrafe Mortaza provided him ample support, himself scoring 3 boundaries and a six.
South Africa's capitulation on a deteriorating pitch in Guyana may not raise Bangladesh' hope of qualifying to the semi-final, but it has certainly opened up the competition a bit. The statisticians in the West Indies, England and Sri Lanka camps will be furiously working on their calculators to assess the situation in the light of this new development. The World Cup needed something spectacular to lift up the spirits, and this may just be it. Thank you, Bangladesh.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cricket Manger vs Coach

Just yesterday, the shenaginans in the BCCI had very wisely raised a question-mark on the role of a coach. I was suitably impressed that someone is finally asking the basic questions - imagine we were paying millions of dollars to coaches, and we didn't know what he was supposed to do.

Anyways, the mistake had been rectified and the BCCI told us that at Cricket's highest level, one doesn't need a coach. "No one can coach a player at the top level", said a top BCCI official. "All that this person needs to do is plan strategies and create a healthy, disciplined atmosphere in the team." So, we were introduced to a new designation called "Cricket Manager", and Ravi Shastri was offered the role for the Bangladesh tour. So far, so good.

In an about turn today, while the "Cricket Manager" concept was retained, the BCCI announced two new coaches for the Indian team - Venkatesh Prasad will be the bowling coach and Robin Singh will be the bowling coach !!

Will someone in the BCCI throw some light on these new twists n turns? Either we need a coach, or we don't need a coach. Is the "Cricket Manager" the batting coach? Or will Ravi be the batting coach, the chief coach and the manager rolled into one? With the Mumbai lobby clearly on the top in the current scheme of things at the BCCI, and Ravi being one smart cookie, it will not be surprising if he has worked out a super-role for himself. The fear is that the captain's role and status will only be further diminished. No wonder, Dravid wants to think over the captaincy offer.

BCCI cracks the whips

Following the disastrous World Cup performance and under public pressure, the BCCI has appartently taken some tough decisions:
1. Match fee for One-dayers reduced from the current 1.6 lakhs to 1.0 lakhs
2. No more contracts
3. For the first time performance based pay system will be followed
4. Only 3 brand endorsements per player per year. ( This is definitely following the huge public hue and cry over the Advertisement contracts and the huge monies that the crickters make out of it - apparently at the expense of their performance on the field)
The one sane decision taken by the BCCI is to scrap the Zonal selection system, which for a very long period now, has been the bane of Indian cricket.

Friday, April 06, 2007

BCCI finalises separate Captains for India Test & One-day team

As per a report on the TV Channel India TV, the BCCI has finalised the names of the captain/s for the tour to Bangladesh. The Indian cricket teams will be lead by separate captains in Test Matches and One-dayers.
Rahul Dravid is likely to continue as the captain for the Test team, whereas Yuvraj Singh may take up the mantle in the shorter version of the game। However, it is believed that Dravid himself has said that he wants more time to think about the issue. In the event of Dravid not wishing to continue as the captain, Kumble may be the surprise captain for Tests.
On the issue of the coach, the Board made an offer to Sandeep Patil for the Bangladesh tour, but like Dravid, Patil has also asked for time to think over the offer। Reportedly, Patil is interested in a longer term, something which the board is not keen to offer right now. Again, the name of Ravi Shastri has been proposed as the manager of the Indian cricket team for the Bangladesh tour.
So, lots of names being thrown around. I guess, the situation would be clearer only in a couple of days.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cricket World Cup : The biggest con job ever

Jack Warner call this World Cup in the West Indies the biggest con job ever.
“The biggest con job ever passed off on a region is this Cricket World Cup and it is one of immense proportion - not just by the organisation but by the governments as well - that have taken limited resources of their people’s money and put it in a dying sport. If there is anything that this World Cup has done well is it has shown people what not to do in the future. Imagine in Antigua for a public holiday a brand new stadium is half-filled. This has been a World Cup for the organisers, the visitors and the players but certainly not for the people. That’s why the stadiums are empty and that in itself is a con job.”
Source: CarribeanCricket.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Greg Chappell resigns as India coach

Close on the heels of ace-batsman Tendulkar's scathing comments, Greg Chappell has today, tendered his resignation as the coach of the Indian cricket team.
Though the Aussie started off well and the Indian team under Chappell and Dravid set up a record for the maximum consecutive one-day wins chasing not too long back in history, the decline since then has been steep. India's performance on the South Africa tour was pathetic and the entire team, coach and administration have been under attack from fans and media alike for thier pre-mature exit from the World Cup.
Chappell's exit was widely expected and will not surprise too many followers of the game. However, cricket experts were divided on the issue of whether Chappell should remain or go. Well, those debates have been put to rest by the man himself, who cited personal reasons as the cause for not extending his tenure as the India coach.
Here's wishing him all the best in his future endeavours.

Baba Ramdev tells us what's wrong with Indian Cricket

"भारतीय खिलाड़ियों के दिल में खोट था. " - Baba Ramdev
When every Indian is speaking out and giving his or her assessment of the Indian cricket team's failure in the World Cup, how can popular Yoga and Cerebral Guru, Baba Ramdev remain silent. Speaking to the tv news channel IBN 7, Baba Ramdev said that "The players had ill-intentions in their hearts". The Baba, who has mastered the art of speaking what the masses want to hear cited "advertisements" and in general "the lure of lucre" as the prime reasons which had diverted the minds of the members of the Indian cricket team.

Thank you Baba for your words - We are sure your noble words, taken seriously by your millions of devotees will help in further adding to the vitiated atmosphere in the country.
Can't stop thinking how noble are your intentions, Mr. Baba Ramdev !!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Chappell Report

Saurav Ganguly - plays for personal records ( other seniors in the team think that though his record since his return looks good, he doesn't play as per the team requirements but to retain his place in the India team)

Zaheer Khan - ill treats juniors ( the Zaheer - Sreesanth fracas in West Indies)
Sachin Tendulkar - The master is not a team man
Virender Sehwag - He is too stubborn
Yuvraj Singh - Has an attitude problem
Harbhajan Singh - He too has an attitude problem
Cricket Etcetera: "Suresh Raina is the perfect embodiment of a gentleman cricketer."

Twenty/20 World Cup pools announced: India & Pakistan together

So, the ICC has ensured that what happened at the World Cup in West Indies will not happen in the Twenty/20 World Cup, only a few month later in the year in South Africa. India and Pakistan have been put together in the same group alongwith Scotland, and since the top 2 teams qualify into the next round, there is no way that both the sub-continental power-houses can make an early exit, upsets or no upsets.
Group A: South Africa, West Indies, Bangladesh
Group B: Australia, England, Zimbabwe
Group C: New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Kenya
Group D: Pakistan, India, Scotland
The top 2 teams from each group will proceed to the Super-Eight round, followed by the semi-finals on 22nd September and the final on the 23rd September. The first World Twenty-Twenty Championship starts 11th September, and just like the first match of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, this one too starts with a South Africa - West Indies match.
Only 3 venues will be used for this inaugural 20-Twenty Cup: Durban, Johannesburg and Capetown.

India's own Twenty-Twenty begins: Bengal beat Assam

The East Zone leg of the National Twenty-Twenty Championship began at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata today. In the first tie, a refurbished Bengal team led by Manoj Tewari took on Assam.
Batting first, Bengal piled up 169, powered by a 17 ball 25 start given by young Wriddhiman Saha. Rohan Gavaskar joined in the party with a 17 ball 26 and captain Manoj Tiwari scored 36 runs. India under-19 start Abu Nachiman was given special treatment by the Bengal batsmen and was punished with 33 runs being scored off his quota of 4 overs. Pritam Das was the only Assam bowler who looked good, taking 3 wickets.
Chasing a Net Run Rate of over 8 runs an over, the inexperienced Assam batsmen were never really in the hunt. The young Bengal players including Abhishek Jhunjunwala and the captain himself fielded too well for the Assam batters' comfort, effecting a brilliant run-out and a couple of close to imposssible catches. Eventually, Assam lost the match by 35 runs. S.S. Paul took 2 wickets for Bengal, while S. Bhagwati was the top scorer for Assam with 26.
The other teams in the fray in the East Zone are Jharkand, Tripura and Orissa. In the next match, Bengal take on Jharkhand which will be bolstered by the presence of power-hitter Mahendra Singh Dhoni. India's early exit from the World Cup has added some unexpected glamour to India's first Twenty-Twenty Cup, and should generate more interest than it otherwise would have.The Twenty-Twenty World Cup will be held in September this year in South Africa, and from that viewpoint this tournament may generate more than its fair share of interest. India cricket desperately needs some new faces - Let's hope this cup throws up a couple of new stars.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Shane, Simone, Brooke, Jackson & Summer

"Amid speculations that Australian leg spinner Shane Warne and his wife Simone are on their way to a reunion after more than a year of separation, nearly 77 percent of women interviewed in a poll conducted said that Simone should not patch up with him."

News is that master-spinner Shane Warne has managed to spin his way back into estranged wife Simone Callaghan's life. After retiring from Australian cricket this year when Australia defeated England to reclaim the Ashes, Warne described Ms Callahan as "his rock". Looks like his efforts at wooing back Simone have finally succeeded.
The couple are reportedly planning to shift to Hampshire, where Warne has 2 more years of cricket left to play for the county. Simone has enrolled her children (Brooke, Summer and Jackson) in local schools in the United Kingdom. Also with them will be a football coach for one of their children, who will double up as the male nanny for the kids. Looking back at Shane's past, England is a brave and interesting choice on Simone's part to begin this fresh chapter !!

Here's wishing Mr. & Mrs. Warne a very happy married life, part 2.
If you are very rich and have an interest in Cricket memorabilia, there's a great souvenir up for the grabs - Shane's family mansion in Middle Crescent, Brighton is up for auction. (Estate agent Jonathan Dixon said the property, with tennis court and heated outdoor pool is expected to fetch between $9 million and $10 million, would now be marketed more aggressively.)

Funny Moments of Summer Cricket 2006 from England

Just found this very cute n funny Cricket Video on Youtube. (includes David Lloyd). Unless you have seen this one before, don't miss it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Predicting the World Cup Semi-Finalists

Later today, West Indies, going by current form, will make their exit from the World Cup. After all, when Lara vs Roberts starts becoming the headlines, instead of Gayle vs Vaas or Lara vs Murali, the sign is on the wall. Even if they somehow scrap past Lanka, they will need to win each of their remaining 3 matches, which will be more than a simple herculean task. Bye-bye West Indies, it's going to be, sooner or later.

That leaves us with South Africa, Sri Lanka, Newzealand, England and Australia. Only 25% of the Super-Eight matches have been played yet, and we are already as good as down to 5 teams. So much so for the most open World Cup ever. ( Which were the 6-8 teams that Dravid and Duncan talking about? And who did this silly scheduling for the Super-Eight - Windies play their 3rd match tonight while quite a few have not even played their second.)

Can we zero down further?

1. Australia - 6 points already, a mismatch against Ireland still left amongst 4 more matches. Through.
2. Newzealand - 4 points, 2 mismatches to go amongst 5 more matches. Through.

So that leaves us with just 2 empoty Semi-final slots.

SA, SL and England have each 5 matches left to play in the Super-Eight. Each country has just 2 points to show as of now. SA has the advantage in that it will play both Bangladesh and Ireland, while the other 2 competitors have just one easy affair to go. Unlike SA, the two others also need to tackle Australia, which looks like the World's No.1 team by a fair margin, yet again.

With a fair amount of certainty one can predict that South Africa should make the cut too. That will leave England and Sri Lanka to fight out for the last remaining spot in the Semi-Finals. We should have that answer in another 3 days - England vs Sri Lanka, Wednesday 4th Apri, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

The last of the 24 matches in the Super-Eight stage will be played on the 20th April. But there is a very real danger of a very huge part of the most exciting stage of the World Cup becoming renundant - not that it already has, but things may get worse. What was being touted by almost everyone as the Most Open World Cup ever, may turn out to be the most closed and boring one. Let's just hope that Australia will have a bad day on either the 25th or 28th of April. If that doesn't happen, it will be tough handling the kinds of things the big-mouth Ponting will be doling out in the next few days, or even weeks!