Saturday, February 27, 2010


The Indian selectors recently announced the probables list of 30 for the World T20 Championship in West Indies in May 2010. Here is the list:

Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Karthik, M S Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, S Sreesanth, Sudeep Tyagi, Rohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha, Piyush Chawla, Abhimanyu Mithun, Manish Pandey, R P Singh, Munaf Patel, M Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin.

Here is a small analysis:

Pure Batsmen (3): Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, M Vijay.

Batsmen who can bowl a bit (7): Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Virat Kohli.

Keeper Batsmen (4): Dinesh Karthik, M S Dhoni, Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha.

Bowlers who can bat a bit (7): Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra.

Pure Bowlers (9): S Sreesanth, Sudeep Tyagi, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, R P Singh, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, R Ashwin.

I have a feeling that many of you might disagree with my classification of Ravindra Jadeja (or maybe even Abhishek Nayar), and I will be delighted to hear your views. You can always leave your comments, but as far as I am concerned, Jadeja is a very good bowler who can bat a bit, certainly not T20 style.

An interesting omission was Irfan Pathan (My Classification: Batsman who can bowl a bit), who is supposed to be injured. If he is being excluded from the list of probables of World Twenty20 Championship, which is to start from April 30, does this mean he will be unavailable for Kings XI Punjab's IPL campaign? That would be a huge blow for Preity Zinta owned franchisee as they are unsure about the participation of Brett Lee as well.

But if Pathan Jr. does play the IPL, would it be safe to assume that the injury claim was just a gimmick played by the selectors to tell Irfan that he is no longer considered amongst the top 30 players in India by them?

Though I am not a great fan of Irfan Pathan, I don't think that he should be considered below the likes of Vinay Kumar or Abhishek Nayar. For that matter, he could have been included even in place of Naman Ojha (why do we need 4 keepers in the list?) or R Ashwin (9 bowlers are far too many).

Well, lets see what the selectors come up with as their final 15 to tour the Caribbean islands! I am sure that atleast a couple of the above mentioned guys will get injured during the IPL and a few outside the list will impress. Tha ball is in the court of the Indian Selection Committee.

Friday, February 26, 2010


When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.

When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to "open" the Nehruvian economy.

It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had a Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.


I have just read a wonderful post by Sambit Bal, the editor of Cricinfo, titled Tendulkar breaks Cricinfo records. Just when you start thinking what else remains, Sachin Tendulkar comes up with something new.

Sambit Bal says that Cricinfo recorded its highest traffic on the day when Sachin broke the 200 barrier in ODIs. He mentions that when Sachin was a couple of runs away from the mark, the viewer traffic became so large that it crashed a couple of Cricinfo servers.

One interesting thing that he mentions is that Cricinfo recorded the highest number of unique users from United States of America on 24th February 2010. When Sachin scored his first 100 runs in that match, the sun had not risen in USA. And the country was just waking up when Sachin blasted his last 100 runs in 57 balls.

So there you go, SRT robbed a number of his fans based in the USA from sleep. Not that they would mind it!


The first South African to congratulate Sachin on his 200* at the end of the Indian innings was Wayne Parnell. Well done young man! Sachin hit almost 2 runs of every ball he faced from the young Parnell. He gave Parnell an important lesson about bowling to a class batsman in One Day Cricket. And Parnell acknowledged it.

When the South Africans were shaking Tendulkar's hand at the end of his innings, I wonder what they were saying! Was it 'Congratulations' or was it 'Thank You'! Take your pick, I'd say both!

I can write 10 more blogs using numbers - the sheer weight of statistics that the subject Sachin Tendulkar generates can satiate any mathematician. But it would all be pointless. I'll put it in another way. Deviating a wee bit from Navjot Singh Sidhu's famous remark, I'd say: Statistics are like bikinis - they hide the relevant and reveal the irrelevant.

Just like in the case of SRT, statistics will never be able to reveal the entire story. If there could have been an index to measure the biggest causes of joy and happiness to a large number of people, I am certain that such a ranking would have been topped by Sachin Tendulkar.

He made his debut at 16 in 1989. In 1995, at the age of 22, he was married to Anjali Tendulkar, a woman who knew as much about cricket as a fifteen year old knows about astrophysics. By 1998 - the year that is considered to be his peak - he was just 25, and he seemed to have been around forever. His father expired when he was 26 in 1999 - midway through the World Cup. Come 2003, he blasted the way for India's journey to the World Cup finals just before he turned 30. Then came the difficult moments. Injuries, poor form and critics everywhere in media seemed adamant to end his career. A disastrous World Cup campaign in 2007, where he was pushed to bat at No. 4, did not help matters.

And then came the revival. He regained his ability to bring a nation to a standstill. To unite a country torn out by differences. To make a billion people pray together for one common cause. To light up the moments of darkness engulfing the society. To bring a smile to a forlorn face, at the same time bringing tears of joy on a smiling one. To make people forget all their sorrows and rejoice at his success. To swell millions of hearts with pride by saying 'I care about playing for India'.

If I am woken up in the middle of the night and asked who comes the closest to perfection, I will have my answer ready. Sachin has cricketing talent in abundance, and he has always had qualities that would make him a great cricketer. But what makes him the darling of India is the  kind of person he has grown up to become.

The entire nation, nay. The entire world has watched his journey from adoloscence to fatherhood, and watched it with awe. How can a man who has lived more than half his life in the glare of media, in the scrutiny of public, in the imagination of the entire cricketing world be so humble and grounded? Is it humanly possible to be a Sachin Tendulkar? He is a perfect batsman, perfect family man, perfect brand ambassador... just a perfect human being. The eye of the storm is supposed to be calmest place amidst the frenzy. SRT impersonates that eye.

His every achievement, every feather in his extra heavy cap, every milestone crossed, every record broken... all such moments have a very very special place in the hearts of Indian cricket fans. Teammates have acknowledged his great contributions. Their joy at his achievements reaffirms his status as the most loved and respected figure in the dressing room. If his younger colleagues were to choose one person for whom they will willingly give up their position on the team, most would choose Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin Tendulkar is not just a cricketer, he is an era. An era not only in cricket, an era in the life of a country, still young, seeking its identity in the world. Sachin Tendulkar has gone a long long way in establishing that identity. We are proud of you, Sachin!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Monday, 8th November 1999 (Hyderabad): He threatened to do it for the first time. But he just ran out of overs against the Kiwis and finished 186*.

Sunday, 8th March 2009 (Christchurch): We were almost sure that he'll get there. But with 5 overs to go, he retired hurt at 163.

Thursday, 5th November 2009 (Hyderabad): What a heartbreak! Not only did he get out on 175, but the Indian tail somehow contrived to lose the plot completely and succumb to the pressure.

Wednesday, 24th February 2010 (Gwalior): Finally, he gets there. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar scales the hitherto unsurmounted peak of a Double Century in One Day International Cricket, finishing 200*.

In the process, SRT has broken some more records - most fours in an ODI innings (25), most 150+ scores in ODIs (5), and of course - the highest individual score by a batsman in One Day International Cricket.

When Sachin reached 179* in 42 overs, the target I wanted him to reach was 230. That's because the highest individual score in all forms of ODIs is 229* in Women's Cricket by the legendary Australian batswoman Belinda Clark in the 1997 Women's Cricket World Cup match at Mumbai against Denmark. But given the amount of frustration MS Dhoni caused to SRT fans like me, I think I should just be glad for the 200 - 200 of the silkiest and risk-free runs that Sachin might have ever scored.

Indeed, there was no dropped chance, one run out appeal to third umpire and one stumping appeal to the third umpire - both which were not very difficult decisions. In fact, except for one ball from Steyn (fourth ball of the fifth over of the match), Sachin was not beaten even once in his 147 ball stay at the crease.

If you are not already impressed, here's another one. After the first four balls that he faced from Steyn in which he did not score a run, there was no other occasion in his entire innings where he let four consecutive balls bowled to him go runless (Thank you Cricinfo for this bit of trivia). Such was the mastery!

He almost toyed around with the young Wayne Parnell (not that the other South African bowlers were spared). His two backfoot punches square on the off side early in the innings to Parnell from around the wicket were the highlights if his innings for me. Even honey can't get sweeter!

In the last 12 months, Sachin has shown that age is having no effect on his body. If anything, it is speeding him up. What else can explain 3 scores of 150+ in ODIs in the last one year? What the heck man, most batsmen would die to get one such score in their entire career!

Amidst all of this, it is so easy to forget that India won the match by 153 runs and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. This means that India have secured the No. 2 Rank in the ICC ODI Team Rankings as on the cut off date - 1st April.

Accolades are pouring from all over the world:
- No one deserved it more than him!
- He is a true champion!
- One of the best knocks ever!
- India's Superman!
- Cricket's best brand ambassador!
- We are priveleged to be living in the Sachin era!
- Sachin's a gem of a person, apart from being a great cricketer!

And he deserves all of it. I am not sure if I will see God when I die. So till then, I am just content watching Sachin Tendulkar.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Shane Warne is uncertain. The other Aussies are not really sure as well. The South Africans, West Indians and Sri Lankans seem to be ready. The Pakistanis have not been called. The English and the Kiwis are scared. That’s the status of IPL 2010. The security issues surrounding the Third Edition of the multi-million dollar tournament have resulted in complete chaos and confusion. No one can really be certain as to who is playing this year’s tournament and who isn’t.

The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai resulted in cancellation of Champions League 2008 and abandonment of 2 ODIs between India and England. The venues for the ensuing India – England Tests were also changed before the English team could be convinced to revisit India to complete their tour.

Fourteen and a half months later, a terror strike in Pune has suddenly put the country on a red alert once again. Security issues are cropping up again everywhere. Hockey teams are scared to visit India for the Hockey World Cup. A Kiwi striker has already pulled out of the tournament due to security concerns despite the fact that his team will be playing. Doubts are being raised about the Commonwealth Games 2010 to be held later this year in New Delhi. Australia and New Zealand have been nominated as back up venues in case the Cricket World Cup 2011 is forced to be shifted from the sub – continent.

And the terrorists are happy. Their objective of creating panic in a relatively stable world is bearing fruit for them. We are giving them the encouragement that they scarcely need by showing to them that they are affecting us. That they are forcing us to change our decisions. That they are getting into our heads.

Crossing a road carries the risk of being run over by a vehicle. Riding a bike or driving a car carries the risk of meeting with an accident. Plugging in your laptop charger carries the risk of suffering an electric shock. Does that mean that you are going to stop crossing a road or riding a bike or driving a car or charging your laptop? I live in Pune. But I am not going to stop living my normal life just because a terror attack occurred in my city. I am not going to stop visiting bakeries because they are considered ‘soft targets’ for terrorists. In my own small way, I am not going to let the terrorists gain any sense of achievement from their cowardly acts.

Sportsmen have a wider appeal. This is their big chance to show to the terrorists that they are not scared. That their methods are not going to work. But our beloved sportsmen are not ready to do so. I have heard the argument that it’s a matter of life and death. But on what basis are they saying that they have ‘security issues’?

Even in a normal environment, without such security issues, cricketers are provided with a big armed force team that takes care of their security. In the current environment, they have been promised an even bigger cover. And they say they have issues!

I walk into bakeries without any security personnel surrounding me. I don’t have such issues. Why do these sportsmen then feel that they will be specifically targeted? I know terrorist organisations have issued threats of disrupting the sporting events that are to be held in India. But that is their job – issuing threats. Osama Bin Laden has issued numerous threats to USA. Does that mean that the citizens of USA should live in eternal fear that their building will suddenly collapse due to a hijacked airplane crashing into it?

India has a clean track record when it comes to security at major sporting events. We have had crowd troubles in the past, but never has there been a case of a visiting team’s bus being caught amidst gunfire. We do not have bombs exploding virtually every day in some nook or corner of the country. Then why are these sportsmen scared?

The terrorists have attacked the world that we live in for a long time now. This is our chance to counterattack. A chance to show them that they cannot govern the way we want to live our lives. A chance to show them that their methods are not going to scare us into submission. A chance to live lives on our own terms!

Monday, February 22, 2010


The penultimate legal ball of the match. 7 to win. Number 11 on strike. He pulls towards deep square leg, and the ball looks on course to reach the ropes. A 36-year old body flies across. The ball is pulled back, but no one is really certain whether it was a four or not.

Third umpire under pressure. After endlessly watching replays that revealed nothing of help, the benefit of doubt was given to the fielder, Sachin Tendulkar. While Kallis and the South African camp seemed angry, the Indian camp also looked uncertain. The batsmen had run 3, and on strike now would be Wayne Parnell (48* of 46 balls then). He was the visitors' best hope for a win. 4 needed off the last ball.

Praveen Kumar runs in and bowls one wide of the off stump. Parnell has a swing. Does not connect. Dhoni celebrates. The South African dressing room signals a wide. When umpire Tarapore does the same, that dressing room celebrates almost as if they have won it. Replays suggested that even this one was a tight call.

When the replays were being shown of Sachin Tendulkar diving and saving a run, the South Africans must have been wondering if they could get a 4 and still have Parnell on strike. Eventually, that is exactly how it turned out. One tight call went in favour of India, the next one in favour of South Africa. Poetic justice, was it?

But irrespective of the result, in a match where both the teams underperformed to produce a thriller, one man's performance stood out. Ravindra Jadeja churned out a spell of 10-2-29-2. An economy rate of 2.9 by a slow left arm bowler on a batting beauty with the threat of dew around in a match where runs were scored at 5.95. Phenomenal! Not to forget, he had also made 22 runs of 20 balls earlier in the day to help India score 298.

Jadeja produced a performance to be proud of at a time when he must have been feeling low due to the IPL fiasco. Here is a promising youngster who has been banned from a big-buck tournament that would have given him some more experience of playing with and against top international players. Why? Because he was searching for a franchise that would pay him something worth his skills. If recent performances are anything to go by, he deserves more than US$ 0.95 million. Confused? That is the value of Ishant Sharma's contract. Jadeja certainly deserves better than Sharma.

Jayaditya Gupta, in an article on the Cricinfo Magazine, talking about the Jadeja - IPL fiaso, asks a question about the young and promising cricketers on the fringes: "Who's in charge of these cricketers outside the six-week tournament?"

IPL has promised counselling for youngsters who have suddenly tasted wealth. They have promised financial counselling even for parents. But what about caring for players when the IPL is not bothered?

Jadeja, in the recent past, has been reliable and impressive with his bowling. Though not very potent a batsman, he can be depended on to rotate the strike and allow the bigger bullies in the Indian batting line up express themselves. Is it right that a player as promising as this one has been hurled into such a controversy at the age of 21 years? Couldn't he have been let off with a warning and some counselling? After all, his record thus far in his fledgling career is completely clean.

Jadeja is entitled to an appeal against the IPL decision and Niranjan Shah is supposedly going to plead his case. The members of the IPL Governing Council is the guards of this tournament. But such controversies throw up one big unanswered question: "WHO WILL GUARD THE GUARDS?"

Sunday, February 21, 2010


All right, the Tests have ended. For the next few months, we have a few ODIs and plenty of Twenty20s scheduled. It starts tomorrow - the World No. 2 ODI Team taking on the World No. 3.

Just like 2 Tests seemed far too less to decide the winner of the Battle for No. 1 in Test Cricket, 3 ODIs seem woefully insufficient to decide the winner of a Battle between No. 2 and 3 for ODIs. But considering the clout of BCCI and their obsession with Twenty20, I guess that we just have to be thankful that they are scheduling and letting us watch some Tests and ODIs.

India and South Africa take on each other in the 1st ODI at Jaipur's Sawai Mansingh Stadium with the knowledge that the team batting second is likely to hold a big advantage. Yes, the dew factor might well have a big say in this 3-ODI series. In the last ODI series played by India in Bangladesh, we saw the team batting second win 7 out of 7 matches. Is it the same in store here?

Harsha Bhogle, in an article after that Bangladesh tri - series, wrote that good teams are ones who are able to overcome not only their opposition, but also other obstacles in their way. Dew is but one of them. With two very good sides raring to go at each other after a hard - fought Test series, I hope that we can have another gripping contest beginning tomorrow. May the second best side win!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Oh no, it's not the Bollywood blockbuster that I am talking about. That one's aleady been the eye of a big storm already. I am talking about the new leader of India's pace attack... Zaheer Khan.

Cricinfo gave Zak a 7 out of 10 for his performance in the Ind-SA series. But numbers count for very little over here. He is 31 - an age where most pace bowlers go through the best phases of their respective careers. It's no different for Zak.

He burst into the international scene by yorking the batsmen facing him - a fast bowler's most potent weapon. Ironically, at the peak of his career, the yorker is the most rarely used weapon. The fast, aggressive, stare-into-the-batsman's-eyes-in-a-World-Cup-final bowler has now been replaced by a little gentler, but a lot more dangerous swing bowler, who has taken over the mantle of India's premier paceman with some admirable performances over the past 4 years.

At a time when India is truly grappling with the question of whether Harbhajan Singh (irrespective of his Eden Garden performance) is a worthy successor to Anil Kumble as the premier spinner in the country, it is the safety net that Zak offers that has helped India hold onto the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket.

Having taken 488 international wickets for the country, Zak has, for quite some time now, been the only consistent element in India's bowling ranks, especially in Tests. From the start of 2007, Zak has bowled 1000.1 overs in Test cricket, taking 113 wickets at 29.43 (his overall career average is 32.98). This period has also brought him his best bowling figures in an innings and in a match.

But here's the interesting piece of stat: 70 out of his 113 wickets (61.95%) in this period have been of batsmen who have scored less than 20 runs. Yes, even the numbers say that he has been the bowler that Dhoni (and Kumble and Dravid before him) have turned to for attacking a new batsman and getting his wicket.

What has been heartwarming to see is that all the opposition batsmen have started howing him a lot of respect - something that has rarely happenned with Indian pacers of the past. Not only his bunnies like Greame Smith, but even other contemporary greats and opposition captains like Ricky Ponting have acknowledged the importance of seeing Zaheer's spell through. Even MS Dhoni gives up his field setting authorities to Zak when he or Ishant Sharma are bowling. He might well be the new fast bowling coach of Team India.

His reverse swing bowling to dismiss Brad Haddin, Cameron White and Brett Lee (where he reversed the ball both ways) bowled - caught behind - bowled at Mohali in October 2008 was one of the highlights of this period.

As a fast bowler, it won't be long before injuries start plaguing him and being on the wrong side of 30, he is bound to tire out soon (especially with the amount of cricket that India plays these days). But I'd like to see him carry on as much as he can because India needs him. India needs him to hold onto the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket. India needs him to be there if there has to be chance in the 2011 World Cup. India needs him to be there to guide the younger generation of pacers and groom them for the responsibilities lying ahead - the responsibilities that he has carried with admirable ease.


South Africa tried very hard to pull off an England, and Hashim Amla tried to be the Paul Collingwood. In the end, South Africa choked when the No. 1 ranking was up for grabs. And Amla ended up pulling off an Andrew Strauss (check my previous blog).

I have already blogged a lot about my joy in watching the crowd at Eden Gardens. I read Sidharth Monga's article of Cricinfo - The rot in rotation yesterday, and I must say that it made a lot of sense. I'll quote a bit of what he said:

"In a recent piece in the Hindu, S Venkataraghvan, the former India offspinner, wrote about the Pongal Test in Chennai. "In Madras, this festival [traditionally in mid-January] used to be synonymous with Test cricket at Chepauk," he wrote. "Schedules were carefully drawn so that a Test match was played at Chepauk during the season."

That is like the Boxing Day and New Year's Tests in Australia and South Africa, annual events that people plan for from months ahead. The last time Chennai saw a Pongal Test, though, was in 1988, and there have been only 10 Tests there since. With nine venues and only five or six home Tests a year, it is impossible to develop such Test culture."

India has ten Test venues (alphabetically, no favouritism involved) -
1. Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai
2. Eden Gardens, Kolkata
3. Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium, New Delhi
4. Green Park Stadium, Kanpur
5. M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk), Chennai
6. M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
7. PCA Stadium, Mohali
8. Sardar Patel Stadium (Motera), Ahmedabad
9. VCA Stadium (Jamtha), Nagpur
10. Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai (temporarily unavailable due to renovation)

The most disturbing crowd attendances in Test cricket have been at Mohali, Ahmedabad and Nagpur (as stated by Sidharth Monga). And the cities where crowd has been the most disturbing for the visiting team are Kolkata and Chennai.

India plays about 5-6 Tests at home every year. I would suggest that 2 of these are awarded to Kolkata and Chennai every year. In fact, it should be so managed that like the Boxing Test (MCG) and New Year Test (SCG) tradition, Kolkata and Chennai should have a tradition of their own. In the long run, it will help prospective spectators plan their holiday schedules around it. They won't have to wait for BCCI to release the tour itinerary in order to confirm their own travel plans if they are travelling from other cities to watch these Tests.

The remaining home Tests should be awarded on the basis of a ranking system. This ranking should consider factors like last Test official crowd attendance and pitch preparation. Even domestic crowd attendance can be considered. The Ranji Trophy Final and Duleep Trophy Final showed very encouraging signs. And it's high time that Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is inducted into the list of India's Test venues.

And why only in India - may be, ICC could create a ranking system for Test grounds based on various such parameters. Then, a news flash in the future might read: India climb to No. 1 in Test Team Rankings and Eden Gardens climbs to No. 1 in Test Venue Rankings.

Friday, February 19, 2010


What is common between Hashim Amla and Andrew Strauss? These are the only two overseas batsmen to have scored two centuries in a Test match in India in this millenium. And guess what! Both ended up on the losing side.

The similarities between these two Tests (v England, Chennai 20008 and v South Africa, Kolkata 2010) and these two grounds (M.A. Chidambaram Stadium and Eden Gardens) don't end there. Dhoni lost the toss in both the matches, just as Sachin Tendulkar scored a ton. These were arguably the two most thrilling Tests to have been played in India since the unforgettable Australia series of 2001. Incidentally, the final 2 Tests in that series (the ones that make this series so memorable) were also played at Kolkata and Chennai. All of these four Tests were decided in the last session of the match. And well, one for the statisticians - these are the only two grounds in India where batsmen have managed two centuries in a Test match (5 at Kolkata and 2 at Chennai).

India will be very proud of this win, South Africa proud of their fight, and Hashim Amla proud of... himself. This win did not come on a doctored surface like in Green Park, Kanpur. In fact, South Africa had just as much of a chance on this surface as India. The same cannot be said of South Africa's series - levelling efforts against England last month.

Having said that, the Proteas can certainly walk with their heads held high. No other team can claim that in their last to visits to India, they have not lost a Test series. True, they had a disappointing Test as India had had in Nagpur. But both the Tests had a show guts, determination and perseverance - something that made this series deserving of the fight for No. 1.

Let me recount the series statistics. We saw 1 Double Century, 10 Centuries, 1 Seven-for, 1 Five-for, 1 Four-for and 5 Three-fors. We saw 12 wides being bowled by a bowler in a single innings. We saw 18 no-balls being bowled by a legspinner (what is the world coming to!) in the series. We saw a foreign batsman so comfortable in the Indian conditions that we mistook him to be an Indian (with good reason, too).

And finally, a word for the wonderful Eden crowd. It's fitting that the Kolkata crowd got a good reward for their immense passion. Given by the recent history  of crowd attendance in Tests in India, no other ground deserved to host this match as much as the Eden Gardens.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Not being able to watch a Test match at Eden Gardens live on TV feels awful. Thank God for Cricinfo! Now, this Test is living up to its billing as the battle for World No. 1 Test team status. South Africa, continuing with their momentum from the Nagpur Test, dominated two sessions of opening day’s play. India, trying to hold on to their top ranking, suddenly roared back to life. Spurred on by vociferous Kolkata crowd, Zaheer and Harbhajan turned things around and South Africa were dismissed for less than 300.

Then, it was time for ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’. Sehwag and Tendulkar made life difficult for Greame Smith’s boys, and Dale Steyn’s hostile spell of fast bowling in Nagpur might well have been story of some other time. South Africa, to their credit, did fight back. Three wickets late on Day 2 pegged India back just a little.

But India had more in store for them. The Eden Gardens specialist was due for a big score and what better time could he have chosen! VVS Laxman slowed down when Amit Mishra was trying to be Sehwag-like. But once he departed, he joined skipper MS Dhoni to grind the Proteas to a point from where even their most optimistic fans cannot hope for a return.

I am quite liking this Test Series (wish it could have been longer than 2 Tests, though). This series, thus far, is 1 and a half Test old. We have already seen 1 Double Century (Amla), 9 Centuries (Kallis, Sehwag, Sachin, Amla, Peterson, Sehwag, Sachin, Laxman , Dhoni), 1 Seven-for (Steyn), and few more good spells of fast as well as spin bowling (Steyn, Morkel, Harris, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Ishant). And what’s more, we already have 1 result and can expect another one in the next 2 days. Three debutants got a taste of Test cricket, and all of them showed mettle at some point or the other. One got a 50, another got a 100. We have even witnessed something very rare in Test cricket - 12 wides bowled by a bowler in an innings! What more could you ask for from Test matches!

This Test match is even attracting a fairly large crowd, who have been generous in their support for the home team, especially given their performance just a week back. Let’s hope this rivalry continues and the teams provide us with another thriller in the return series later this year.


He is 36 years, 9 months and 23 days old today. He just scored his 47th Test century yesterday. His 92nd in top flight international cricket. At the age when most cricketers of his generation have had stints in the commentary box, he just seems content in giving them all an evergreen subject to comment on.

The Master and his Self - Proclaimed Follower were at it once again. Statistics will tell you that Sachin Tendulkar and Virendra Sehwag have a partnership average of more than 75. They might tell you that Sehwag's knock overshadowed Sachin's art today (Sehwag has a habit of overshadowing everything thrown at him when he is in mood).

But let that not fool you. Batting has always been an art. But I doubt any artist in history has been as pleasing as our Little Master. Some might say Sir Don Bradman was better, some might add that Sir Viv Richards was better, some might even put modern contemporaries like Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara ahead of him.

But lets get this staight - no one with a bit of knowledge and in a sound state of mind can argue when I say that no cricketer in the history of cricket has had a greater impact on the game as Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin Tendulkar grew up wanting to emulate India's 1983's heroes. Though he has not managed to achieve that particular aim, he has managed something even bigger: he has managed to inspire a generation and more of youngsters who want to emulate him and help him to achieve this dream for him.

A man who made his debut when India was in pre-liberalisation period now wants to see India through to a period of a super power. He plays cricket for India - his dream career. And that's the reason why he still enjoys being there in the middle - doing what he can so that India can win matches.

Some might want to say that he has not won India enough matches. For those of you who think so, I'll post a different blog with all the statistics and counter arguements to satisfy you. Right now, you guys can take a backseat.

Sachin does not have a lot of time left in cricket (even though I feel he can go on till he is 50). So let us enjoy his cricket as much as he enjoys it himself. He sometimes makes me wonder whether I'll be enjoying my work as much as him when I am in the twilight of my career. I don't know about that right now.

All I can say right now is that blessed are those whose vocation is also their life's greatest passion.

Monday, February 15, 2010


During the third session today, Sunil Gavaskar, at one point during Harbhajan's over, remarked that Harbhajan, being a single fellow, should be bowling more maidens over... sorry, I meant, maiden overs.

Harbhajan, who had not bowled a single maiden up until then, promptly proceeded to bowl 2 maidens in what remained of the day and picked up 3 wickets on a dramatic evening that left South Africa bewildered and India overjoyed. Spurred on by the massive crowd at Eden Gardens, Zaheer and Harbhajan ensured that India end stronger on Day 1 after the situation looked bleak at the time for tea break.

On a Valentine's Sunday, Hashim Amla and debutant Alviro Peterson pounded India for majority of the day. Peterson looked impressive and Amla looked as if he had sworn that he will not get out on this tour. Sadly for him, Zaheer Khan induced an edge from him as he lost his wicket for the first time on this tour (incidentally, he had not gotten out even in the practice match against BP XI). That signalled the start of a collapse that has hauled India right back into the match.

The Eden Gardens crowd tomorrow, along with the rest of the nation, will be hoping that Gautam Gambhir continues his sublime touch that deserted him in Nagpur (for the first time in what seems like a decade). There is just one expectation from Sehwag - that he plays like Sehwag. It will be interesting who will come out to bat at No. 3 for India tomorrow, and how Dale Steyn and Co. react to the situation they are in at the moment.

Let the Lover's Day Test Match roll on.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This is why I simply adore watching Test match cricket. As I write this, South Africa are 9 down for 263 after cruising at 218 for 1 at one point. At tea, 228 for 2, everyone was thinking of the Nagpur Test and the similarities of how the events were unfolding (along with a common protagonist - Hashim Amla).

What a day of extraordinary Test match cricket this is turning out to be. One thing's for sure - had the same events unfolded in Nagpur, the match wouldn't have seemed to be as interesting as it is here at the Eden Gardens. There's just one very simple reason for this - the Kolkata crowd.

Passionate in their support for the team, the Kolkata fans have created an electric atmosphere in a home Test for India after a long time. Interestingly poised, this kind of a match is a just reward for the good crowd that has turned out.

Zaheer was whole - hearted in his performance, both with the ball and in the field (AB De Villiers' run out). And Harbhajan gets excited by the smell of late afternoon Kolkata air. With Laxman back in the side, Sehwag & Sachin with centuries under their belt in the previous Test, and the bowlers having the new found confidence and knowledge that Hashim Amla is 'dismissable', India can now barge in through the small window of oppotunity. Come on India! We still want to be No. 1!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It begins tomorrow. At the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. The match to decide who will hold the Mace. The Title of the World No. 1 Team in Test Match Cricket.

South Africa, despite having the momentum, will be nervous for certain reasons. Their biggest concern will be the fitness of their captain - the most inspirational member of their team - Greame Smith. True, Smith did not contribute a lot with his bat in his team's victorious campaign in the First Test. However, his astute leadership has been responsible for many great feats achieved by South African cricket.

The other concern for South Africa will be their historically well - chronicled ability to somehow goof it all up when their noses are in front. South Africa is perhaps the best team in the world when they are up against it. But when it comes to holding on to an advantageous position, they have not been the most successful team around. Will the C-word come to haunt them again at the Eden Gardens?

India, on the other hand, despite their loss, will be a lot more positive with the fitness of a certain VVS Laxman. VVS has had a great liking for this ground, like one another member of the team - Harbhajan Singh. I have been saying it for quite some time - Harbhajan Singh does not deserve a place in this squad, irrespective of the history surrounding him and the venue.

Voices from many quarters are saying that VVS should take up the No. 3 spot. This will mean that Murali Vijay will have to be pushed down to No. 5 or 6 spot, along with Subramanium Badrinath. Vijay, a specialist opener, in the lower middle order in a team that is trying to retain the mantle of the World No. 1 Test team? I don't think so.

Agreed, even South Africa has been playing Ashwell Prince, a middle order bat, in the opening spot, albeit unsuccessfully. But that does not mean that India should also try such tinkerings. If an opener cannot be accomodated in the opening slot, then the only place that he should play is at No. 3.

I read an interesting post on the bog 'A Cricketing View' that said that Gautam Gambhir should be tried at No. 3  for this Test. I quite like the idea. Gambhir has been a consistent No. 3 in the ODI arena, when SRT opens with Viru. If Vijay and Sehwag were to open in the Second Test, it would also mean (as mentioned in that blog) that Morne Morkel will have to bowl to two right handers first up. Given the fact that his round-the-wicket line has troubled many left handers of late, this might actually be a workable solution.

With the Gambhir at No. 3, Laxman can be allowed to play at his familiar No. 5 position, shepherding the tail - a role that he understands very well now. VVS has proven himself to be indispensable for India in that role.

After all this speculation, what a shame it would be if another Indian batsman were to injure himself 15 minutes before the toss tomorrow!

Friday, February 12, 2010


The big news in the smaller cricketing circles is the progress made by Afghanistan in their cricket. Their star paceman, Hamid Hassan, has already likened the success of the Afghan cricket team to that of Rocky. 22 year old Hasan, who has played at Lord's, played for MCC Young Cricketers' Team and the Pakistan Customs team, was quoted as saying, "I think that there is a similarity in the story of Rocky and the Afghanistan cricket team - we both started at the bottom and gradually made our way up the rankings."

Last year, the Afghan team missed out on qualifying for the World Cup 2011 to be held in the sub - continent. Now, they are at Dubai on the verge of qualification into the World Twenty20 World Cup to be held in the Caribbean islands in May.

Continuing on his Rocky theme, Hassan adds: "We all want to win the tournament. Having the chance to play against India or South Africa at the ICC World Twenty20 really would be like Rocky having the chance to fight the champion and we are determined to make our dreams come true."

Afghanistan are certainly on a high having an undefeated run in the Qualifying tournament so far. Not only did they beat the more fancied Ireland and Scotland, they have also beaten the United States of America comprehensively in a match that they desperately wanted to win because of their recent past.

Even though the journey gets more difficult for them from here on (Netherlands later today and hosts UAE tomorrow), one wouldn't put in past Afghanistan to be seen in their blue and red apparels at the Providence Stadium, Guyana or the Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, St Lucia taking on either West Indies or India in their first taste of the highest level of the game.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The Indian team got a taste of reality over the last four days. It was embarassing to watch the match as an Indian fan. So, mid-way through the third day, I changed my mindset - I decided to watch the match as a cricket fan rather than an Indian cricket fan. Oh, it was so much more enjoyable then!

The South African team taught many lessons to a lot of people in India.

Lesson No. 1: While Steyn, Morkel and even Parnell (playing just his 2nd Test) were head and shoulders above the Indian seamers, even Paul Harris showed that he can be considered a better option than India's premier spinner Harbhajan Singh. Though Zaheer and Mishra did put in whole - hearted performances, it just cannot be compared to the South African effort - partly due to luck, but mainly due to skill and perseverance (in case of Harris).

Lesson No. 2: Amla and Kallis collectively scored 426 runs for South Africa in just one innings losing just one wicket between them. India's top 7 managed an aggregate of 410 runs in two attempts losing a total of 14 wickets between them. Here, I am very tempted to quote what Avijit Ghosh wrote in his blog 'Addiction' on Times of India:
"It is important to regularly play Test matches with teams with good bowling attacks. At the moment, only Australia, South Africa and Pakistan have penetrative all-wicket attacks. Playing against teams with ordinary bowlers gives an inflated sense of a batsman’s ability. Dhoni, for instance, is a master of mediocre bowling but is hardly the same batsman against stronger attacks. Closely examine his run of scores and you’ll know what I mean. And he was giving Harris more respect than he deserved."

Lesson No. 3: It does not matter that your coach has resigned just before coming into a very big series. It does not matter that your entire selection panel has been sacked. It does not matter that your cricket board is about to be restructured. What really happens on the 22 yards and the grass around it is what decides who the No. 1 Team in the world is going to be. And yes, amidst all this, they showed that even a selection panel that faced the ignomity of being sacked is better than the Indian selection panel.

Lesson No. 4: This lesson has already been covered by the quote from Avijit Ghosh's blog above. The BCCI needs to learn this lesson, and learn it fast. India needs to stop playing Sri Lanka every now and again. India need to face more of South Africa, Australia and even England in Test cricket. A 100 run loss in an ODI does hurt, but an innings defeat in a Test match at home humiliates. I hope BCCI gets the point and pays more attention to Test cricket.

Lesson No. 5: This is the most obvious one - fielding. No one really expected Indian fielding to match up to South African standards - and it didn't. Even though our fielding was not really street - level, but there is still a lot of scope for improvement.

Lesson No. 6: Perhaps the most important lesson of them all! The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag and Rahul Dravid are still needed to guide the newer players. Their role in the team is perhaps more important than that of Dhoni himself. Everyone is talking about preparing for the transition period that India will have to face. But something that needs to be understood here is that the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid are needed to prepare the younger generation for the transition.

In the first innings, Badrinath lost his wicket soon after Sehwag got out. In the second innings, the writing on the wall became crystal clear once Sachin got out. To use examples of our recent past, Dravid and Sachin were needed to see India to respectability in the recent Bangladesh tour. In the Hyderabad ODI against Australia (better remembered for Sachin's masterly 175), Ravindra Jadeja looked cool as cucumber with Sachin at the other end. But as soon as he got out, Jadeja lost his cool and his wicket going for a suicidal single. There are a lot many more such cases, if only we could open our eyes to them.

The young guns on India all look promising. But they will need the help of their seniors to fulfill their promise. There are no two ways about it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Okay, so I am on my way to get the prediction made in my last blog completely wrong. I would have thought before tea that a draw should not be too difficult a result for India to achieve on a slow paced Nagpur wicket. What I had not anticipated was Steyn's immaculate spell of reverse swing bowling after tea, the spell in which his figures read 5 wickets for 3 runs in 22 balls with 2 maidens. What more can a captain really ask for from his numero uno fast bowler?

The day started badly with an in-form Gautam Gambhir falling to Morkel without adding to his overnight score. Morkel's around-the-wicket line came back to trouble him in the evening, when he misjudged one to see his off stump kissed by the cherry. Sidharth Monga's bulletin on the 3rd day's play on Cricinfo said about Gambhir: "When it's not your day, it's probably not your evening either". After equalling Sir Viv Richards' record of scoring a fifty in 11 successive Tests, Gambhir could manage only 13 runs in this Test. As a matter of fact, he managed to score just 1 run today getting out twice to Morkel. Has Morkel found a new Andrew Strauss?

The other man to get out twice during the day, Virendra Sehwag, showed maturity for 212 minutes before throwing it all away. However, more than his first innings dismissal, I think that it's his second innings cheap dismissal that will have a bigger impact on the result of the match.

Dale Steyn. The blogs are buzzing about his achievement today. He got 8 wickets today (7 in the 1st innings and Sehwag in the 2nd). Five of those were specialist batsmen (if you count Saha as one). And what's worse for India, he is likely to get more tomorrow and finish with a 10-wicket haul for the match.

Yes, there are people (including Viru) praying for a repeat of Kolkata 2001. Some are even thinking of invoking the rain Gods. But the mood that he was in today, I doubt Steyn would have any of that distracting him tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010


As I write this Dhoni has opened his account on the 15th ball that he faced and Badrinath has reached his maiden Test fifty in his Test debut. All this after Sehwag's responsible-till-his-dismissal-shot innings of 109 very valuable runs for India and Dale Steyn's fiery spell of fine swing bowling in the morning (very ably supported by Morne Morkel).

South Africa dominated India over the last 2 days (except for the first hour on the first day). And they have continued their dominance even today, despite Sehwag's knock. It's weird that no Indian batsman, apart from Sehwag, averages 50+ against South Africa in India. There will be chances over the course of this series, but it will not be an easy task if Dale Steyn has his say.

Dale Steyn has been in tremendous form since his return after injury in the Second Test against England. His spell to Paul Collingwood in the Third Test would have fetched him a 5-for on any other day. Lady Luck was just not happy with him that day. But he made up for it in the Fourth Test, finally getting a 5-for that he deserved in the previous Test itself. And now, with his outstanding spell this morning, he is well on his way to having an outstanding series here in India as well.

However, despite India's troubles, I think that the most likely result of this match is a draw. There are 7 more sessions left in the match. Assuming that South Africa would want atleast 2 sessions of batting for themselves to set India a reasonable target, India has to bat out 5 sessions for 16 wickets. Given the batting form of the team, I do not think this should be a very difficult task (despite having two debutants).

I hope that Badri can manage a good score here and push Yuvraj Singh out of the Test spot. At the age of 29, his chance was overdue.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


A lot happenned today. West Zone's unbelievable win in Duleep Trophy Finals and Kallis' unbelievable knock in the Battle for No. 1. I want to talk about how the day passed for me today.

0900 - Dhoni lost his third Test toss in a row and his counterpart, Smith expectedly decided to bat on a very brown pitch. But what followed next was a shock. W Saha makes his debut replacing VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma (who also injured himself in the morning). A line up already missing out on Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh (not that he is a big loss, but still!), now misses out on VVS Laxman and also the man who was to replace him. How many more things could go wrong!

1000 - The morning started well! Zaheer Khan struck twice early and South Africa were 6 for 2. An opening spell of 6-4-2-2. Exciting stuff. A few hundred kilometers away in Hyderabad, Yusuf Pathan had also resumed his battle for West Zone and closed in on his century.

1100 - Kallis and Amla were playing sensibly. Pinal Shah was also batting sensibly with his broken finger. But Yusuf Pathan had gone mad. Maintaining a strike rate of over 100, he made the South bowlers feel helpless (not helped by the fact that their fielders had buttered their fingers instead of the toast on the breakfast table).

1200 - Lunch break scheduled to end in 10 more mins. West looking set for a win. India and South Africa even stevens though the momentum was certainly shifting towards the Proteas.

1300 - Yusuf looked set for a double hundred and a domestic match was turning out to be more interesting than a Test match between the two top nations in the world.

1400 - West Zone had completed a historic win (chasing 541 is a world record for the highest fourth innings successful run chase in first class cricket). Yusuf was 210*. Will this innings be the turning point of his career? Meanwhile, Kallis and Hashim Amla were continuing serenely, untroubled by the happenings around them.

1500 - Tea break came and went. Zaheer induced a couple of edges off Amla's bat with his reverse swing bowling. But luck was with the Proteas.

1600 - The truth is sinking in - Kallis and Amla have played faultless batting roles (Kallis - faultless; Amla - near faultless). Hats off to them, man! Even when they come against the team you support, you have no option but to appreciate strong performances such as these.

1635 - End of 1st day's play. For a change, India was ahead of the over rate and managed to get in 91 overs for the day (can they take credit of this the next time they are slow?). But the day belonged, without any doubt, to Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla... and of course, Yusuf Pathan.

A good Saturday, on the whole!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


February 11, 2010: it's going to be an interesting day for cricket. I know that India v South Africa First Test gets over on 10th and a New Zealand - Bangladesh ODI hardly qualifies as interesting.

Well, it's not going to be interesting in the conventional sense. It's going to be an interesting day because Afghanistan take on the United States of America at Dubai in the World T20 Qualifiers Tournament. This tournament will decide which associate nations will take part in the World T20 Championship to be held in the Caribbean Islands in June this year.

If you are still wondering what's so interesting about this match (I hope not!), then let me remind you that USA (or rather George W. Bush) had, in the not so distant past, declared a war on Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism. I guess that I would be right in presuming that many of Afghanistan's cricketers might have lost their near and dear ones as a direct result of that war. The scars have certainly not faded. They will be keen and desperate to get the better of USA on the cricket field.

I know that this rivalry does not match the hype and passion generated by an Indo - Pak or an Ashes contest, but its going to be a heated battle nonetheless. Afghanistan are on a roll, and are being regarded as the most improved Associate side during the last year. USA, on the other hand, has failed to live up to the initial promise shown by them. However, they will have the advantage of having Lennox Cush in their team. Lennox Cush, incidentally, played a part in the infamous Stanford Superstars versus England match, and so will have some experience of top - flight cricket behind him.

I doubt this match will generate a lot of crowd (scheduled to start at 10:00 am on a weekday), but Afghanistan can expect the support of whatever little Dubai crowd gathers at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.


South Africa has expectedly drawn their practice match against the Indian Board President's XI team at Nagpur. Nagpur - the venue that has been written in South Africa's cricket history with bold BLACK letters. Nagpur - the city where Hansie Cronje's wrongdoings came to the notice of the Delhi police, who then went on to reveal their findings to the world.

It seems surreal somehow to remember that match. March 19, 2000. It was the first ever match I had seen live in a cricket stadium. Much like others, I watched with awe as Herschelle Gibbs tore into the Indian attack. Much like others, I was surprised when Derek Crookes, an innocuous off spinner, was given the ball in the second over of the Indian innings. Much like others, even my heart was in my mouth when Sachin almost gave away his wicket in that very over by playing a miscued shot in the air. Much like others, even I was disappointed when Sachin got out in the 90s (I didn't know then that this would be called routine in 2007). And much like others, even I was heartbroken when India lost by 10 runs chasing 321.

When Ravi Shastri was conducting his post match presentation ceremony, I had no clue that on reaching home and switching on the TV, I'll hear an audio transcript of Hansie Cronje's conversation with a match fixer deciding the details of the match that had just gotten over. I was much too young to understand the serious ramifications of what had just unfolded in front of my eyes (I was just 11 then!). Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew... I knew this was no routine. This was something big.

The world has changed a lot since then. In the current South African team in Nagpur, only Mark Boucher remains from a decade ago. The same Mark Bouher who coaxed Gibbs into revealing the truth of that day in front of the King Commission in South Africa. Boucher, just like Greame Smith, will be hoping that the ghosts of Nagpur 2000, the ghosts of Hansie Cronje's team, do not return to haunt their performance during the First Test.


Three coaches have been in news over the past week: Arthur Mickey (now an ex-coach of South Africa) has gotten the maximum news bytes after his bolt-from-the-blue resignation; Ottis Gibson created some news by resigning as the bowling coach of England and taking over as the head coach of West Indies; and Gary Kirsten renewed his contract with the BCCI as the coach of  India, thereby squashing all rumours that Cricket South Africa was trying to recruit him.

What really defines a coach's role in a cricket team? Or for that matter, what is the role of the entire supporting staff that accompanies a cricket team? It's common knowledge by now that England's support staff has a bigger strength than their team. There are all kinds of coaches - head coach, assistant coach, batting coach, fast  bowling coach, spin bowling coach, fielding coach, wicket-keeping coach, mental conditioning coach, and the list goes on. Then there are various managers - head manager, assistant manager, media manager, et cetera. And we have more back room staff - video analyst, masseur, physiotherapist, trainer and more.

The strange thing is - everyone of them has a role to play. Sachin Tendulkar, on completion of his 20 years in international cricket, acknowledged the role of all the coaches and the supporting staff that he'd been with. I thought that there was only so much a cricket team could do off the field!

Going by the current trends, what are new possible coaching / supporting roles that might open up in the times to come? I have come up with a few possibilities as job openings with cricket teams: IPL Recruitment Manager (to ensure that the players are selected in the auction), Team Chef (so that Shahid Afridi does not go hungry again), Board of Selectors Negotiation Manager (so that the captain gets a team of his choice always), Multiple Captain's Coach (a role for John Buchanan in KKR), Multiple Mistresses Manager (so that cases like John Terry and Tiger Woods do not come out in the open - a role for Paddy Upton maybe?),... and well, I really cannot think of any more.

Do come up with your own ideas and let me know. Lets see if BCCI is interested in our list.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Reading my posts on this blog, one would think that I am obsessed with Pakistan cricket. The truth is that I am. There are a few things that are guaranteed every time Pakistan plays cricket: plenty of amusement and lots of controversies.

I have already posted a couple of blogs regarding the latest piece of amusing controversy: Shahid Afridi's bite. What amuses me even more is the kind of reactions that have been generated, especially from one former Pakistan captain and reputed commentator Ramiz Raja.

Ramiz Raja has said that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) must set up an inquiry committee to look into the reason(s) why Afridi committed such an act. "It is not a small matter and needs to be looked into as it should never have happened."

Tell me one thing Mr. Ramiz Raja, what do you want the inquiry committee to ask Afridi? He has already admitted that he is embarassed by the incident. Or do you want the inquiry commitee to probe on his daily diet, and what did he eat during the mid - innings break that day, and find out the cause for his sudden hunger? In such a case, the PCB might need to set up a committee that includes dieticians.

May be he wants the PCB to send a team of chefs on tour with the cricket team wherever they go, so that the players do not remain hungry and do not resort to eating cricket balls.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


South Africa started their campaign in India with a practice match today against the Board President's XI Team at the home city of the Board's President (yes, that's Nagpur). This match is being played in the old VCA Stadium in Nagpur, the stadium that hosted the match when Australia conquered the final frontier under Gilchrist's leadership on a green top (Sourav Ganguly infamously pulled out of the match just before the toss).

The first Test is to be played at the new VCA Stadium (Jamtha). And if the last few matches on this venue are any indication, this pitch will be a batting beauty, though a little on the slower side. Despite this shortcoming, India comprehensively beat Australia in the only Test match held on this ground. I do not think South Africa will be easy to counter.

Morne Morkel (the biggest threat in my opinion) and Wayne Parnell (3 wickets each) have gotten their chance to get accustomed to the conditions in Nagpur. They have showed that they can be big threats. Dale Steyn does not need to show it, he has proved it in the past (remember Ahmedabad?) that he is dangerous. India's middle order will have one debutant and another playing just his fourth Test. The only concern for South Africa will be their batting, which has not been very inspiring in the England series. I do not count their spin department as a concern for the simple reason that they have never depended on it.

The batters will have their chance to get a bit of match practice in on Wednesday against Board President's XI's attack. Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy would like to have a few runs in their kitty and a boost to their confidence. And by the way, Dhoni is yet to lose a Test as a captain. An intriguing battle is on cards.


Did you know that there are only 1411 tigers left in India? We say that tiger is our 'National Animal'. Soon, we'll have only pictures and statues of our National Animal. Have a look at this video below:

Click on this link to join in support. Save the TIGER!

Monday, February 1, 2010


"Perhaps he didn't appreciate the lunch he was given in Australia." This is what Greame Smith had to say on Afridi's ball - biting act in Sunday's nail - biting finish at Perth.

Michael Jeh, a cricket writer based in Brisbane remarks, "Shahid Afridi’s actions today rank right up there with Dumb and Dumber."

Kamran Abbasi, arguably Pakistan's most reputed cricket writer hits the nail on the head. "We saw the daft side of Afridi, his ill-disguised bite of the cricket ball, a white and rather scruffy cherry. Pakistan were in with a shout, Afridi leading impressively, but he never looked the same after his appetite got the better of him and he was reprimanded by the umpires."

Pakistan's coach, Intikhab Alam, also seemed clueless. "It just happened, probably he was eating an apple you know."

Former Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, pondered, "What Afridi did was unacceptable and more worrying is the fact that he was captain when he tried to tamper with the ball. He didn't do any good service to Pakistan cricket with his actions. The match referee Ranjan Madugalle has been kind to Afridi, giving him just a two-match ban or else Afridi could have been in bigger trouble."

But what did Afridi himself have to say about his act? "I was just trying to smell it, how it is feeling." How do you smell with your teeth? I remember vaguely from my early school science lessons that tongue assists in smelling activities. Was that Afridi's intention?

A lot has been said and heard on this issue already. A lot more is still to come. Though Afridi has admitted that he is embarassed by the situation, I doubt this is the last bit of stupidity we will see from him on the cricket field. Burp!


As expected, the blogosphere is buzzing with the "AFRIDI BITES BALL" controversy. I have read a lot of these blogs, and there is this one article that I found to be an interesting view. Here is the link: A Cricketing View: Ball-Tampering: Afridi v Broad.

This article talks about Stuart Broad's outrageously innocent (or innocently outrageous) remarks that he was just being too lazy in temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade. The English team's stand is compared to that of Afridi's. Afridi, atleast, admits that he made a mistake and is embarassed by it.

Lets rewind a bit. In the recent South Africa - England Test series in South Africa, Stuart Broad bowls a ball. The batsman defends it with a straight bat and the ball rolls towards the bowler. Broad, in his followthrough, steps on the ball in order to stop it from rolling any further. There are murmurs, which soon turn into whispers and then accusations, that this is the reason why the English pacers have been generating early reverse swing.

In both the cases (Broad and Afridi), I think that there will be a unanimous conclusion that the ball's condition was not affected to the extent that it will generate enormous amount of reverse swing. And in both the cases, the result of the match was not affected by the acts of the subjects.

However, if Afridi was handed a ban of 2 T20 Internationals and labelled as 'cheat', why not Stuart Broad? Is it because his father, Chris Broad, is a senior member of ICC's Elite Panel of Match Referees (as claimed by Sunil Gavaskar)? Is it just because he is English and Afridi is a Pakistani (as claimed by Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan)?

How many times have we seen varying standards in the way ICC metes out the punishments to offenders? How many times have we demanded that we want the system to be standardised? Yet, such issues keep on cropping up. No one is claiming that Afridi was right in chewing the cherry. But he was right in admitting his wrongdoings. This is where Stuart Broad erred.

I think ICC should revisit the Stuart Broad incident and announce a similar verdict to that of Afridi there. After all, stepping on the ball is a way of tampering with the ball (it has been attempted in the past by Hansie Cronje). I know that ICC, being ICC, is not going to do anything about the Broad incident. Yet, I think it is a duty of all the cricket bloggers to lodge our protests in our own silent ways.


A lot has happened in the international sporting arena since I posted my last blog. Roger Federer prevented Andy Murray from becoming the first Brit in more than 7 decades to win a Men's Singles Grand Slam title (in the process, he helped himself to a 16th Grand Slam title) at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Manchester United defeated Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London to move closer to the league leaders, Chelsea. Australia completed a second whitewash over Pakistan this season (this one, admittedly, was not very easy to achieve). And yes, Afridi discovered that he has a large appetite for cricket balls.

Afridi has almost played 300 ODIs for Paksitan and also featured in a handful of Tests and T20s. He has been around for more than 13 years on the international circuit and seen many controversies from a close distance. A man (or is he still a boy) of his experience should not be attempting such stupid stunts.

He has been banned for the next two T20 Internationals that Pakistan is scheduled to play - one against Australia (that will end this disastrous tour for them) and one against England in the UAE. What interests me here is that recently, Dhoni was banned for 2 ODIs due to his team's slow over rate. Does this mean that ICC qualifies slow over rate and ball tampering as equal offences?

I know that in terms of punishments, ICC equates 1 Test ban to a 2 ODI ban (which is reasonable in my view). But now, they are equating 1 T20 International to an ODI. I do not think that's correct. Despite having seen 2 World Cups, I do not think that international T20 fixtures have acquired the same level of seriousness as an ODI or a Test.

I am just trying to say that Afridi should count himself lucky at having gotten away with a 2 T20 Internationals ban. It could have been much worse for him. Hopefully, this is a lesson learnt for him and he will come back with a greater appetite (for runs and wickets, not cricket balls).

Oh my God! I am simply speechless (and that's not because I have a ball in my mouth). I don't understand how on earth does Pakistan cricket find so many innovative ways of landing themselves into controversies. And I'll tell you the funniest bit in this incident is an act of a Sri Lankan, not a Pakistani. Asoka De Silva, the umpire, after taking the ball from Afridi for inspection, was trying to smell the ball. Don't tell me that he knows which toothpaste is Afridi using!