Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Whichever news channel I decide to view, there is just one story – the story of man’s greed taking over as his primal instinct. The news that some cricketers from Pakistan were involved in spot-fixing during their English summer, and might even have been involved in match-fixing during this tour or in the Asia Cup and the Australian tour before this has saddened cricket. 

The former cricketers of Pakistan, the parliamentarians there and every man on the street – all of them have the same view: the system needs to clean itself and weed out all those agents that defile it. They want all the cricketers involved in this muck to be banned from cricket for life and they think that the system will be clean again. I am afraid it cannot happen that way!

I can understand the anger and frustration of each one who wants stern action to be taken. Corruption has been a disease that has plagued cricket for quite a while now… showing its ugly head every once in a while and then diving back underground before the persons responsible to keep this game clean come to try and smash it. For a change, this time the head is stuck above the ground and we have a chance to give this disease a crippling blow. However, if the correct measures are not taken, then we will give it an opportunity to hide back underground and it will continue to disease our game of cricket for a long time to come!

But what exactly are the steps that need to be taken? A life ban? A heavy fine? Both? Have we not seen Pakistan Cricket Board impose such penalties time and again to various individuals in their set-up? Has it helped? I don’t think so! In fact, PCB’s actions have contributed in a big way to make Pakistan (as Ramiz Raja put it) ‘the laughing stock’ of cricketing world today.

To solve this problem, we need to get to the root of it. Why do such problems occur? Why do players get involved in such corruption? Is it just greed? Greed is an element of every human’s nature. Some manage to curb it, some are not so successful! But if greed was the only reason involved here, then surely there should have been occasions when players from Australia, England and New Zealand also got implicated in such scandals? I have never heard of cricket corruption in these countries. It’s only Pakistan and India, along with some odd instances in South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh. Even if there have been instances of cricket corruption in these countries, they have been the oddity rather than the norm as it has come to become in Pakistan.

I had a long discussion with a friend on this issue… and we came up with a few viewpoints… a few opinions on why corruption in cricket is more common in the sub-continent than in other countries…

Cricketers from Pakistan and India have to cope up with extremism on a large scale… every good performance will be hailed as their best ever and every defeat will be labelled as a ‘shameful’ one! Those very fans that put them on high pedestals after a win will desert them in times of defeats.

Consider the case of Mohammed Aamer… in such a scenario, what will he be doing? A highly-talented teenager touted by everyone as the next Wasim Akram, Mohammed Aamer has given everyone a reason to expect great stuff from him. But he knows that when things don’t go his way, his fans are going to desert him and his Board will not support him! In such a scenario, if a crooked bookie comes across and offers him to bowl a few seemingly harmless no-balls to make a quick buck, why would he say no? He is watching cricketers with much lesser talent than him making huge amounts of money elsewhere in the world… then why would he say no to a chance to earn at least what he deserves, even if it is not the right way! How is he to know that what is spot-fixing today might just turn into a nasty habit and that he might get involved in match-fixing tomorrow? How is he to know that the money that the bookies and others are earning as a result of his no-balls is going in the wrong hands? How is he to know that that very money is the root cause of a lot of terrorism that exists in the very country where he lives?

For this young man, this is an act of immature desperation. Men in Pakistan and India, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas, have to feed numerous mouths in one household using one pair of hands (and one pair of legs to bowl no-balls) that they have. If a seemingly innocuous no-ball is providing them with supplementary income, then why will they say no? I doubt an 18-year old Mohammed Aamer, given his background and upbringing, is mature enough to understand this.

The point I am trying to make here is that it is not only an act of greed… but also an act of desperation! Desperation can make people do dangerous things… match-fixing and spot-fixing are but two illustrations of those!

So what now? How should they be punished? What punishment will act as a lesson for these individuals involved and will also act as a deterrent to other individuals from committing such acts of desperation? The problem with cricket’s way of handing out punishments such as bans is that it is intended to be a warning to others who might be getting tempted to trudge onto this path… but it does not intend to teach any lesson to the men involved in these syndicates except cause them to stay away from the game.

When handed a ban, a cricketer can go through any of these three situations (or rather these three were the situations that my friend and I could think of… there might be more). One, he could miss the game and repent having done what he did! Second, he might just drift away from the game… losing any interest in clearing his name or contribute for the betterment of the game that once was a way of his life! And third, he may not change at all – still remaining that corrupt individual who is a menace not only to the game but also to the society.

The third situation is the most dangerous one… as it harms the society that he live in. He becomes the centre of all the wrongdoings in his circle and helps corrupt the minds of young talents like Aamer!

Coming back to the point, the punishment that they receive should shame them and make them repent their acts and deeds. A fine will not help… they can earn whatever money they have lost through fines by getting involved in more of these ugly activities. A ban may help if it makes the person miss the game and long for it. But does it happen in every case? Is every individual that big a lover of the game that he would not mind giving up his previous ways of life just to get another chance to represent his country at the highest level? Does everyone have that sort of courage? If the answer is no, then we lose out on emerging talents due to the menace of corruption.

One may say what difference it makes if one talented individual is lost because of the lesson that we wanted to teach to the other emerging talents. But what we overlook is the fact that this disease of corruption is going to strike the best talents first… because they are the best investment opportunities, especially when young. How many such talents are we willing to lose out on?

Then what punishment suits them? Frankly, this is one question that I am struggling to come up with an opinion to. However, as a person who lives in a country that earned her independence by using Gandhian principles, I know one thing about how these young men need to be dealt with: we need to SHAME them, not frame them.

When the match-fixing scandal broke out in 2000, something similar was done. There was a need to ban cricketers like Hansie Cronje, Mohammed Azharuddin and Salim Malik as they were too heavily involved in this scandal. But the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Herschelle Gibbs and others, who had had certain allegations (proven as well as unproven) levelled against them were given further chances. These guys were hugely talented… too precious to lose out on! But they were given the message by the authorities – that if need be, we can act tough. We can impose the life bans and destroy your careers. But we are giving you another opportunity. Come back on the right track and make a name for yourself in cricket’s rich history. If you do not do so, you will be disgraced forever.

That is the message that needs to be sent across to Salman Butt and Mohammed Aamer. The case of Mohammed Asif is entirely different though. This is not the first occasion that we are seeing his name involved with activities that bring the game of cricket to disrepute. He is becoming into some sort of a habitual wrongdoer. He will need to be taught a more severe lesson than the others.

In the end, my stand is pretty clear. I want to see a second chance given to these players who are not too heavily involved in this murky world yet. They need to be shamed publicly, yes! But they need to be given another chance. There is no point in imposing a ban that will be overturned a few years down the line… as it happened with Salim Malik. That not only leaves a wrong message, it also encourages these activities.

They should get a second chance if they prove themselves worthy of it… because if we don’t allow second chances, then cricket’s will become a sorry society where no lessons will be learnt… and none taught either!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have no idea about when the spot-fixing scandal broke out. In fact, I have not been in too much touch with cricket lately. I have been keeping up with the scores and updates... but I did not have any clue about this piece of news.

The two pieces of cricket that I did witness was the package of Mohammed Aamer's 6 wickets at Lord's and India's attempt to chase 300 in the finals against Sri Lanka at Dambulla. It was quite a bit of a shock to me to hear the names of Aamer and Salman Butt right in the centre of this spot-fixing controversy.

This is sad... really sad for cricket and the way forward for Pakistan's cricket looks extremely bleak to me. Just when I thought that they were recovering from the Shahid Afridi's I-Can't-Play-Test-Cricket scandal, another bolt strikes. Installing Salman Butt as the captain seemed to be a very good move to me... but sadly, it might well backfire.

Salman Butt's test captaincy record is not too bad - 2 wins and 3 losses in 5 games... with the wins coming against the top sides in international cricket... and all the matches played on difficult foreign conditions. But the spot-fixing controversy has ensured that none of that will be looked into when the PCB sits for its next meeting on corruption in their cricket!

The world may not be shocked or even surprised by this latest outbreak of corruption allegations... but it is certainly saddened. Cricket does not need any of this!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Not that I haven't seen him do it in the past, but it still is a weird sight to see Virendra Sehwag get to his century with a tame tap square on the offside for a single against a finger spinner.

But it doesn't matter! Well played, Sehwag and congratulations on your 13th ODI Century (finally) at Dambulla against New Zealand!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Whenever MS Dhoni's One Day team puts in disastrous performances like the one that was witnessed today, I like to think about out Test team... just to lighten up my dark mood!

So today, I decided to do a bit of number-searching. Here's what I found - India's performance in last 25 Test matches: Win - 12, Loss - 5, Draw - 8.

I have blogged a lot about how India's bowling unit (even in Tests) is very poor, but India is till managing to hold on to the No. 1 spot on the strength of its mighty batting. I decided to search for numbers that prove my viewpoint.

In these 25 Tests, India's bowling has managed to pick up 20 opposition wickets only on 11 occasions. So it's surprising to see 12 wins in the above stats, isn't it? That 1 win without grabbing 20 wickets (we did take 19 though) came against England in Chennai, where after England's declaration on their 9th second innings wicket, Sehwag led a brutal assault on the Kevin Pietersen - led team to mastermind an unprecedented chase on the Indian soil.

Coming back to the point, have you noticed that every time that the Indian bowling unit picks up 20 wickets in a Test, our batting manages to have enough runs on the board to win the Test... 'Time' is an immaterial factor in India's batting unit - there are men who save it, there are men who waste it, and there are men who can do both of it!

This stat is a remarkable one. Though I have not checked for the other teams, I am sure not many teams will be able to boast of having won every Test in which they have picked up 20 opposition wickets. This is a testimony to the remarkable abilities of India's batting stalwarts!

On the other hand, India has lost 20 wickets in only 6 occasions in these 25 Tests. And on one of these 6 occasions, the batsmen had scored more than enough to seal a win... so India's batting has truly failed only on 5 occasions in Test cricket over 2 and a half years! It may still not be the hallmark of a Test Champion side, but which other side has managed to perform as such over the last few years!?

Sehwag, the only one to have featured in each one of these 25 matches, scores at the rate of more than 100 runs per Test match... amassing 2598 runs during this period. Four batsmen have managed more than 15 scores of 50 or above... (Laxman - 17 from 23 Tests, Sehwag - 17 from 25 Tests, Sachin 16 from 23 Tests and Gambhir 16 from 18 Tests).

Though Raina has made a promising debut (albeit on the flattest track I have seen for quite some time), I am quite uncertain about life after Sachin, Rahul and VVS. They will have a lot of learning to do... and it is not going to be easy!

Masters at what they do...

P.S.: Amidst all these numbers, you might have failed to notice that only 1 Test of India's last 25 have resulted in 20 wickets falling... and guess where it came!?

In a stadium, which in its small history, has been known to be one of the flattest of tracks... it is the VCA Stadium (Jamtha), Nagpur against Australia!


India's One Day team has put up another horrible performance in Dambulla. There are cries that I hear about poor umpiring. Granted, the umpiring was poor... but the only ones who lost out due to that kind of umpiring were Sehwag and Yuvraj.

Sehwag is in top form and will feel genuinely disappointed at being given out on a ball where most Elite Panel umpires would kept have fingers to themselves. Yuvraj, on the other hand, was getting some very valuable practice in match conditions in a lost cause... but considering that he has been in a very bad form and really needed that practice, he will feel wronged on being cut short by an Asad-Rauf-howler.

Well, as for Dinesh Karthik... the decision may have been wrong, but the umpire just reduced the suffering for Dinesh Karthik and the Indian fans. That guy has now had more than enough opportunities. How he manages to maintain his place as the first replacement to a top-order batsmen with just 20s and rare 30s is beyond my understanding (actually not, it's obviously the Cheeka factor)! And Suresh Raina just had to shrug off his piece of bad luck after having encountered good luck just a few moments before.

And there is no excuse for Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni. Rohit Sharma frustrates an Indian fan like very few others can... he is so obviously full of unconverted talent! I now fully appreciate the angst of a Bangladesh cricketer over the case of Mohammed Ashraful. In fact, I have a feeling that even I can get Sharma's wicket on my bowling. The only thing I do well is bowl those gentle dibbly-dobbly off-cutters... but then, that is how Rohit Sharma gets out! I can keep bowling those in the knowledge that very soon Sharma will get his front leg across and I will catch him plumb in front!

And MS Dhoni... the skipper! I have always been of the opinion that he is a master of mediocre attacks and mediocre conditions. Once in a while he may come up with a truly astounding performance in a pressure situation... but those occasions are very rare now... and have happened more often for Chennai Super Kings than Team India in 2010. If Dhoni really wanted to play a captain's knock today, he'd play himself higher and not wait till 4 wickets are down to finally show his presence.

But I am still not worried about India's batting scene... because with the entry of Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, not only will a lot of stability be instilled in the team... but also the frustrating figures of Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik will vanish! And considering that the World Cup is in the sub-continent, Dhoni will not be very troubled either...

Friday, August 20, 2010


Now, this is how a ground should be covered!


(c) Getty Images
Mohammed Yousuf, on his return game from his 'temporary' retirement, scored a calm half-century and helped Pakistan score their first 300+ score of this series as they built up a 75-run lead over the hosts England at The Oval.

As it stands now, England have fought back (the score currently reads 151 for 2, with the back-in-nick Alastair Cook unbeaten on 108). But to watch Pakistan's batting yesterday after having watched them collapse on other occasions in this English summer was to know and realise why we love Test cricket so much and why we hold the masters in this game in such high regard!

Yousuf's inclusion was debated heatedly... but I was always of the opinion that Pakistan needed him in their batting unit desperately. The calm he brought to their game yesterday was a treat to watch. Azhar Ali, who had collected two ducks in this series before yesterday, grew more and more confident batting alongside Yousuf.

In the first two Tests, the only member in Pakistan's batting unit whom one could look up to as one having 'character' for Test cricket was their captain Salman Butt. But there is no denying the fact that he is woefully out of form at the moment! This automatically gave England an edge... their bowlers were a lot more confident bowling to this young side with virtually no Test experience. But with the inclusion of Yousuf, the mindset of the English team also changed immediately. The fields became defensive a lot earlier than what we have seen so far this summer. This in turn, also helped Azhar Ali.

At the time when Yousuf was drafted into the side just before the Second Test, a lot of people said that drafting in a 35-year old is a step backwards. What trash! So what is a step forward then? Allowing four boys in their early 20s to make up a middle order in the swing friendly English conditions? And then fault them for nor making big scores?

A year ago, the likes of Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal and Umar Amin had never encountered such conditions in their cricket careers. They had never seen anyone negotiate such conditions... and had no one to guide them on how to do it themselves. So they tried their ultra-aggressive and / or ultra-cautious ways to get through the tricky periods. Invariably, they failed and their failure reflected in the 3-1 scoreline that they have managed so far in England.

This scoreline is a very bad reflection on that bowling unit, which is arguably the best of the three teams that have played Test cricket in England this summer. But the bowlers couldn't do it all on their own. They needed assistance from their batsmen... and now, they have hope that they might get it! Because Mohammed Yousuf is listed in the Pakistan team sheet!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Now this is what I call an over-the-top reaction. I have just read the news that Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv has been suspended for 1 game and docked off his match fees for bowling the deliberate no-ball that denied Virendra Sehwag his century. And what's more, TM Dilshan has also lost his match fees for being the one who suggested such an act to Randiv.

I have already stated in my blog two days ago and by way of comments on numerous other blogs that the act by Randiv was not right! I don't know about the Spirit of Cricket (no one really knows, but everyone wants to pretend they know)... but it certainly left a sour taste at the end of the match. The match should have been remembered for India's win with more than 15 overs to spare... not for Sehwag's almost-century.

Coming back to the point... the suspension and the fines is too much! Well, Sri Lanka Cricket says that they are proud recipients of ICC's Spirit of Cricket award for two years in a row and that's why they came down hard on this issue. But in their minds, the Sri Lankan officials should know that this was way too hard!

The matter, in my opinion, should have ended with Randiv's apology to Sehwag! Maybe the captain / coach / manager / match referee / Board official should have had a quiet word with Randiv thereafter. At the most, the Board should have given him a slap on the wrist. A one-match suspension is way too much!

I mean, Simon Taufel was not suspended when he gave Sachin Tendulkar out LBW on 99 to a Paul Collingwood delivery that would have missed the off-stump quite easily! He later apologised to Tendulkar, and both got along with it. It was the same with Rudi Koertzen and Kumar Sangakkara when the latter was wrongly adjudged to have edged the ball when on 192. Then why should it be different now?

True, the umpires were not deliberately trying to deny the batsmen their landmarks... but they still did make wrong decisions that did or could have influenced the result of the match. Allow me to insert here that Steve Bucknor was punished for an entire collection of mistakes... not just one! So please do not bring on that angle of the argument over here in this issue.

Back to the point now... it is a sad and a sorry state that Sri Lanka Cricket resorted to acting against their player in a move that seems quite evidently an act to appease the BCCI. I doubt a stronger Board would have taken such an action!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


As the controversy surrounding "A Six That Did Not Count" is slowly subsiding, I decided to look into a few cricket laws that I think should be changed. Here is my list:

1. The first one obviously relates to the Viru's 99* incident. As I have written in my last blog "A SIX THAT DID NOT COUNT", this law should be looked into by the MCC since the batsman is not at fault if the bowler bowls an illegal delivery. He has hit a legitimate cricket shot... and should be awarded its worth in runs. I have also analysed a hypothetical situation in that blog regarding how those six less runs might affect the Net Run Rate scenarios in multi-team tournaments.

2. Similar to the previous one, there is another law that says that when a team needs 1 to win and the batsman hits a 4 or a 6, only 1 run will be awarded if the batsmen cross before the ball reaches the boundary. Again, for the same reasons as stated above and in my previous blog, this rule needs to 
be changed by MCC.

3. Now the next law that I state was also seen in action during the India - Sri Lanka ODI and was mentioned by Achettup on his blog - "Short Of A Length". Sehwag was bowled on a Free Hit by Malinga. And what resulted eventually was a single that was classified as a 'bye'. Have you not favoured batsmen enough by allowing a 'Free Hit'? If the batsman cannot utilise it well, it is his fault. Why should the bowler be punished if he has uprooted the stumps? I can understand if the batsmen run for a single after being bowled off a no-ball, since a 'no-ball' is an illegal delivery. But as Achettup mentions, a Free Hit is a legal delivery and the ball should be dead once it hits the stumps and a dot ball should result in such a case.

4. The law of Free Hit was introduced to make the game more interesting. But what I don't understand is why is the fielding team not allowed to change the field on a Free Hit! The batsman is going to look for a slog irrespective of where the field is set... so why not allow for a change of field! Who knows, an astute captain (a rare thing, these days) might set a good field for a run out. And I can assure you that a run out on a Free Hit will make the game a lot more interesting than a Six or a Four. It will give us bloggers something more to blog on. Many batsmen hit boundaries on Free Hits, but how many get dismissed on one!?

5. This one is something that has been in my mind for a long time now. When a batsman dives in to make his ground, his bat sometimes pops up and as a result, he is declared 'Out'. That is a correct decision! But in all that, one thing is overlooked. More often than not, it so happens that the toe of the bat touches the ground inside the crease before the bat pops up. So when the bails are dislodged, the bat is in the air and the batsman is Out. But we tend to forget that when the bat was grounded inside the crease for that nanosecond, the run was complete. The run out was effected after the run was completed. But I have never seen the run credited to the team when such decisions are declared 'Out'. Who knows what difference that 1 run might make at the end of an important match!

Viewers are invited to post some of their insights on my observations in the form of comments. If there is another law that you feel is unfair, please let me know by your comments. I will compile another set of such laws and post another blog on this issue if need be.


Now that is one rubbish rule! With India requiring 1 run to win the match, Sri Lankan off-spinner (the man with a delivery stride as large as my normal step) bowled a no-ball that was dispatched by Sehwag (99*) over the long off fence for a six. But as per the laws of our beloved game, the six runs did not count and the game was deemed finished as soon as the no-ball was bowled.

This is a stupid law for the following reasons:

1. If the runs are not going to be counted, then why count the ball in Sehwag's numbers? Before that ball, Sehwag was 99* of 99 balls... and after that ball, he finished with 99* of 100 balls.

2. Had the six off a no-ball been scored on any other occasion during the match, then the 6 would have been credited to the batsman. Why should it be any different for the winning runs?

I can understand a need for such a rule (for the winning runs) in this scenario: the chasing team needs 1 to win with 1 wicket in hand and the batsman is stumped of a wide / no-ball. Since one can't have a situation where a team wins by 0 wickets, we need to have a different rule for finishing the game. But that rule should be in respect of dismissals, not runs. Had Sehwag hit that six (off a no-ball) when 2 were needed to win, then the runs would have been counted in his tally. Then why should it be any different when its 1 to win?

3. India eventually finished with 171, and not 177. The 6 runs that have not been considered may well affect the Net Run Rate scenario. If not in this series, such a situation may occur in other multi-team tournaments.

Imagine a situation where AB De Villiers hits a 6 off a no-ball when 1 is needed to win in South Africa's first match of the World Cup 2011. But only the no-ball counts and the 6 runs are wasted. If South Africa were to bow out of the World Cup 2011 in the Group stage due to NRR and it is discovered that those 6 runs would have helped them qualify, then it would have created an uproar! The tag of 'chokers' would have stuck to them due to no apparent fault of theirs... just because of a stupid and illogical law!

4. Most importantly, when the umpire signals a no-ball, the ball is still in play. It does not become dead. Till the ball is dead, all the activities that occur within the field of play should be recorded... irrespective of whether it is the 1st ball of the match or it is 1 run needed to win.

I really do hope that MCC changes this law at the earliest. The fact that Sehwag missed out on a well-deserved 100 is not as important as the controversy that might happen due to this rule if that hypothetical-South-Africa-situation were to really occur!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, both competing for a berth in the middle order during India's World Cup campaign next year, are trying to outdo each other.

Kohli, sent at No. 3 after Dinesh Karthik's dismissal against Sri Lanka, worked hard for his 3-ball DUCK. Not to be outdone, Sharma showed his usual skills of rooting his legs on the crease once again, as he managed an even better 2-ball DUCK!

We have a tight competition on our hand! Way to go lads!

5 - 0

Ricky Ponting was recently asked about Australia's chances of regaining the Ashes with another 5-0 whitewash of England at home during the upcoming summer.

His reply: "It's absolutely possible. There's no reason why not. It's all in our hands. It's how well we play and how well we take charge of different situations."

What rubbish! He needs to take lessons from his former teammate Glenn McGrath on how to sound convincing while making such predictions. This is what McGrath had said before the 2006-07 Ashes held Down Under: "I reckon it will be 5-0 this time. To say anything else would be negative. If we're going to win 2-1, or 3-2, which games are we going to lose?"

© Getty Images
That is confidence for you! And why not, he knew that he and his team had the ability... and eventually, he helped deliver that 5-0 result! I doubt if Ponting will manage anything even close to it this time round!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Cricinfo is doing the selection of India's All-Time XI Team. I had been waiting for this for a long time. Last week, it was the question of openers... it was not too difficult a choice for me. This time, it is difficult. Very very difficult. This time, it is the selection of the middle order.

Over the past decade, India has had the most celebrated middle order in Test cricket... No. 3 Rahul Dravid, No. 4 Sachin Tendulkar, No. 5 Sourav Ganguly and No. 6 VVS Laxman. It just couldn't get bigger! The middle order was so firmly established that many other talented batsmen like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif had to wait long for their chances. Some others tried a hand at opening the innings in order to fit it... most forget here that Sehwag was originally a middle order batsman before he was nominated as an opener in India's All-Time XI!

But this represents India only over the past decade (two, in SRT's case). One look at the other nominees in the list and the fact that Cricinfo has allowed a choice of only three middle-order batsmen compounds this selection dilemma even more. Here are all the nominees and their numbers in Test Cricket:

In my opinion, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid sealed their places in the Indian All-Time XI lineup quite some years back. As for the third slot, it was a very difficult wrestle in my head. It was a tough fight between VVS Laxman (for his ability to bail the team out from tight spots time and again), Sourav Ganguly (for his ability to make strong statements like at the Gabba... plus the fact that you do need a leftie to create balance in the team... and yes, he was India's best captain EVER), Mohammed Azharuddin (he was class... his 50 to 100 conversion rate in the figures above is mind-blowing) and Dilip Vengsarkar (I never saw him bat... but I do know that Sunil Gavaskar remarked in the late 1980s that the two best batsmen in Mumbai are SRT and Dilip Vengsarkar).

In the end, I went for Sourav Ganguly... for all the reasons as stated above. The team does need a left-hander... and if that left-hander is India's best captain ever with a decent batting average and a useful seam bowling option... then he must be drafted in immediately. And well, no one can deny that Dada was an enigma!

Lets wait and see whom does Cricinfo pick in its selection... though if either one of Dravid or Tendulkar is missing (not that I see them missing out... I'd be ready to bet my Firebolt on it), then I would rate this selection committee lower than the one headed currently by Mr. Cheeka!


India has used 27 players in One Day Internationals in the year 2010. And with the World Cup less than 200 days away now, the ODI unit is looking in deep trouble. Just a few spots are cemented... so one can safely say that a lot of construction work will need to be undertaken.

Lets look at the men who have their places reserved in the team sheet (assuming no injury concerns in February 2011):

Openers: Virendra Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir (I know GG is not in the best of nicks right now... but he is a virtual certainty for me as he can rotate the strike very well and knows how to build an innings)

Middle Order: Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (That's it! From the best middle order in the world in Tests to no middle order at all in limited overs format)

Bowlers: Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh (I put in a lot of thought before typing down Bhajji's name... and yes, both the pacers here are very injury prone)

That leaves three in the first XI and seven more in the XV. I guess Praveen Kumar should be the first of the three vacancies to be filled up - his numbers in ODIs in 2010 read 12 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 22.50, economy of 4.82 and strike rate of 28.00. He is India's third highest wicket taker in ODIs in 2010.

The next vacancy that needs to be filled is in the middle order... where once upon a time, Yuvraj Singh was a certainty! However, his numbers in 2010 make an abysmal reading for a man of his talents. He has 101 runs from 6 ODI outings at an average of 20.20 and a strike rate of just 68.24. He faces stiff competition from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. One might want to add Dinesh Karthik's name here... but I am not one of his fans.

Now, like Harsha Bhogle has suggested in his latest article, if Ravindra Jadeja or Yusuf Pathan do not perform well in the ODIs that India has in the lead up to the World Cup and we do not find suitable replacements... then we might well have to use two of the three names above (Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma) in the middle order.

India will have to use its part-time spinners to fill up the fifth bowler's quota of ten overs... something not very unfamiliar for the team. Who are these part-timers? There is Sehwag and Raina amongst the certainties. With Tendulkar not bowling any more and Gambhir playing as a specialist batsman, the selection of the last two middle order spots might well be on the basis of the bowling abilities... and not batting.

If this is the case, then Yuvraj Singh gets a direct entry (not that he shouldn't... but he still needs to answer a lot of questions about his batting form and commitment to the team)! The other spot might go to Rohit Sharma... not that his bowling is great, but he has bowled more often than Virat Kohli (who is far away from Chris Harris' wicket taking record for New Zealand despite having a duplicate bowling action)!

The four reserves are easy to pick: Kohli gets one spot, Dinesh Karthik will get another (how I wish India should try some other keeper over these next few months just to see if there is a better option available). Going by the current investments, I guess Jadeja will make it to the fifteen and the last available spot might go to Pragyan Ojha or another seamer given the injury prone nature of our two frontline seamers.

But still, this team leaves a lot to be desired. It still does not feel like a 'World Championship' material team on current form and performance. A lot can change over the next 6 months... a lot will need to be changed!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I posted the list of top run scorers in Test cricket in 2010 two days back. There has been a change in the order now. Right at the top... and guess who is it now!?

5 FOR 82

Saturday, 7th August 2010:

At Colombo in Sri Lanka, an off-spinner Suraj Randiv finished with figures of 5 for 82 on Day 5 of the 3rd Test between Sri Lanka and India.

A continent away, another off-spinner Saeed Ajmal finished with figures of 5 for 82 on Day 2 of the 2nd Test between England and Pakistan.

Strange, isn't it?


Found him! Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present to you the successor of Ricky Ponting as the "Grumpiest Captain in International Cricket"... the one and only... Kumar Sangakkara!

Why is it that stylish batsmen end up being grumpy captains in some way or the other? From what I know, Gavaskar was grumpy, Dravid always had a forlorn expression on his face... thank God VVS has never captained India! MSD is not grumpy, but then who ever said that he is stylish!

If there is one thing I have always noticed about Sangakkara's captaincy (apart from his extremely defensive field settings) is that he always has a complaint after a loss. Or it might just be an observation... but the way he says it, it sounds like a complaint!

I have heard numerous captains record their views about proceedings of different matches... but Ponting and Sangakkara have always had this ability to sound downright "cry babies" when their team has been in a spot of bother. After the series-leveling loss to India in the Third Test, the Lankan skipper said that Sri Lanka was still the better side in the tournament having taken more wickets and scored more runs.

For what reason was he saying this? Did he need the self-assurance that Sri Lanka played good cricket? Or did he want to induce a verbal blow on the Indians before the tri-series? Or something else?

If Sri Lanka indeed was the better team, then why did they not win the match? They had all the three tosses going for them, they had the home conditions, they had a much much stronger bowling attack with a lot of options to choose from... come to think of it - they played two completely different bowling attacks in the First and Second Tests! India, on the other hand, hampered by injuries to key personnel and Dhoni's inability to win a toss, always started on the backfoot. Yet, somehow, the team found the resolve on the back of its imperial batting lineup to square the series and share the spoils.

Then why complain? Why not just accept that India was just as good a team if not better? And this is not the first occasion that I have heard Sanga cry. He was not too different as the leader of Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2010... when his team finished 8th amongst 8 teams.

Sanga said after the match that things could have been different had Dilshan held on to the chance of Sachin Tendulkar early on Day 5. Well Sanga, things could have been different if Dhoni would have won a couple of those tosses! Things could have been different had you not been dropped a couple of times in this series! But you should know by now that these if's and but's have no place in cricket... just as they have no place in life!

Sure, other captains do wonder about how things could have been different had certain pieces of luck gone their way during a match. But I never hear them complaining and saying that theirs was the better team!

Look Punter, you have competition!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


© Associated Press
A series-leveling win for India against Sri Lanka means that India retains the No. 1 spot on the ICC Test Team Rankings. But the point worth noting is that Sri Lanka have now moved up to No. 3 on the table, pushing Australia down to No. 4 - the first time that I have seen them there.

VVS Laxman played a serene knock - a chanceless unbeaten hundred guiding India to a successful 4th innings chase of a tricky target away from home!

I mentioned in my previous post that the main men for India in the chase today would be SRT and VVS, and that the first hour of the day would be the most crucial one. These two men stitched up a 109-run partnership that laid the foundation for a Raina flourish at the end... but more importantly Laxman and in particular, Tendulkar negotiated the first hour in a cautious manner to ensure that Raina does not have to face a ball that had retained some hardness in it and that Dhoni did not have to face a ball at all!

The win is a commendable one indeed, given the bowling attack that we went into the match with. For just the second time in 10 years was India playing a Test without the services of either Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh (not that I rate Bhajji very highly these days)! The four frontline bowlers had a combined experience of 41 Tests before the match started... but they somehow managed to eek out 20 wickets with some good help from Sehwag.

But at the end of it all, I am left wondering about one thing! The entire world knows the importance of a Virender Sehwag start for this Indian batting lineup. A Viru failure puts immense pressure on this lineup... and his duck yesterday was no different. But the class of SRT and VVS had it in them to bat through that pressure and win the match for India. Once these men call it a day, I wonder if the future class of Yuvraj, Raina, Pujara, Sharma and Kohli will have it in them to soak this kind of pressure!

Friday, August 6, 2010


The 3rd Test between India and Sri Lanka hangs in balance. On Day 5, all results are possible... India need 204 runs, Sri Lanka need 7 wickets (which will include the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni).

There is also a third possibility... a tie! Well, lets not get into that.

The best part about Day 5 of this Test is that every fan will believe in his side. The Indian fan knows that 204 is modest for the class of SRT and VVS! The Sri Lankan fan knows that on this turf, his team can make a mountain out of that 204!

This Test has been a good advertisement for Test cricket and as an Indian fan, I'll obviously like to see those 204 runs scored tomorrow. But as a cricket fan, I'd like to see a close finish to the Test. A 1- or 2-wicket win for India or a 10- or 15-run win for Sri Lanka (hope it's the former, not the latter)!

I think the key for India would be to see the ball through to 35 overs. Once the ball is that old, it does not get that bite from the pitch and any turn is slow, therefore easily negotiable. We saw that in India's first innings, Laxman and Raina shared a 30-over partnership after Sehwag fell in the 41st over. In the Sri Lankan second innings, first Samaraweera - Malinga shared a 11-over partnership and then Samaraweera - Mendis shared a 38-over partnership after the 32nd over when the 7th wicket fell.

If India has a one 30-over partnership, it will mean 100 runs in the bank and Sri Lanka will be back under pressure. Since this ball is already 18 overs old, the batsmen will need to tread carefully for about 1 hour in the morning before they can breathe a little easy (that is obviously if they have not seen too much damage in that first hour). After 30-35 overs, the spinners can be safely negotiated from the backfoot. Randiv will cease to be too much of a threat then... though Mendis might still be a little tricky. The natural pace of a Mendis delivery is more than that of an average spinner... and that might trouble the batsmen tomorrow. And yes, Lasith Malinga can trouble any batsman on any pitch.

So Indian batsmen cannot afford to completely relax after the first hour... but the job will definitely be a lot easier if the first hour is safe.


Every time that I try to post a comment on the Cricinfo Cricket commentary, a wicket falls. As a result, my comment never gets published as the situation changes entirely.

But still, now I know how to take wickets for India when the tail starts frustrating them.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Sachin Tendulkar: c. P Jayawardene b. L Malinga 41 (72)

This is what happened in the very first over of the day when Sachin chased a wide one from Malinga and nicking it to the jubilant young keeper as the Lankans gathered to celebrate Malinga's 100th Test wicket... a special one as it was of the Indian maestro!

But something perplexed me in the replays that followed. The 'Snicko' did not detect a nick as the ball went past the bat. But everyone could detect the nick in Sachin's expression immediately after the shot and the confidence of the Lankan appeal. Usually when SRT feels that he has been given a harsh decision (it has happened many a time so we know that reaction well!), he just shakes his head before making the walk. Today there wasn't any shake of the head... there was just a grimace, showing the disappointment of having nicked a ball that did not deserve the wicket of the highest run-scorer in Test cricket!

So we know one thing for sure: SRT did nick that ball! Then the question to be asked is: WHY DID THAT NICK DID NOT REGISTER ON THE SNICKO? The stump microphones are turned up to their full volume reception when a bowler is delivering the ball. If SRT's nick was so obvious to the keeper, bowler and the umpire, then surely it must have created a sound. The fact that it went undetected forces me to conclude that Snicko is an imprecise technology.

Given that the Hawk Eye team admits that they have a certain small percentage of imperfection in their predictive techniques, we now have two pieces of technology that can be easily qualified as 'imperfect'. And guess what, ICC plans to form its Umpires' Decision Review System in the base of these two technologies in its showpiece event next year... the World Cup!

The news is out that the Hot Spot cameras are too expensive to purchase... what rubbish! This is Cricket World Cup... one that happens once in 4 years... and one that is happening in India after 15 year! If this cannot generate money, then I don't know what can! But in any case, moving on... with the Hot Spot technology unavailable atleast till the Quarter Finals stage of the event, the UDRS will be restricted to Super Slow-Motion Replay Cameras, Snickometers and Hawk Eye Technology. The first one usually proves nothing conclusively... and the other two have already demonstrated their imperfections!

In such a case, I would rather suggest the ICC to not use the UDRS at all till the Quarter Final stage of the event. A bad decision from the UDRS leaves a much worse taste than a bad decision coming from a human umpire. Umpires can later walk up to players and apologies... UDRS cannot do that! A half-cooked meal is bound to cause a nasty stomach ache!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Here's a list of the highest run scorers in Test cricket in the year 2010. Check who's heading the list...