Tuesday, September 28, 2010


After picking the All-Time XIs for top 8 Test-playing nations, Cricinfo has now decided to pick a World XI out of these 88 players picked. Hard enough as it is to pick 11 players from 1 country across generations, now they have decided to pick 11 from 8 countries with diversities in their cricket cultures.

Bold venture this! It is going to be a very very difficult task.

Here is the list of players eligible for selection into this coveted XI -
Openers: Arthur Morris, Barry Richards, Glenn Turner, Gordon Greenidge, Graeme Smith, Hanif Mohammad, Marvan Atapattu, Saeed Anwar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sir Conrad Hunte, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Leonard Hutton, Stewie Dempster, Sunil Gavaskar, Victor Trumper, Virender Sehwag.
Middle order: Arjuna Ranatunga, Bert Sutcliffe, Brian Lara, Dudley Nourse, George Headley, Graeme Pollock, Greg Chappell, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, Javed Miandad, Ken Barrington, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene, Martin Crowe, Martin Donnelly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Viv Richards, Vijay Hazare, Wally Hammond, Zaheer Abbas.
Allrounders: Aubrey Faulkner, Chaminda Vaas, Imran Khan, John Reid, Kapil Dev, Keith Miller, Mike Procter, Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Ian Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee, Vinoo Mankad.
Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist, Alan Knott, Ian Smith, Jackie Hendriks, John Waite, Kumar Sangakkara, MS Dhoni, Rashid Latif.
Bowlers: Abdul Qadir, Allan Donald, Anil Kumble, Ashantha de Mel, Bill O'Reilly, Curtly Ambrose, Daniel Vettori, Dennis Lillee, Derek Underwood, Erapalli Prasanna, Fazal Mahmood, Fred Trueman, Glenn McGrath, Harold Larwood, Hugh Tayfield, Jack Cowie, Javagal Srinath, Lance Gibbs, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Muttiah Muralitharan, Rumesh Ratnayake, Shane Bond, Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock, Somachandra De Silva, Sydney Barnes, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram.

I am still weighing a few combinations in my team before I cast my vote with Cricinfo. There have been numerous players who were selected in their respective Country XIs unanimously. But in this World XI, I guess there will be just 1 unanimous choice - Sir Donald Bradman. If anyone else makes it to the team with even 90% of votes, it will be a remarkable feat.

So readers, please do pitch in your comments... I will post more about my choices for this XI as and when I finalise them!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Lalit Modi and Suresh Kalmadi.

Similarities -

Two sports administrators in India. Two extremely dislike-able men. Two men who have had to handle big responsibilities - the Indian Premier League and the Commonwealth Games respectively. Two men currently embroiled under charges of scams and corruption. Two men who always claim that they will deliver the very best.

Difference -

One delivers what he promises. The other shames himself, others and the entire country by proving himself to be an incompetent and irresponsible administrator.

Now let me make it clear... whatever good I may write about Lalit Modi in this blog, make no mistake, I dislike that man completely! I usually despise men who have an air of arrogance about them... and Lalit Modi makes that list! But when I compare him to Suresh Kalmadi, I have to admit that he's the better administrator... by miles.

Lalit Modi has also made outrageous statements in the past. His methods and techniques have always been questionable. But there is no denying that whatever he promised, he delivered on that. Most, including me, scoffed at the idea of IPL moving to South Africa. But he made it happen and delivered a very well-organised and well-managed IPL there.

And now Suresh Kalmadi. For months now, I have been reading about his promise of delivering the "Best Games Ever". The situation now is such that we don't even know if he will be able to deliver any "Games"... let alone the best ones ever. Not one of his claims have yet been vindicated. He made a fool out of himself when he claimed that Usain Bolt will participate at Delhi 2010, only to hear Bolt's agent announce next that the star athlete will not be competing here.

I do not understand why men as incompetent as Kalmadi or Ijaz Butt take up such big responsibilities when it is obviously apparent that they are not up for it. What pleasure do they derive in bringing shame and disrepute to their respective countries!

With CWG just a few days away now, many countries have issued warnings and deadlines to the Organising Committee (OC) to meet their standards in safety, security, health and sanitation. A friend of mine remarked that it would still be understandable if the Games were to be called off due to security issues. The world today is truly a dangerous place to live in and security is a genuine concern. But to hear that the Games may be called off due to issues such as cleanliness, health and sanitation is downright shameful!

As is all this is not enough, a member of the OC has the courage to give explanations to the media saying that everyone has different standards for cleanliness and sanitation, and therefore, this should not be regarded as a big issue.

Bullshit! The Games are on the verge of being called off due to such issues and we are not supposed to regard them as big. We want India to become a superpower with our booming economy, we want India to be a permanent member of UN's Security Council... but when we are given a responsibility that in itself is also an honour, we perform so dismally that it shames not only us, but even those who thought that we deserved such an opportunity.

Irrespective of whether we find some quick-fix measures to conduct the Games smoothly or not, one thing is certain. India is not likely to be given an opportunity to host any big event any time soon. And we would be huge buffoons if we even approach the concerned authorities for another such chance any time soon.

I really hope that Mr. Suresh Kalmadi and Mr. Ijaz Butt and the like are really brought to task for their brand of buffoonery. The axe needs to fall now! Enough is enough!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Have a look at Cricinfo's most popular searches at the top right corner circled in red... not surprising, is it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010


MS Dhoni's choice of bowler for the Super Over during yesterday's tied tie against Victoria was a surprising one. Usually, a captain gives the ball to a bowler who has had a good day. That would have been Murali, given that both Bollinger and Ashwin had had a mixed day.

However, to my mind, the best option would still have been Bollinger. Here is a bit of trivia before I proceed further:

- Cricinfo archives show that there have been 12 recorded cases of Super Overs in Twenty20 matches, including yesterday's.
- Of these 12, I managed to find out who were the bowlers and the scores involved in 11 of them.
- The 1 match that I did not manage to find anything about was the Northern Districts v. Canterbury match at Seddon Park, Hamilton on 18th February 2009.
- On a completely irrelevant note, that day (i.e. 18th February 2009) saw 2 other cases of Super Overs in South Africa - Dolphins v Cape Cobras at Kingsmead, Durban and Eagles v Warriors at St. George's Park, Port Elizabeth.
- Of the 22 Super Overs (11 X 2) I have on record, only 7 have been bowled by slow bowlers.
- Of these 7, only 2 have been won by slow bowlers. Incidentally, both these wins came when the opposition also used a slow bowler for their Super Over.
- So in the 3 cases where Super Over was a slow bowler v medium / pace bowler affair, the slower bowlers have always failed to deliver.

Now, I do not expect MS Dhoni to know these facts. But I would have expected him to learn from his mistakes. Just this year at the IPL, he had faced a Super Over situation where he chose Muttiah Muralitharan to bowl against Kings XI Punjab to defend his team's score of 9 for 2 (which were scored against Juan Theron - a medium pacer). Muralitharan managed 10 for 1 in less than 1 over as CSK lost that match and crucial points.

In the only other case of pace v spin, Ajantha Mendis had fared badly as Yusuf Pathan demolished him during IPL 2009's Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders match. Kamran Khan, the unheralded young Royals pacer had gone for 16 in his over as Mendis conceded 18 in his first 4 balls itself. And I expect Dhoni knew about this match.

Added to this were factors like constant drizzle and the grip on the ball during the Super Over yesterday. So Dhoni's decision to use Ashwin was pretty much a wrong one to me even before he started bowling and conceded those 20-odd runs. The match was effectively sealed then and the points secured for Victoria.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I have been away from blogosphere for about a week now. The Champions League Twenty20 has started and is midway through. And sadly, another round of fixing allegations are coming through.

There are allegations being made about the 3rd England - Pakistan ODI at The Oval, London... something about scoring patterns over different periods during Pakistan's batting innings.

I really hope that these allegations are not some cock-n-bull stories cooked up by certain fragments in the media to target Pakistan cricket and gain visibility as a result of it. After the revelations by the British tabloid News of the World (NOTW) during the England - Pakistan Test match at Lord's, I guess many other media and news agencies are vying to be the ones to release the next big breaking news.

When NOTW laid their allegations against certain players from the Pakistan team, they based it on evidences in the form of video footages that convinced more than half the world of the guilt of those accused. Sure, the investigations are still on and there will be more of bureaucracy involved as this matter progresses further. But what NOTW did was bring out their evidence into the open and put it in front of the world... so that maybe, when the investigations begin, the process would be a little more transparent than it usually is in such cases.

Compare to the new allegations coming through at the moment... about the run-scoring patterns. These allegations have not been based on anything that will classify as evidence in a court of law (unless ofcourse, such evidence has not been revealed publicly). In fact, the words used in the news articles describing such allegations is 'suspicious'. They are talking about suspicious run-scoring patterns, suspicious periods of play and more such things.

Now really, this sounds story in itself sounds suspicious to me. I may be completely wrong in my assessment if the allegations are proven to be true. But till then, I will say only this: the media must be responsible in breaking out their stories. By laying such allegations, they have tarnished what was a brilliant victory for the Pakistan cricket team and their hope of revival. This win could have helped them in a huge way to pick themselves up from this bottomless abyss. But now, not even a win for Pakistan will be looked at with any respectability.

Based on factors like pitch, conditions, bowler, batsmen involved, situation of play, etc, even I can predict the number of runs that will be scored in a particular over in most Limited Over matches. Does that mean that a media news agency should report a "Breaking News" because a cricket follower is claiming to make predictions over his blog? If the predictions are correct, will it be a case of "suspicious scoring patterns" for these media groups?

I am not very fond of media in any case and find them a very irresponsible segment of our society. And I do believe that whenever a news agency makes such allegations, they should be held responsible for their views.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I have often heard this phrase: "This was a match worthy of the finals" by many commentators who always fall short of words to describe any moment on the sports field. Its very rare when a match worthy of a finals does actually take place in the finals of a big tournament. There are, in fact, only two occasions that come to my mind - 2007 World Twenty20 Championship Finals and 2008 Wimbledon Finals. You can forgive me for having excluded many other good matches from the list... but then I have high expectations from the finals of any big tournament.

But now, I can add another one to that list. The 2010 US Open Men's Doubles final match contested by the top seed American pair of twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan against the unlikely pair of and Indian Rohan Bopanna with a Pakistani Aisam ul Haq Qureshi... the 16th seeded pair in the draw.

Bopanna and Qureshi have been playing together for quite a while now... and for the past few months, they have the results to show the effectiveness of their chemistry. Their finals match against the best Men's Doubles team of our era (and arguably, all time) was a match to savour. The Indo-Pak Express, as they have come to be known, threw everything they had in them at the Bryans... and the champion pair had to dig really very deep to be able to beat them. The scoreline is the end [7-6 (5), 7-6 (4)] only suggests how competitive the match was... but I am glad that for once in my life, I let go the opportunity to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat against the Highveld Lions in making a masterful 69. I am glad that for once when I voluntarily switched channels to watch some other live sporting event when Sachin was batting, it was totally worth it.

This match had it all... big serves on big points, some amazing rallies, players digging deep into their reserves to eek out a point for their team, booming forehands and smashing backhands (particularly from Bopanna), tremendous net play by all four and above all, there was that adrenaline pump... which excited everyone who had come to witness the match on the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. To see diplomats to the UN from India and Pakistan sitting together and cheering for the same team, to see the flags of the two countries together at the end during the presentation and to see the wonderful chemistry between these two men as they played high class tennis against a high class team were delights that are unmatched.

At the end, it was even more warming to hear the words of Aisam ul Haq Qureshi, as he put across a very well-said message to the world on behalf of Pakistan. His country is in strife... the extremist forces trying to invade, the corruption and the flood crisis are making lives of people there extremely difficult. In such a situation, the country needed a few men who could portray them in good light to the world. I thought that they had found a few such men in Salman Butt and Mohammed Aamer and the new, young and energetic Pakistan team that had won Tests against Australia and England in alien conditions. But then, the cricket crisis hit them and the credibility of the people of the country plunged even lower on the eyes of the rest of the world.

So Aisam ul Haq Qureshi comes across as a wonderful ambassador for his country... spreading a message of peace. The standing ovation that he received at the end was to see a reason why I love sport so much. So little needs to be said at the end to spread so big a message.

It was a pleasure to have seen that match live. At the end, as the players met around the net and during the ceremony, it was easily visible that after throwing everything they had at each other... they had come out of it with just one thing - tremendous respect for one another!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


US Open Tennis is into its second week... and I am absolutely ready and waiting to see who reaches the Men's Singles finals. All the eight quarter-finalists are seeded men... the lowest being the 25th seed Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka. Here is the quarter finals draw for the last Grand Slam of the year:

1. Rafael Nadal (Spain 1st seed) v Fernando Verdasco (Spain - 8th seed)
2. Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland - 25th seed) v Mikhail Youzhny (Russia - 12th seed)
3. Gael Monfils (France - 17th seed) v Novak Djokovic (Serbia - 3rd seed)
4. Robin Soderling (Sweden - 5th seed) v Roger Federer (Switzerland - 2nd seed)

There is no doubt that given the recent history, the last of the quarterfinals listed above... Soderling v Federer... should be the one to watch out for. But then history also suggests that we can expect fireworks from the all-Spanish Nadal v Verdasco quarterfinal... and if it is anything like the semi-final of Australian Open 2009, it will be worth every penny for the spectators that witness it at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Nadal's form has been wonderful in this Grand Slam event. Most tennis followers know that both Nadal and Federer are yet to drop a set in their four matches thus far at New York. But here's the clincher: Nadal is yet to drop his serve at US Open this year.

A couple of years ago, I always thought that if Nadal could strengthen his serve a little bit and stay fit, he will be a bigger force to reckon with. And he's showing it now. Despite those biceps, aces at 130+ mph were unthinkable from Nadal a few years ago. Now, they are coming down at alarming frequency.

Nadal has faced 13 break points in his four round matches thus far, and saved each one of them. Federer also has been very good... facing only 19 break points in his four matches and saving 16 of them. But then, Federer knows that if he meets Nadal in the finals, those 3 break points that he is unable to save may well be the game, set and match to the Spaniard!

Nadal has shown consistent improvement and learning in his game ever since he turned pro and then won his first major at French Open 2005. His big serves, his runs to the net for volleys, his fast flat forehands with more power and less top spin are aspects of his game that did not exist in 2005. Not for nothing is he the World No. 1, you know!

If he overcomes Verdasco, he will face an easier semi-final than he would have anticipated at the start of the tournament... for Andy Murray did seem in good form then. But then Murray, like English cricket and soccer teams (Paul Collingwood's victorious men at the Caribbean islands excluded), faltered and fell by the wayside yet again.

Like I wrote on my blog a few days ago, I would really wish to see a Nadal v Federer finals at the US Open this year. And yes, for Nadal to come out triumphant...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The player retention rules for the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League are out. So after weeks of speculation, here they are:

A. The maximum number of players that can be retained are 4.
B. The maximum number of Indian players amongst those retained can be 3, and the maximum number of Foreign Players amongst those retained can be 2.
C. Irrespective of what fee is paid to the retained players, the deduction from the total salary budget of US$ 9 million will be in the following format:
                1 Player(s) Retained - US$ 1.8 million
                2 Player(s) Retained - US$ 1.3 million
                3 Player(s) Retained - US$ 0.9 million
                4 Player(s) Retained - US$ 0.5 million

So lets say that a franchisee retains just 1 player, then irrespective of what they pay him, they can spend upto US$ 7.2 million at the auction. If they retain 2 players, their spending power will be US$ 5.9 million. It will be US$ 5.0 million if they retain 3 and US$ 4.5 million if they retain 4 players.

So what will be retaining strategy be like? In this post, I will try and look at it purely from the finance point of view (with a little bit of a reference to cricket).

The first major question that will need to be answered is that whether the player who is to be retained is really worth the amount that will be deducted from the team's budget... or whether all the players to be retained collectively are worth the total amount that will be reduced from their spending budget at the auction.

For example, Mumbai Indians should not hesitate in retaining Sachin Tendulkar and Kieron Pollard, for together they are easily worth US$ 3.1 million (if not a lot more). Chennai Super Kings have a similar state as far as the duo of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina is concerned. Well, frankly, I am not a big fan of Dhoni and don't think he is worth much... but there is not doubt that he will be retained for his Brand Value. The entire brand marketing of Chennai's franchisee has been done around Dhoni. He is the poster boy of their team. Therefore, he will definitely be retained.

The problem will occur for the likes of Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab... I don't think anyone on their present team is worth US$ 1.8 million. Maybe Yuvraj Singh is, but then he does not want to stay at Mohali (from what has been reported).

The second consideration is that even if the teams do not retain players, they will have to spend upwards of US$ 1 million each in buying at least 2 big names that can benefit their team... maybe, even upwards of US$ 1.5 million. So it might be ideal to retain the old ones as one does not really know how high the valuation for the new ones will be, whether they will be worth it.

For example, Praveen Kumar may not justify a price tag of US$ 1.8 or 1.3 million, but it may be wiser to retain him as his price may well exceed US$ 1 million when 10 owners sit together for the bid - and - buy auction process.

The third major question, as I have already talked of in one of the examples above, is the brand-building. Chennai Super Kings have their entire brand name built around the image of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. There is no way they can let him go. No other cricketer in the league is has his brand so closely associated with that of the franchise as the Indian skipper.

And yes, finally there is the question of whether the entire team can be bought in US$ 4.5 million if a team decides to retain 4 men. We must remember that in the first ever auction, the limit for spending was up to US$ 5 million only. So there is no reason why an entire team cannot be bought for US$ 4.5 million, especially considering that in doing so the teams will be retaining their 4 main old men in their squad.

It would be interesting to see the auction process when it does take place. For the sake of the existing fans, I hope that there is not much of a reshuffle so that fan loyalties towards a particular player can be maintained. And for the sake of the fans of the two new teams, I hope they do get a chance to net in some big names who will perform for them well in the tournament.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Cricinfo's goof-up has made my previous post completely redundant. Here's the new IPL format:

Group A: Team 1, Team 2, Team 3, Team 4, Team 5
Group B: Team 6, Team 7, Team 8, Team 9, Team 10

Now, here's how it will work. Each team in Group A will play 2 matches each (home and away) against the four other teams in Group A. Similarly each team in Group B will play 2 matches each (home and away) against the four other teams in Group B. That makes it 8 matches for each team and 40 matches in all.

In addition, each team will play 2 matches (home and away) against any 1 team (chosen randomly) from the other Group. And finally, that team will also play 1 match each against the 4 remaining teams in the other Group (2 at home and 2 away). So, for example, if Team 1 plays 2 matches against Team 6 from Group B, then they will play 1 match each against Team 7 (say home), Team 8 (say away), Team 9 (say home) and Team 10 (say away). This means another 6 matches for each team... making it 30 matches in all.

Therefore, totally, there will be 70 matches in the league stage... 14 matches for each of the 10 teams (7 home and 7 away). And despite the teams being divided into 2 groups, there will be just 1 combined league table. Then there will be the playoffs. The format for playoffs is also different and slightly confusing.

Play Off Match 1: Rank 1 team on the table will play against Rank 2 team on the table. The winner of this match becomes the Finalist 1.

Play Off Match 2: Rank 3 team on the table will play against Rank 4 team on the table. The loser of this match will be the No. 4 team for the tournament. And the winner will be guaranteed a Champions League spot. But the winner does not enter the finals straight away. The winner will still need to play another match to qualify for the finals.

Play Off Match 3: The winner of Play Off Match 2 will take on the loser of Play Off Match 1. The winner of this match will enter the finals.

Finals: The winners of Play Off Match 1 and Play Off Match 3 will contest the finals of the Indian Premier League.

The format is unique... nothing like this has ever been seen before in the history of cricket (and maybe, other sports as well). But it is confusing. Keeping the essence of this format the same (i.e. 14 matches per team - 7 home and 7 away), I have a better format in mind. It would be much easier to understand as compared to the one explained above. Here it goes:

Each team should be required to play 2 matches (home and away) with every team in the other group and 1 match each with the remaining teams in their own group. This would mean that Team 1 would play 2 matches against Team 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. In addition, it would also play 1 match each against Team 2 (say home), Team 3 (say home), Team 4 (say away) and Team 5 (say away).

See, I did not even require a new paragraph to explain the entire format. Its much easier to understand than the one decided upon by the IPL Organising Committee. If only I were paid those salaries... sigh!

Moving on, I quite liked the new Play Offs format. It is a little weird to read at first, but it makes a lot of sense. Teams that finish Rank 1 and Rank 2 on the table are the ones that have performed consistently throughout the tournament. So, it is slightly sad if they have one bad day on the day of the semi-finals and do not get a chance to compete for the big prize. In the new format, they will get another chance... if they were to lose their Play Off Match 1, they will get another chance to try and win the Play Off Match 3 and still qualify for the finals.

And fittingly, Teams that finish Rank 3 and 4 will have to win three consecutive matches to win the IPL (instead of two consecutive matches as it stands in our traditional semi-final and final format). I will reiterate that I like this Play Off format... it makes a lot of sense to me! The deserving get an extra chance... and the undeserving have to pass an extra test to show that they deserve!

Reports suggest that this new Play Off Format was suggested by Adam Gilchrist as an extra incentive for teams to finish Top 2 on the table. In our current format, once the teams have qualified for the semis, they take it slightly easy and rest a few important guys. In IPL 3, Mumbai Indians played almost a complete new-look squad in their last IPL league match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. They were so depleted that they had to be captained by Dwayne Bravo... the man who himself was not a regular feature of the playing XI.

All in all, I must admit that 74 matches is certainly better than 94... but still quite a lot. It would have been even better had the tournament been even smaller... but alas, that is not to be! Lets hope that the new format, the new auction that will reshuffle squads, and the new teams keep us interested in this marathon tournament for long enough to reach the finals.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


IPL Governing Council has decided on what the new format for the Season 4 in 2011 is going to be like. In the earlier format, each team was to play 18 matches each during the league stage (2 against each of the 9 other teams on home and away basis)... making it 90 matches during the league stage. This was to be followed by the 2 semi-finals, the third-place play-off and the finals... making it 94 matches in all.

Here's the new format (74 matches):

Stage 1: The 10 teams will be divided in 2 groups of 5 each. 5 teams in each group will play 2 matches (home and away) against the other teams from their group. That makes it 20 matches in Group A and 20 matches in Group B.

Stage 2: After that, the top 3 teams from each group (6 teams in all) play home and away matches against each other. That will make it 30 matches in this stage.

Stage 3: And then we will have the 2 semi-finals, the 3rd place play-off and the finals. That makes it 74 in all.

Lets look into this new format in finer detail and compare it with the older format.

In the older format, the top-4 teams would have played 20 matches each and the other 6 would have played 18 matches each. In this format, the top-4 teams still play 20 matches each, the 5th and 6th teams play still 18 matches each and the bottom-4 teams play only 8 matches each.

The need for a new format arose due to the issues like player burn-out and cramped scheduling time. I don't think the newer schedule addressed any of those matters in an ideal manner.

The player burn-out will be reduced only for the teams that finish bottom-4 (i.e. bottom-2 in each group). They will be playing only 8 matches... the rest of the teams still have to play 18-20 matches over a period of those few weeks. What use is that? It hardly helps. In fact, this format makes the player burnout issue even more lop-sided with certain players playing 8 matches and the other playing more than double that number.

A better option would have been to change the Stage 2. Instead of having 3 teams of each group play 2 matches against each other, it should have been 3 top teams from each group play home and away matches against the top 3 teams of the other group. So instead of having A1 play 2 matches each against A2, A3, B1, B2 and B3, they should have been made to play 2 matches each against B1, B2 and B3 only. I say this because A1 has already played 2 matches against A2 and A3 when they met during Stage 1. The points and Net Run Rate of A1's performances against A2 and A3 during their previous meetings can be carried forward to this stage.

This would have reduced the number of matches during Stage 3 from 30 to 18... bringing the total number of matches down to 62 (which is a lot more manageable number than 74 in a 6-week schedule). This also would have brought some parity in the player burnout issue since the top-4 teams will play 16 matches each and the 5th and 6th ranked teams will play 14 matches.

Though the new format is better than the old one (94 matches would have been a drag), it is still not ideal. 74 matches are also way too many in 6 weeks... and even 62 are quite a lot. But the economics of our game is such that these things can't be helped a lot now!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Away from the depressing topic of corruption in cricket, I am today turning my attention to the US Open Grand Slam... the last tennis Grand Slam of the year.

Of the four Grand Slams played in tennis every year, US Open is my least favourite... simply because I live in a time zone that is not ideal if you want to follow every match at this big event! The live coverage of US Open begins at 8:30 pm each evening... and goes through the night to end at about 9:00 am the next morning. Since the best matches are played under lights during the second half of the day, they usually begin after 4:00 am in India.

But this has never stopped me from following the draws and the results at this Grand Slam. Being a Rafa fan, I am desperately hoping that he wins this title to complete his career Grand Slam. But if there's one thing that I want to see even more desperately, it is a Nadal v Federer final. These men have played in 7 Grand Slam finals... competing 30 sets with Nadal holding a 5-2 advantage over Federer.

Their Grand Slam finals showdowns are stuff of legends. Who can forget the brilliant 2008 Wimbledon finals that lasted four and three quarters of an hour interrupted by two rain delays! And then who can forget the 2009 Australian Open finals... just a few months later when Nadal consoled a sobbing Federer after defeating him in another 5-set marathon! Stuff of legends, indeed!

That Australian Open was their last meeting in a Grand Slam Final. Since then, they have met only twice... both times in the finals of Madrid Masters - Federer winning in 2009 and Nadal in 2010. The winner of Madrid Masters in both these years went on to sweep the French Open and Wimbledon titles in that year.

Their dominance in tennis Grand Slams can be ascertained by the fact that after the Australian Open 2005 (won by Marat Safin), only 2 Grand Slams out of 22 have been won by men other than these two - Novak Djokovic of Serbia took the Australian Open 2008 title and Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open 2009. Add the fact that Del Potro defeated Federer in the finals last year, this means that over the last 5 and a half years, there has been just one Grand Slam final (Australian Open 2008) where both Federer and Nadal have been missing... Djokovic defeated Jo Wilfried Tsonga to win his lone Grand Slam title!

With due respect to the emerging young talents in the world of men's tennis like Djokovic, Andy Murray, Del Potro, Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych and many others, there still has been no one to match the greatness of these two champions! Federer obviously has more laurels attached to his name with 16 Grand Slam titles as compared to Nadal's 8, but the Spaniard still enjoys a 14-7 record over the Swiss champion! And there is no doubt in my mind that Federer's tally of 16 would have been smaller had Nadal not been 4 years and 10 months younger to him.

As it stands today, I doubt Federer is going to add many more to his tally of 16... but as far as Nadal is concerned, I am really hopeful. Though I don't think it would be realistically possible for him to reach Federer's 16 titles, I hope he comes as close to it as possible. Nadal's game is physically a lot more exhausting than Federer's and that will give him a career shorter than that of Federer, but he's already shown that he can achieve a lot in these short periods!


In the backdrop of the spot-fixing scandal and the corruption charges, ICC issued a statement on Thursday that Mohammed Aamer and Mohammed Asif have been removed from the list of nominations in the ICC Annual Cricket Awards.

Aamer had been nominated under ICC's Emerging Player of the Year Award and Asif had been nominated under ICC's Test Player of the Year Award.

These two bowlers have been brilliant over the last few months for Pakistan's cricket. So if the allegations against them are true (which they are, to my mind - it is almost impossible to believe that there might have been a coincidence or a frame-up), these two will have to suffer dire consequences, along with the cricket in Pakistan.

If these men were under-performing and yet they had been nominated to ICC's Awards, I wonder how good they would have been had they been playing their best cricket!

However, I do believe that ICC has taken a good step in suspending these two and their captain Salman Butt from cricket. We live in a society that says you are innocent until proven guilty... but when the society has seen the overwhelming evidence against those involved, one has to take a different stand!

For a change, ICC has been pro-active and did not wait for investigations to be completed. There was a big chance that this case would get involved in the web of bureaucracy so prominently existent in cricket's administration. That is why, ICC's decision to suspend the 'tainted trio' holds even more significance.