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    Irani Trophy Preview - Rest of India

    Friday, September 30, 2005
    The "Rest of India" Team: (final twelve) Gautam Gambhir (Captain), Venugopala Rao, Dheeraj Jadhav, Suresh Raina, Neeraj Patel, Parthiv Patel, Ramesh Powar, R. Ramkumar, Amit Bhandari, R.P. Singh, S. Sreesanth and Ranadeb Bose.

    It is likely that one of the four fast bowlers (Bhandari, RP Singh, Sreesanth and Bose) would be left out of the final XI. I think it would have been a better ploy to play Vikram Rajvir Singh in the final XI. He is the fastest bowler in the domestic circuit and this would have been an ideal platform to blood someone like him. He might get a chance to play in the Challenger ODI series, but someone with such raw pace is better suited for the longer version of the game. I haven't seen him in action, but this is what Sid Vaidyanathan (cricinfo) had to say after seeing him in action in the Ranji Trophy earlier this year.
    Put Parthiv Patel's face on Zaheer Khan's body, add a couple of more inches in height, lengthen the run-up by a few yards, run in with a rhythmic action that gathers momentum with every step - hands moving like efficient pistons - deliver with an open-chested action and let out a mighty groan when the ball whizzes past the batsman's shoulder and you have done a perfect imitation of VRV's routine.

    Shikar Dhawan (the player of the tournament in the last under-19 world cup) and Robin Uthappa are the other two who have been left out of the final twelve. Both of them are exciting opening batsmen but they would have to wait for their turn. Gautam Gambhir is currently doing a great job as Sehwag's partner and Dheeraj Jadhav is deservedly the first in line. For Venugopal Rao, who had a disastrous Zimbabwe tour, this would be a great chance to redeem himself. It might take a while for Suresh Raina to make it into the Test squad, but he would be looking to use this game to further his ODI chances. Parthiv Patel has his hands full - he is up against some really quality keepers and he knows that he has to not only keep well but also score strongly to make any sort of impression. Ramesh Powar gets one more chance. Middle order batsman Neeraj Patel and left-arm spinner Ram Kumar have had a good domestic season and they have got nothing to lose.

    Inspite of the lack of big names on either side, there would be many people checking out the scores in this evenly contested game. This is the first game of the domestic season and whoever makes an impression in this game would be the first to get a look in by the selectors.

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    Irani Trophy Preview - Railways

    The annual five-day season opener between the Ranji Champions (Railways) and the Rest-of-India starts in about a few hours from now at the Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi.

    Railways: Sanjay Bangar (Captain), Murali Kartik, Amit Pagnis, T.P. Singh, J.P. Yadav, Raja Ali, Yere Goud, Vineet Saxena, Sudhir Wankhede, K. Parida and Harvinder Singh.

    The final eleven has been announced. With the exception for Murali Karthik (who has just returned from the county circuit after a couple of really good games for Lancashire), I dont really see anybody in that lineup who would be able to push for a place in the Indian test side.

    Sanjay Bangar had a decent run at the international level, but India is no longer looking for a make-shift opening batsman who can bowl wicket-to-wicket medium pacers. Harvinder Singh did alright in the ODIs that he played, but he was never really good enough (or lucky enough) to play regularly for the Indian test side. Amit Pagnis used to be one of the most promising junior cricketers in the country - he is now into his tenth year in first class cricket and he is yet to realize his immense potential. Wicket-keeper Sudhir Wankede is too old at 30, to compete with the youngsters like Dhoni, Kaarthick, Parthiv and Ratra. Kulamani Parida is arguably amongst the top 3 off-spinners in the country and has had his name do the usual rounds many a time at the selectors table, without any luck. Jai P Yadav, with his big-hitting and disciplined bowling might have a good future in the ODIs, but even he should know that his chances of making the test team are zilch.

    Inspite of their limited individual abilities, they are an excellent team - the best in the country. They would be really keen to do a double and win this trophy and in the process prove a point or two to the selectors.

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    Paul Russell is the "next"

    Paul Russell, the Glamorgan chief seems to have heard me. He is the next - says the opposite of what Flintoff had to say.
    "Ganguly is an outstanding professional who settled into the team and worked hard on and off the field. He always came to team practice on time and did whatever he was told to do. He was very regular for training. I personally drove him to the gym when he had joined us. There was never any attitude problem and he was very positive. We still discuss about him.

    I am surprised at the comments made by Flintoff. In fact, we have the opposite image of Ganguly of what Flintoff has written. There was no hint of anything of what Flintoff has said. He was very friendly with the other team members and used to often go out with them for dinner."

    What does this mean? Ganguly likes the Welsh climate better? Or that he has mellowed a bit over the years? He played for Lancashire when he was at the top of his game and at his arrogant best and he played for Glamorgan when he was struggling for runs and trying to get into some form. I'll let you guys decide whether that explains it.

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    Being Freddie.. Being Sunny.. Being Angus.. Who wants to "be" next?

    With no international cricket being played on the field and no spicy emails leaking off the field, the media seems to have turned its attention towards Saurav for filling up some bytes.

    Just when you thought you have seen the last of the excerpts from Freddie's new book, there comes another one - aptly suited for the flavour of the month. There is so much being printed out from the book these days, a few more weeks like this and there wouldn't be a need to buy it.

    Being Freddie (extract) - "Ganguly just didn't work out at all. You can accept a player not playing well, because we all have our ups and downs, but he just didn't want to get involved. He wasn't interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly in the team. He turned up as if he was royalty - it was like having Prince Charles on your side"

    Sunil Gavaskar (someone had to support Ganguly) - "Ganguly has been portrayed as somebody who comes from a royal family, actually his nickname is Maharaj, which is like Emperor in Hindi, but I don't think so. I find what little I've seen of him that he's a very hard working cricketer. He likes to get into the nets and work at his batting and bowl in the nets, a lot more than perhaps do 20 laps of the ground or whatever that some other cricketers do. I think he's a hard working cricketer, it's just a misconception, I think."

    It might be a misconception, but Saurav has never done anything to give his detractors to reason to change their view on him.
    Angus Fraser - "Away from the cameras, the microphones and the responsibility of captaining the most cricket-mad country on the planet he is delightful company, and it is these qualities that have enabled him to turn a talented yet directionless group of individuals into a winning team. During his five years in charge he has put steel into a side that had previously been pushed around and bullied, and unsurprisingly this approach has upset a few people along the way."

    Fraser, for some reason believes that Ganguly would still be at the helm for England's tour to India early next year. He is not so sure about Chappell's chances.

    Now, who wants to have a go next? Is there anyone else with a para-graph on Ganguly in their auto-biography? Ganguly is still very much the flavour of the month, so you can just say it now and then add it to your book later.

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    A chance to change for the better

    Thursday, September 29, 2005
    Within this misery lies an enormous opportunity for Indian cricket has been laid bare, its paltriness is exposed and therefore the world can see the corrections as well.

    This is the time to induct men of integrity into the selection committee, to have a permanent manager, to enter into a high quality television relationship, to apologise to the fan, reach out to him and earn his goodwill.

    It depends on which way you want to look; it depends on whether you care for Indian cricket.

    Harsha believes there is a chance. I really dont need an apology from the BCCI (am not really in a "forgiving" mood either), but would appreciate if someone inside BCCI would wake up, open the door and let Mr. Opportunity in (he is getting tired knocking the door).

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    Settling for hope

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005
    Perhaps, for those with a partiality to miracles, Ganguly will rediscover his batting machismo, field with enthusiasm, be sitting in the team bus before everyone gets there, heal every team rift, and re-take control of his team. It is improbable, and instead of being pro-active, Indian cricket has settled again for hope. Indeed, the only man who took a stand is Chappell and we're so unfamiliar with it that we have been reduced to platitudes of "best interests of the team" and "miscommunication". Instead of confronting a problem, we backed off.

    So says, Rohit Brijnath in his latest article. There is an ancient Roman saying which says - "While there's life, there's hope!". But for an Indian cricket fan, the saying changes to - "While there's BCCI, there's no hope". As Rohit says in his article, the team is broken and they had a chance to build a new one. Instead they opted for a temporary glue that won't stick.

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    ICC Player of the Year Award - Pruned list of Nominees

    No place for Dravid (last year's winner) and Ponting in the final list of nominees. I would have put Dravid over Flintoff in the pruned list. My initial pick for this category was McGrath and am sticking with him (sincerely hope he wins).

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    ICC Test Player of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    None of the Indians from the original list could make the cut. It is still between Kallis and McGrath and am going with Kallis (my initial pick).

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    ICC ODI Player of the Year Award - Pruned list of Nominees

    All those who scored 1000+ runs (original list) have been left out. It has to be between Kevin Pieterson and Brett Lee, though they are up against 3 quality all-rounders (Flintoff, Symonds and Gilchrist). Kevin Pieterson was my initial pick and am sticking with him.

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    ICC Emerging Player of the Year Award - Pruned list of Nominees

    The nominees have been short-listed. Gambhir (probably because he didn't play any ODIs - otherwise there is no reason why Ahmed is still in the list) and Rana miss out. Kevin Pieterson was my initial pick and he is still the strong favourite.

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    The Hansie Cronje Story

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005
    Garth King's book was released on July 22nd and is now sitting pretty at the top of South Africa's non-fiction best-seller list. At "Fascination Books" bookstore in Bloemfontein (Cronje's hometown), the book reportedly outsold J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince" in the first week of its release.

    "It is the marring of greatness that makes for such a compelling human story. Hansie's greatest battles were against himself. His story is therefore a universal story of the human condition, a story which may inspire reflection on one's own shortcomings, and on the nature of sin, and forgiveness." - From the Hansie Cronje website

    The book should be make an interesting read and it definitely gets onto the top of my wish-list.

    Here is an extract from Chapter 1 (Boy in a Storm) of the book
    A tall and athletic boy, with big, hazel laughing eyes, a neatly shorn head of stiff black-brown curls above bushy eyebrows, stood in the wide and long backyard of his family’s suburban home at 246 Paul Kruger Avenue, in the genteel Bloemfontein suburb of Universitas.

    Cricket stumps were placed near a corrugated asbestos wall running along the side of the property. The wall had several holes in it, which stand to this day, where hard cork balls had breached after repeated and explosive deliveries. Over the years, most of the large and small windowpanes on one side of the home had been broken by the unruly garden games of the sport-mad children.

    Hansie Cronjé, 10, was at the crease. Bowling was young Allan Donald, a lanky and powerful boy with a long, quick and brutal arm and furious expression. Fielding were Hansie’s older brother, Frans, and younger sister, Hester, as well as the three Bojé brothers, Nicky, Louis and Fourie.

    Apparently, a movie (titled "The Hansie Cronje Movie") is also being planned. The screen-play is being finalised and it would be a co-produced by "BlueRock Pictures" and "The Out Of Africa picture company".

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    Johnnie Walker Super Series - Inzy says "yes" now

    This is panning out to be like an Inzy "running between the wickets" visual - yes.. no.. yes.. Shaharyar Khan has somehow managed to convince (read "give R-E-S-P-E-C-T") Inzy and make him agree to play in the Sydney Test match. Hope he doesn't say "no" again..

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    L'affaire Saurav - A random selection

    Monday, September 26, 2005
    "The Week" has a random selection of Ganguly's controversies in its latest edition. The selection includes everything from his Ranji debut in 1990 to his 6 match ban early this year, from his eloped marriage (and why is that bad?) to his relationship with Nagma.

    My favourite pick..
    Kolkata, 1993: Playing for Mohun Bagan against East Bengal in the P. Sen Trophy final, Sourav was heckled by the opposition while he was batting. After taking a catch to win the match, he threw the ball at the spectators who were cheering the opposition. They responded with a volley of stones and abuse. He responded in kind, though later he wrote an apology to the Cricket Association of Bengal.

    But the one thing that Saurav would have on his mind when he faces Ranbir in tommorrow's review meeting...
    Australia, 1991-92: Got picked for the series Down Under, a forgettable one with a string of low scores in the side games. Played a lone One-Day International against the West Indies and got out for 3. Then manager Ranbir Singh Mahendra (who went on to become the BCCI president) reportedly made comments about his attitude problem to some reporters. Apparently, Sourav was reluctant to perform the ‘menial’ duties of a twelfth man like carrying drinks and accessories to the crease. Sourav denied the charge and called Mahendra the worst person he ever met in his life and a shame to Indian cricket.
    Ranbir is Dalmiya's man and would probably not go against the big man, but Saurav would definitely have his doubts..


    "If I start talking cricket, he will ask me to shut up."

    No matter what you and me think, Dona Ganguly believes her husband will bounce back when the critics are in full cry. Good for her. If only her husband can be in full cry when the likes of Bond bounce at him.

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    Johnnie Walker Super Series - Inzy pulls out

    Inzamam has decided not to travel to Australia for just one match. He seems to be pissed with not just the World XI selectors, but also with the PCB for making him believe that he was playing the ODIs as well. He says he deserves R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I agree with him but am just not sure who is denying him that...

    So who is going to be the new replacement? Vaughan? Laxman?

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    He can't do any worse than Evander... Can he?

    Darren Gough is all set to appear dancing with latin american dancer Lilia Kopylova in BBC's "Strictly Come Dancing". I have no idea how bad/good his shimmying skills are but I hope he wouldn't do any worse than Evander Holyfield. Evander was a disaster in a fairly recent American equivalent of the same show, ABC's "Dancing with the stars"

    If Gough fails to make it to the 2007 England World Cup squad, he can atleast perform on stage during the opening ceremony.

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    Dissection of an email - Greg Chappell is no John Wright

    Sunday, September 25, 2005
    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    This team has been made to be fearful and distrusting by the rumour mongering and deceit that is Sourav’s modus operandi of divide and rule. Certain players have been treated with favour, all of them bowlers, while others have been shunted up and down the order or left out of the team to suit Sourav’s whims.

    John Wright obviously allowed this to go on to the detriment of the team. I am not prepared to sit back and allow this to continue or we will get the same results we have been seeing for some time now.

    It is time that all players were treated with fairness and equity and that good behaviours and attitudes are rewarded at the selection table rather than punished.

    Greg Chappell makes one thing very clear in this email - that he is not John Wright. Wright gave up on the team towards the end of his tenure. He was instrumental in making the unit a good team but he just was not able to take it to the next level. The next level (call it the level of excellence) needs some real commitment and some real hardwork - tough fitness levels and an attitude to put the team before self.. Chappell has the vision and knows what it takes to take the team there. Saurav had his chances and gives you no impression that he has it in him to take those extra yards. If it really comes down to making a choice between Greg and Saurav, the choice to take should be pretty straight-forward.

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    Dissection of an email - The double-cross

    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    At the completion of the Test match I was approached by VVS Laxman with a complaint that Sourav had approached him on the eve of the Test saying that I had told Sourav that I did not want Laxman in the team for Test matches. I denied that I had made such a remark to Sourav, or anybody else for that matter, as, on the contrary, I saw Laxman as an integral part of the team. He asked how Sourav could have said what he did. I said that the only way we could go to the bottom of the matter was to speak to Sourav and have him repeat the allegation in front of me.

    I arranged for a meeting with the two of them that afternoon. The meeting took place just after 6pm in my room at the Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo. I told Sourav that Laxman had come to me complaining that Sourav had made some comments to Laxman prior to the Test. I asked Sourav if he would care to repeat the comment in my presence. Sourav then rambled on about how I had told him that I did not see a place for Laxman in one-day cricket, something that I had discussed with Sourav and the selection panel and about which I had spoken to Laxman at the end of the Sri Lankan tour.

    Sourav mentioned nothing about the alleged conversation regarding Laxman and Test cricket even when I pushed him on it later in the discussion. As we had to leave for a team function we ended the conversation without Sourav adequately explaining his comments to Laxman.

    This is easily the most disturbing part of the email. I have no reason to disbelieve Greg Chappell and so Saurav has to go based on just this piece. VVS would have felt really betrayed by his captain and it would take some real doing on Saurav's part to regain Laxman's trust. What was Saurav thinking? That VVS would never bring it up before Chappell? Inspite of Saurav's recent press statements about leaving the team out of this, VVS would definitely be consulted with (or summoned upon) by the review committee and Saurav would have a lot of explaining to do. Saurav and Harbhajan have gone to the press and talked about the "double standards" displayed by Greg C. Now what do you have to say about this, Bhajji?

    The best part of this piece is that Greg Chappell did talk to Laxman after the end of the Sri Lankan tour and explained to him about his ODI short-comings. Now how many past coaches have done that before? How many selectors have done that after dropping a player?

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    Dissection of an email - To leave in a fitting manner

    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    We then spent some time with Sourav and eventually convinced him that he should stay on as captain for the two Tests and then consider his future. In my view it was not an ideal solution but it was better than the alternative of him leaving on a bad note. I believe he has earned the right to leave in a fitting manner. We all agreed that this was a matter that should stay between us and should not, under any circumstances, be discussed with the media.

    So, Chappell thinks that Saurav has earned the right to leave in a fitting manner. How do you define "to leave in a fitting manner"? Would "scoring a test century and leading your side to an overseas victory" qualify? On that account, the time is now ripe for Saurav to leave. He did score a ton (what if it was against Zimbabwe?) and his team did manage to win overseas for the first time in nineteen years. What if he had lost the series? Would quitting after losing a series make him look feeble? If the selectors drop him, would it erase his past record as the most successful Indian captain? Saurav lost his right to leave in a fitting manner, the day he lost the respect and confidence of his team-mates.

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    Dissection of an email - Feigning injuries

    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    The following day Sourav batted in the match against Zimbabwe ‘A’ team in the game in Mutare. I am not sure of the exact timing of events because I was in the nets with other players when Sourav went in to bat, but the new ball had either just been taken or was imminent when I saw Sourav walking from the field holding his right arm. I assumed he had been hit and made my way to the players’ area where Sourav was receiving treatment from the team physiotherapist, John Gloster.
    When I enquired as to what had happened Sourav said he had felt a click in his elbow as he played a ball through the leg side and that he thought he should have it investigated. Sourav had complained of pain to his elbow at various stages of the one-day series, but he had resisted having any comprehensive investigation done and, from my observation, had been spasmodic in his treatment habits, often not using ice-packs for the arm that had been prepared for him by John Gloster. I suggested, as had John Gloster, that we get some further tests done immediately. Sourav rejected these suggestions and said he would be ‘fine’. When I queried what he meant by ‘fine’ he said he would be fit for the Test match. I then queried why then was it necessary to be off the field now. He said that he was just taking ‘precautions’.
    Rather than make a scene with other players and officials in the vicinity I decided to leave the matter and observe what Sourav would do from that point on. After the loss of Kaif, Yuvraj and Karthik to the new ball, Sourav returned to the crease with the ball now around 20 overs old. He struggled for runs against a modest attack and eventually threw his wicket away trying to hit one of the spinners over the leg side.
    The next day I enquired with a number of the players as to what they had thought of Sourav’s retirement. The universal response was that it was ‘just Sourav’ as they recounted a list of times when Sourav had suffered from mystery injuries that usually disappeared as quickly as they had come. This disturbed me because it confirmed for me that he was in a fragile state of mind and it was affecting the mental state of other members of the squad.

    Most of this has been been reported earlier. The thing is everybody knows about the way Saurav feigns these li'l injuries (remember Nagpur last year), but this is the first time someone is really going after him and questioning him about it. Saurav has lost so much credibilty that even if he does get genuinely injured, he would need a doctor certificate for others to believe him. I wouldn't blame Chappell if he thinks Saurav did that to avoid facing the new ball.

    Doesn't this remind you of the kid in school who used to skip gym classes saying that he is not feeling well? Ganguly can be a kid at times, but sadly for him international Cricket is no gym class that he can skip by using false pretences. Atleast not for long - especially, when your gym teacher is someone as strict as Chappell.

    When we arrived in Bulawayo I decided I needed to ask Sourav if he had over-played the injury to avoid the danger period of the new ball as it had appeared to me and others within the touring party that he had protected himself at the expense of others. He denied the suggestion and asked why he would do that against such a modest attack. I said that he was the only one who could answer that question.

    I would have loved to see the expression on Saurav's face when Chappell asked him about over-playing the injury. He wouldn't really have expected Chappell to ask him on the face. Had only anyone captured it on Camera, it would have made the cover page of the Saurav's "Shocking moments of my life" book.

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    Dissection of an email - Considering the suggestion..

    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    We discussed other issues in relation to captaincy and the time and effort it took that was eating into his mental reserves and making it difficult to prepare properly for batting in games. He commented that he had enjoyed being free of those responsibilities in the time that he was in Sri Lanka following his ban from international cricket and that he would consider my suggestion.

    This was before the game in Mutare. So, Saurav did mention that he would consider stepping down at the end of the tour. What happened to that consideration? Is it too late? It doesn't really make him a lesser person if steps down now. Does it? Wouldn't it be really nice if he just calls a press conference tomorrow and announces that he is stepping down. It would put an end to all this drama. I still believe that he has a few years of international cricket left in him and it would be great if he could just concentrate on proving everyone that his 10k+ ODI runs were no fluke (not just by pointing to his past records but by scoring runs the way he used to).

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    Dissection of an email - Last minute changes..

    The full text of the email is available on DNA
    A number of times during the tri-series the tour selectors had chosen a team and announced it to the group only for Sourav to change his mind on the morning of the game and want to change the team. On at least one occasion he did change the team and on the morning of the final I had to talk him out of making another last-minute change that I believe would have destroyed team morale and damaged the mental state of the individuals concerned.

    The super-sub selection in the later stages of the triseries was pretty dubious. (Funny that Raina did not get a single game). Telegraph (LP Sahi) always gets the correct team composition in its on-the-eve-of-the-match report and even they got it wrong on a couple of occasions during the triseries (that is a clear indicator that the team got changed on the morning of the match). I would really love to know what that "morning of the final" change that Saurav was talked out of (supersub change?).

    I dont have anything against a last minute change done by the captain as long as there is a very good reason for it and the tour selectors agree with it. Unless the weather changes drastically or the pitch changes colour overnight or some key player wakes up sore (bad hangover), there shouldn't really be a need to do that. If there is a real "need", the captain should have the right to make an "executive decision" and the right to follow his gut feeling. If he does it with out a need, questions are bound to be asked and the captain shouldn't complain about being taken to task. None of the matches during the triseries warranted a last minute change and Ganguly would have to justify his decisions.

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    Dissection of an email - When the captian gets nervous...

    The full text of the email is available on DNA (never visited that site before). I am going to start dissecting the email with the piece where I think Greg Chappell is being a bit unfair in his criticism of Saurav.
    I also told Sourav that his nervous state was affecting the team in other ways as he was prone to panic during pressure situations in games and that his nervous demeanour was putting undue pressure on the rest of the team. His nervous pacing of the rooms during our batting in the final plus his desire to change the batting order during our innings in the final had also contributed to nervousness in the players waiting to go in to bat. His reluctance to bat first in games I suggested was also giving wrong signals to the team and the opposition and his nervousness at the crease facing bowlers like Shane Bond from NZ was also affecting morale in the dressing room.

    Well, that IS Saurav. He has always been like this and will probably be the same forever. When has he ever been comfortable facing bowlers like Bond? When has he shown composure during crunch games? He is not exactly an ice-man like Waugh, he is more like Nass Hussain. You cant really hold his "nervousness" against him. The team knows it and the same combination has performed well before, there is no reason why they should let it (Saurav's nervousness) affect them now.

    I agree that a captain's body language is very important, but there are lots of leaders and athletes out there who revel in the feeling (of nervousness), use the "energy" to their advantage and bring out their best. Debatable topic.. yes, but not something which should be held against Saurav's ability to lead the side.

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    India (under-19) win series over Australia

    The Indian youngsters won twice in 2 days in the back to back encounters in Dharamshala . They now have an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five match series. The reports for matches 3 and 4 are available here and here. Piyush Chawla has been the most consistent of all performers with a batting average of 61.5 and an uncanny wicket-taking ability during crucial stages. The final game will be played at Delhi on the 28th.

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    Johnnie Walker Super Series - The Replacements

    Sachin Tendulkar is not playing in the Super Series. His problems with his "tennis elbow" has now reached proportions where his die-hard fans have stopped watching and following tennis (Sania or no Sania). The good thing is that this does not seem to have any effect whatsoever on "Brand Sachin". The Jerry Mcguires and the Arliss Michaels of India are making sure that the brand would be intact for a life-time.

    Sachin has been replaced by Inzamam in the tests and by Dravid in the ODIs. If the selectors had snubbed Inzamam again, the whole of Multan would have gone on a hunger strike. It is nice that Inzy has accepted the invitation and is travelling to Australia (He had earlier hinted that he might reject the "replacement player"

    Herschelle Gibbs has also ruled himself out, and Chris Gayle (deservingly) will be taking his place for the ODIs. I saw Gayle in action recently during a 20-20 game and he did not show any signs of rustiness due to the long layoff.

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    Being Freddie - The "I got shot in Delhi" extract

    Extract from "Being Freddie" (courtesy Times Online):
    AS AN England player you are a target, as well as a hero, but a line was crossed when I was fielding on the boundary for England in Delhi in 2002. I felt something hit me and, looking down, saw pellets on the ground. You expect to have plastic bottles thrown at you when you are playing on the sub-continent, but you don’t expect to be shot.

    Nasser Hussain got very heated about it in the middle and Phil Neale, the tour manager, came to find out what was going on. We carried on, but the whole thing seemed to get swept under the carpet.

    This is supposed to have happened on 31st Jan 2002 during the ODI in Delhi. The match reports can be found here - (a) BBC, (b) Cricinfo, (c) Indian Express and (d) The Hindu.

    The alleged incident is supposed to have happened during the 29th over with Ganguly and Kaif at the crease. Needing 272 to win, India was 135/3 at that stage. (This was a game that India should have won but ended up losing by 2 runs - Those were the days when Ganguly was at his best when it came to hitting the spinners out of the ground -- cant blame you if say it was ages ago; also how can a team give away 5 wkts to Ashley Giles?). Flintoff was definitely hit by something (possibly a bottle cock), play was held up for a while and then resumed. Flintoff thinks it was a pellet (from an air-gun or a toy gun or whatever) and that it shouldn't have happened, he was not there to be shot at (who disagrees?) and was disappointed that not much was done about that. And he writes the same in his auto-biography (forget the ghost writers). Now what is wrong with that? If he doesn't write about things like that in his auto-biography, where else will he express his opinions? What else should he write about - the bland vada-pav or the spicy curry chicken that he ate there?

    The Delhi police and DDCA have immediately rubbished the claim saying that this is just a publicity gimmick used to promote his book. The officials now say that they would have done something about it, had it been brought to their immediate notice. I dont think it was a "life-threatening" bullet that was shot at Flintoff, but all the same the Delhi Police (/DDCA) did not really have a great day on the ground to have been able to do something about it. Read this article that was run by Indian Express on the day of the game about policemen letting in ticketless spectators onto the ground. The DDCA and the police officials had a very bad day, the "controlling the crowd" aspect was a big fiasco and they should acknowldge it. I understand that the security measures at the Indian grounds have improved a great deal in recent years and playing in India now is as safe as you can get.

    Ever since that excerpt from Freddie's book came out, people have been saying "why rake it up now?".. Well, why not? It is just an extract from "auto-biography". Not a treatise on "security in India".

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    From Royal Stag To Johnnie Walker

    Saturday, September 24, 2005
    The Outlook magazine has an article in its latest issue on how Dravid brokered peace between Ganguly and Chappell in Zimbabwe (and how a lesser man would have struggled to counter the stress amidst such happenings).
    It was the most natural thing for him, saying it wasn't the time to ask Saurav Ganguly to step down as captain. Rahul Dravid could so easily have been caught in the crossfire between Ganguly and Chappell but, just as he does at the crease, Dravid chose to play the right line when faced with an awkward delivery. Had he backed Chappell, Dravid would have been accused of playing dirty with Ganguly, of being selfish. But he sought no credit for himself, believing what he did to be his responsibility.

    Now that the Royal Stag series is over, Rahul Dravid would be really looking forward to the Johnnie Walker Series just for the simple reason that he would not have to do any fire-fighting there.

    When Dravid boards onto that flight to Australia, he would do so with the knowledge that there would be no dressing room spats between the captain and the coach, there would be no need to exercise his mediating skills, there would be no one (in the World XI) playing to keep his place in the side, there would be no stupid managerial snafus like being stranded in the aiport and more importantly there would be no lack of mutual respect amongst the players in the team. Scoring heavily (without getting "bowled") and winning the series (both tests and ODIs) would be his only concern. Shouldn't that always be the case?

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    Cricket with shalwars, long shirts and no male spectators

    Friday, September 23, 2005
    Pakistan's female cricketers will play a 4 match one-day series against an under-21 team from across the border at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium later next week. Playing the senior Indian side would be a bit too much for Pakistan, so India is sending its junior team to play against the Pakistan national team (The senior Indian women's side finished runners-up to Australia in the World Cup this year while Pakistan failed to qualify for the event).

    The Pakistan cricketers would be sporting shalwar (baggy sort of trousers) and long shirts during the games. No male spectators would be allowed to watch the matches. Inspite of all that, this is a huge step for the female cricketers in Pakistan. Just about a decade ago, women in Pakistan were forbidden to play in sports in public. Things have been changing since the staging of the first even women's football match last year. The first-ever women's international squash tournament was held near Islamabad last week while a national football championship for women is scheduled in Islamabad for the first time later this month.

    With a bit of experience and some proper guidance from the PCB, there is no reason why the land which produced the "Sultans of Swing" wouldn't be able to produce the "Sultanas of Swing (even reverse)".

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    "Gillespie needs to bowl at me in the nets to get back into form"

    Aakash Chopra tells how he was dismissed 6 times in 6 tests by Gillespie and how much he feels now for his out-of-form nemesis.
    He (Gillespie) was a craftsman at work and as a batsman, you could sense you were getting into a trap but were often helpless. He would bowl two consecutive bouncers at 140 to push you on the backfoot and then slip in a quicker ball pitched up but a little wide to tempt you.

    I love the way he looks back at his final dismissal in Nagpur (his last test innings)..
    I still remember my last dismissal at Nagpur when the ball (from Gillespie) swung away in the air, jabbed back in after pitching to beat my defences and crashed into leg stump. Everyone thought it an inside edge but it wasn't and just the quality of that ball defeated frontfoot defence. I would play the same ball the same way again so I didn't really blame myself. Honestly, it was just too good for me. Forget me, he did the same thing to The Wall himself shortly thereafter!

    And finally, the last paragraph..
    You need to be lucky at times, only talent isn't enough. If the team is doing well and you've done just about okay, you still hold on to your place (like Ian Bell in the Ashes). But God forbid, if your poor form coincides with the team's dismal showing, you could be history. Cricket can be a cruel game.

    It tells you of someone who knows how hard it is going to be to make a comeback. He knows that he had his chances and that he blew them. With Gambhir continuing to do well as an opener and Jadhav being considered as the fall-back option, Chopra could well be history.

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    Trevor Penney hired to assist Tom Moody

    Thursday, September 22, 2005
    Tom Moody selected his former Warwickshire team-mate Trevor Penney to assist him coach Sri Lanka until after the 2007 World Cup. The Zimbabwean born 37 year old Warwickshire batsman has done a fair bit of coaching over the years in his home country during English winters. But his most recent claim to fame is that he was one of the expert substitute fielders (other than Gary Pratt) used by Duncan Fletcher during the Ashes (in addition to being England's fielding coach this season).

    Greg Chappell has Ian Frazer to assist him and the Indian fielding has been pretty good in Zimbabwe, but should India be thinking of hiring Gary Pratt as the fielding coach? And say India do that and Pratt relocates to India, would Pratt be allowed to field as a substitute for England when they tour India later this season? (Would Penney be allowed to field for England when they tour Sri Lanka?) I know the answer for that, but still.. wouldn't it be great from Fletcher's point of view?

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    Australia (under-19) level series

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005
    Chasing 230, the Aussie openers (Skennar and Cooper) raked up 118 in 14 overs and the middle order made sure that the game ended by the 35th over. Piyush Chawla, the leg-spinner was the only one with decent figures (2-37 off 7). He had earlier top-scored with 55. Anirudha, Ravikant and Arindam couldn't convert their 30s into anything bigger and they were all-out in the penultimate over. The 5 game series is now level at 1-1.

    The way the Aussies used their super-sub in this game is interesting. Chris Thompson opened the bowling attack, bowled 4 overs for 23 runs and picked up a wicket. He was then swapped to accommodate the left-arm spinner, Jack McNamara in as early as the 13th over. McNamara then bowled 6 overs and picked up 1-22. I would be really surprised if something like this were to happen in senior cricket - the opening bowler would have to bowl a really bad first spell (or get injured) to be sent out that early.

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    Great Actors

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005
    "Footballers are great actors anyway - all you have to do is touch them on the ankle and they roll over screaming for a penalty." - Kevin Pietersen, during the premiere of the new football-based film, Goal! (the movie has guest appearances from David Beckham, Alan Shearer and Zinedine Zidane)

    hmm.. What do you call those fielders who deliberately go up in an orchestrated appeal at the slightest of sounds after the ball brushes past the batsman? What do you call the keeper who gathers the ball down the legside and goes for an appeal to avoid a wide being called? What do you call the batsman who points to his bat immediately after getting wrapped on the pads? What do you call the captain who deliberately slows down the over-rate by having unnecessary discussions when the going gets tough? And finally what do you call the captain who stirs up a huge controversy after being given an honest opinion by the coach and then publicly patches up with him over a game of pool?

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    The choice that Indian cricket needs to make..

    Sambit Bal (Cricinfo) - The choice they need to make is not between Chappell and Ganguly, but between progress and retardation, between discipline and anarchy, and between team and person. It is between the right way and the wrong one.
    Rohit Brijnath (The Hindu) - This is not about two men but a debate that reaches deep into the very heart of how we want to run our cricket, what values we want our game to reflect. It is about deciding between ambition and indulgence, about grabbing greatness by the collar or opting for the status quo, about rewarding performance or reputations. It is about reshaping a cricketing culture that is out of date.

    Beautifully put by the pair of them. But, are the men who are supposed to make the choice listening?

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    Australian ODI Squad for the Johnnie Walker Super Series

    Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting (captain), Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson.
    Matthew Hayden is out. The scratchy oval test century was not good enough to save his ODI berth. On the other hand, a century (146) as an opener against Pakistan A at Rawalpindi a couple of days ago (with Trevor Hohns watching), was good enough for James Hopes to get into the ODI side. Hopes did tour New Zealand with the senior side, earlier this year and played an ODI (did not bat, picked up a wicket) and a 20-20 International (did not bat, picked up a wicket). There is a very good chance that he would walk into bat with Gilchrist at the very top of the order (Martyn and Hussey would be the other options).

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    Australian Test Squad for the Johnnie Walker Super Series

    Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Simon Katich, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting (captain), Shaun Tait, Shane Warne, Shane Watson.
    No places there for Damien Martyn, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz. The century at Oval saved Hayden. Australia would be playing either Brad Hodge (yet to make his debut) or Shane Watson (one test old) in the middle-order against a very strong World XI bowling attack. I cant help feeling sorry for Martyn and Gillespie. They spent a good part of their careers helping the Aussie team to get to be the very best (and maintain that position) and now when an epic series is being played between the best team of the world and the best from the rest of the teams, they dont find their names figuring in it. The selectors got it right (no questions there), but I just cant help thinking how cruel the world of sports can be.

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    Being Freddie

    Monday, September 19, 2005
    Andrew Flintoff's new book is yet to hit the stands, but it can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Times Online has an excerpt from his book.

    "I AM two people. There is Andrew who goes home and is a father and a husband, and on the cricket pitch there is Fred, who just goes out there and has a crack. After losing the first Ashes Test at Lord’s, I went to see a “mental coach”, who reminded me of that. I took it on board and for the rest of the series I tried just to go out there and enjoy my cricket. I wasn’t going to get bowled pushing forward or nicking a soft one to the keeper. I was going to get caught out on the boundary if I was going to get out — I was going to get out on my terms."

    Only a mental coach can tell you to go have crack :). This book definitely goes into my wish-list.

    Other books (Ashes Related) to look forward to..

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    India beat Australia

    It is not often that an Indian side beats an Australian side in a one-day game. The India under-19 team won the the first game of the 5 match series against the Australian under-19 team by two wickets. The youngsters are being closely watched by the chairman of the Board's Talent Resources Development Team, Dilip Vengsarkar and the chairman of the junior selection committee, Praveen Amre.

    This under-19 side has some really promising players. 18 year old left-hander, Ravikant Shukla, who top-scored for the Indians in the opening game is the skipper. For another UP lad, 16 year old allrounder Piyush Chawla (a left-handed batsman whose leg-spin bowling skills have been highly rated by none other Erapalli Prasanna) this is a very good chance to impress the selectors. The team also includes the hard-hitting 18 year old chennai opener, Anirudha Srikkanth. Does the surname sound familiar? Yeah, Anirudha is the son of the former Indian skipper, Kris Srikkanth and like his father he can hit the ball a long way into the stands. The team is being coached by the former Indian opening bowler, Venkatesh Prasad.

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    The step-down controversy - Truce and a game of Pool

    "It was a frank discussion about Indian cricket's present and future, and much of what I said was aimed at motivating Sourav for the Bulawayo Test match. In that regard our exchange was beneficial. Sourav and I share a mutual respect going back a long time. Thankfully, it is strong enough to survive what has occurred in the past week. I have great respect for what Sourav has achieved in his playing and captaincy career and look forward to working with him in the future"

    Chappell said this in a press conference, meant to put an end to this controversy. At the end of it, Greg and Saurav posed for the photographers by playing a game of pool. The report doesn't say who won. But dont you think "fencing" would have been a good game, instead.

    Stories on what really happened:
    (a) Cricinfo - What really happened between Chappell and Ganguly?"
    (b) Rediff - New twist in Ganguly-Chappell saga

    Related Posts:
    (a) Greg Chappell did his job
    (b) Playing for self
    (c) Quotes

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    The Surfer

    The Surfer is a new cricinfo blog managed by the very talented trio of Sid Vaidyanathan, Jenny Thompson and Peter English. Amit Varma is back at cricinfo and hopefully he would now find time to revive 23 Yards (my original favourite). These are good times for cricket blogs and I eagerly look forward to see more. Keep them coming, cricinfo.


    ICC Awards 2005

    Saturday, September 17, 2005
    The second annual ICC Awards (the cricket "oscars") will take place in Sydney, Australia on 11 October 2005. This is the place-holder for all posts on these awards.
    (a) Emerging Player of the Year
    (b) ODI Player of the Year
    (c) Test Player of the Year
    (d) Player of the Year

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    The step-down controversy - Place Holder

    This is the place holder for all posts on the "step down" controversy.
    (a) Greg Chappell did his job
    (b) Playing for self
    (c) Quotes
    (d) Truce and a game of Pool


    ICC Player of the Year Award - Nominees

    This one is really tough. The winner should be someone who performed consistently in both forms of the game. Inzamam scored 1000+ runs in either form, MGrath picked up a total of 107 international wickets and Gilchrist has 90 dismissals to go with his runs. I would pick McGrath (can't always pick a batsman).

    Whom would you pick?

    Related Posts:
    (a) Emerging Player of the Year
    (b) ODI Player of the Year
    (c) Test Player of the Year

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    ICC Test Player of the Year Award - Nominees

    All the batsmen nominated have 60+ averages. Four of the five bowlers nominated took more than 60 wickets. In the end, it should boil down to a tussle between the batsman who scored 1497 runs at a staggering average of 71.28 and the bowler who took 68 wickets at a miserly average of 17.13. My pick would be Kallis (He picked wickets too).

    Whom would you pick?

    Related Posts:
    (a) Emerging Player of the Year
    (b) ODI Player of the Year
    (c) Player of the Year

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    ICC ODI Player of the Year Award - Nominees

    Inzamam, Ponting, Youhana and Malik scored around 1000 runs each while Brett Lee racked up almost 50 wickets. But I would give it to Kevin Pieterson. He played quite a few match winning knocks - a bulk of those runs was made against quality bowling (South African and Australian attacks).

    Whom would you pick?

    Related Posts:
    (a) Emerging Player of the Year
    (b) Test Player of the Year
    (c) Player of the Year

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    ICC Emerging Player of the Year Award - Nominees

    Friday, September 16, 2005
    This should be a no-brainer. Kevin Pietersen should be the unanimous choice (despite the fact that he played only one test) just for the sheer impact he had on the opposition. AB de villiers had a very good debut season in tests (scored almost 1000 runs, bowled a bit and even kept wickets), but did not fare that well in the one day matches. Ian Bell managed a very good test average but 2 of those 4 tests were against Bangladesh. The other nominees are just there to make up the numbers.

    Whom would you pick?

    Related Posts:
    (a) ODI Player of the Year
    (b) Test Player of the Year
    (c) Player of the Year

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    The step-down controversy - Quotes

    Saurav Ganguly (the statement which triggered it all) - "Yes, it (step down from captaincy) was suggested. I was under a lot of pressure".
    Greg Chappell (diplomatic response) - "Things come up from time to time and people get frustrated. They say things which probably they don't really mean and are not as important as they are made out to be. I think if we keep looking at success a lot of these issues would fade away."
    Kiran More (chair-person of the selectors)- I'm not aware of what happened there (after the third day's play of the first Test against Zimbabwe). And we have not issued any instructions to Ganguly to step down."
    Pranab Roy (national selector - he talks about protocol.. hmm damn the protocol) - "Chappell should at least have spoken to chief selector Kiran More before asking Sourav to step down. I don’t have details first-hand, but there’s a protocol for everything."
    Ajit Wadekar (former Indian captain and coach - seems to have been waiting for something like this to happen) - "If the current Indian coach Greg Chappell had asked his skipper Sourav Ganguly to sit out of the first Test match against Zimbabwe, which the Indians are poised to win, it clearly shows the Aussie mentality to succeed at any cost. First of all there was no need for Chappell to ask Ganguly to sit out of the match against a club standard Zimbabwe. Moreover the coach should understand that Ganguly has been appointed captain by a panel of selectors."
    Anand Vasu (cricinfo) - "The captain and coach need to work closely together, buy into a united vision for the long-term well-being of the team, and pull together. Situations like this rarely improve. When you want to work something out, you talk to the person you have a problem with; when you talk to the rest of the world, you're drawing battle lines."
    Peter Roebuck - "He (Saurav) fields badly, runs poorly between the wickets and, crucially, puts his mid-off in the wrong place. His time is up. But it is gutless to ask him to stand down. Strong management is needed. Ganguly must be backed or sacked."
    Harsha Bhogle (on the need to make up in public) - "I interviewed both of them live and I must admit that neither seemed to be gunning for each other. Ganguly was almost reluctant to talk about it and Chappell said he did not want to provide more oxygen to the situation. In public, both seemed to have handled it quite well. Now both parties need to approach the issue with maturity and with a clear vision; both possess it and have it in them to put India first. The rapprochement, like justice, has to be seen to happen and it needs to be swift, over the next couple of days. Otherwise things might fester and people could draw their own conclusions; either event could only fan the fire."

    Related Posts:
    (a) Greg Chappell did his job
    (b) Playing for self

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    The step-down controversy - Playing for self

    Even before boarding the flight to Zimbabwe, Ganguly knew that this was going to be a make-or-break series for him (not just as a captain but even as a player). India didn't win the videocon tri-series and the fact that he wasn't among the runs did not help his cause. The test series was his last chance to salvage something out of this tour. He knew that just winning the series wouldn't be enough and that he had to score really big to regain the respect of his team.

    When Greg gave him the step-down option, he would have realized that taking it would mean the end of his test career. The request was not just to step down as captain, but to step out of the team and that is one step he was not ready to take yet. It was already clear to him that his team no longer had the same respect for him, but he wouldn't have expected anyone (least of all Greg) to ask him to step down in the middle of this tour. Having been selected as the captain for the entire tour, he would have felt entitled to give himself two more tests and see how he would fare as a batsman.

    There is nothing to choose between him and Dravid when it comes to captaincy skills - it is only his batting that has let him down. There was a time when his was the first name that was written down while selecting the batsmen in the team, but now his inclusion is more of a thank-you-for-your-past-deeds deal. He is someone who takes great pride in his past records and he didn't want to do anything in haste that he would'nt be proud of later on. He knew that he wouldnt be hampering India's chances of winning the series by playing his out-of-form self. It is not like they were playing Australia or Pakistan. He had Dravid's backing and he believed that he was good enough to come good.

    Was it the right thing? Well, it is sort of the same as giving rest to your in-form players and playing the fringe players in inconsequential (against Zim/Ban it is always inconsequential) games. Isn't it? If that is right, then giving an out-of-form captain an opportunity to play himself into some form in "will win anyway" games also seems right.

    He scored a painstakingly slow boring ton. He needed that very bad and all credit to him for digging in and fighting his mental demons. He restrained himself from going after the spinners, brushed aside the terrible mixup which ran-out Laxman and concentrated hard on occupying the crease for long hours. If that is what it takes to put some confidence back into him, if that is what it takes for him turn a corner, if that is what it takes to gain some self-respect, then the manner in which he got those runs shouldn't be questioned. It was not an innings he would be proud (as evident from his meek celebration after reaching his ton), but one which he would definitely remember as one of his most satisfying tons.

    About the outburst (it wasn't really an outburst.. was it?) on TV, was it needed? May be not. It was obvious that he was being pushed by Harsha for an answer and he yielded. Would he have said it if he had been out for a blob? May be not. Where does he go from here? He knows that this ton means very little (though it meant a lot to him personally) to the review committee and that he has to follow this up with a more commanding innings in the next test. The good thing is that he is aware of what is expected of him and is quite determined to achieve that. I just have a feeling that he is seriously thinking of stepping down (one more ton in the next test might change those thoughts) as the captain at the end of the series and that he wants to make a strong case for himself as a batsman before he does that.

    Related Posts:
    (a) Greg Chappell did his job
    (b) Quotes

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    The step-down controversy - Greg Chappell did his job

    As the coach, Greg C is responsible for bringing the best out of the team that is given to him. And the best way to achieve the desired results is by always playing your best XI in the side. Any sane follower of the Indian cricket team would tell you that Ganguly on current form is not amongst the top 6 batsmen in the available fifteen. I dont think it was wrong on Greg's part to go have a one-on-one with the skipper and let him know that he doesn't deserve to be playing the game at the expense of dropping someone like Kaif. No one would ever know the exact words of the conversation in that one-on-one, but it would be safe to assume that Greg would not have spared any words to speak his mind.

    Was the timing right? There is never really a good time. Is there? It wasn't exactly the eve of a world cup final. He gave Saurav an option, Saurav didn't take it and he is bound to bring it up in the review meeting after the series. If not anything, he has managed to make Saurav more determined to come good with the bat. Before throwing verbal assualts on him, it has to be remembered that it wasn't him who went on TV and told the whole wide world about it.

    Related posts:
    (a) Playing for self
    (b) Quotes

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    International 20-20 Club Championship

    The opening day's (yesterday) games were decided by bowl outs because of rain. You can watch the second day's play live here


    The Jacaranda Man

    Thursday, September 15, 2005
    It is said that if you are walking underneath the Jacaranda tree and one of the trumpet blossoms falls on your head you will be favored by fortune.

    Harsha Bhogle seems to be hoping that the blossoms in Bulawayo would fall on his head - The Jacarandas make their way into successive match reports.
    Day 1 report - The jacarandas are blooming in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe haven’t spoilt the mood. Not yet.
    He said not yet and Zimbabwe duly spoiled the mood the day after.
    Day 2 report - Then, like the jacarandas in Bulawayo, he (Laxman) flowered. The fielders seemed to vanish, the gaps remained and he pierced them at will.
    Yeah, Laxman did flower alright and he did it amidst fears of being nipped at the bud.

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    Substitute Umpire

    Sometime during the second day's play of the ongoing test (Ind Vs Zim) at Bulawayo, umpire Daryl Harper left the field and the third umpire Russel Tiffin stepped into officiate. It is not often that a substitute umpire comes onto the field. Say Ricky Ponting is at the crease and is given out LBW by the substitute umpire. Would he throw a tantrum? OK, I know, :) am being out of line. I just love to kid the Aussie captain.

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    Ganguly gives the reason for dropping Kaif

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005
    "Both Yuvraj and Kaif are playing well but Yuvraj has a better Test record than Kaif at the moment." - Ganguly, at the end of the first day's play.

    Yuvraj has scored 302 runs off 10 innings with an average of 37.75, while Kaif has 294 runs to his credit off 13 innings with an average of 24.50. Seems like Kaif would have to wait for Yuvraj to fail in a few innings and get his average lower than 24.50. And then Yuvi would wait till Kaif's average falls down again. As some one (Harsha) said, if you play for averages, you will end up playing average.

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    Contrasting offie fortunes

    Muralitharan (despite the brewing bar-girl scandal) picked up 6 for 18 and sent Bangladesh crashing to an innings defeat. Harbhajan (inspite of the lowly opposition) on the other hand, in pursuit of his 200th wicket, went wicketless in the Zimbabwean first innings. Bhajji, better luck in the second innings.

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    One more loss for the Aussies.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005
    This time it is the A side. The batsmen had no answers for the Pakistani pace attack (Gul, Sami, Nazir). The only positive being the unbeaten 92 by Phil Jaques in the first innings. Worrying times for the chief selector, Trevor Hohns (who is now in Pakistan).

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    Ashes Oscars (on BBC)

    Chris Charles announces the Ashes Oscar winners. My favourite pick -
    Best comedy moment: Australian players returning from bad light break at The Oval wearing sunglasses to show how they judged the conditions.

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    Happy Birthday.. Warnie

    Today is his 36th Birthday. Day after losing the Ashes - not exactly how he would have wanted to celebrate it.
    "For me it was a nice touch for them to say 'we wish you were English'" - Shane Warne (saluting the crowd) yesterday after the game.

    If he were English, he would have been celebrating his Birthday drinking (with his mate KP - just watched KP get on to the bus with a pitcher full of beer in hand) on an open top bus. Well, if he were English, England would have been celebrating the whole of the past decade.

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    Telegraph gets it right once again.

    Yuvraj Singh has been preferred over Kaif. I would always play the man in form. Kaif is in too good a touch to be warming the benches. It is like ordering take-out food at Hooters (ok .. bad analogy.. but you know what I mean). I'm sure he would be feeling really hard done.

    Both the spinners are in. Zaheer and Irfan are the new ball bowlers. And Dinesh Karthik seems to be trying really hard to do better than what Dhoni did in the one-dayers - for starters, he has stopped getting hair-cuts.

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    Duck? Hook? Take it on the body?

    Monday, September 12, 2005
    Ganguly is starting a cricket school in Kolkata (along with his brother Snehashish) on october 5th. Yeah, Saurav will be coaching the wards. It would be interesting to see if the wards are taught how to play the short ball. Or is that one lesson that they would have to learn elsewhere?


    Kaif (vs) Yuvi

    After all those articles on Rahul (vs) Saurav bouts, the friendly Indian media now seems to have turned its attention elsewhere, seems to be bent on starting a new series - the Kaif (vs) Yuvi bouts. Both of them are young and talented enough to be on the tabloids for a very long time.

    After all the articles on how good a test batsman Kaif could be and how his name would be the first to be jotted down on the team-sheet for tomorrow's game, (The Hindu - Chance for Kaif to cement his place in Tests, Hindustan Times - Kaif gets a berth in India's Test team) there comes an article saying that Yuvi is a certainty for the opening test ( The Telegraph - Yuvraj set for Test comeback ). Kaif deserves to be playing tomorrow, but Telegraph seldom gets it wrong. If both of them play tomorrow, then it would mean that poor Gambhir has been made the scapegoat.

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    Passionate and skilful lovers

    Sunday, September 11, 2005
    It (cricket) is the language of love. Men who are drawn to this game, who understand its linguistic ironies and subtleties of play, who take the time to teach you about technique rather than physique, who enjoy the commitment of a Test, of taking things slow, over days, weeks, sometimes months or years, will be passionate and skilful lovers.

    .. writes Cathy Galvin (Sunday Times). I knew that and my wife can't agree more. Well, that is just one of the two things that Cathy has to say about cricket. The second, she says is that cricket is feminine. Can't agree with her on that.

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    Bobby Simpson is Rajasthan's cricket advisor

    Rajasthan joined Punjab and Maharashtra in the elite list of "domestic teams with a foreign coach" by signing up Bobby Simpson as a cricket advisor for the next 3 years. Intikhab Alam is Punjab's coach and Darren Holder is the cricket director for Maharashtra. With the kind of money, the domestic teams (with the exception of Railways and Services - believe the Railways team would atleast pay first class rail fare to their coach) are willing to spend these days, it probably wouldn't be long before the others follow suit.People (read ex-cricketers) had a lot to say when the BCCI hired a foreign coach for the national team. What do they have to say now?

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    Character, Will and Strength

    Freddie Flintoff (after the third day's play) - "Every ounce of energy we've got left in our tanks is going to have to be left out in the middle. The character, will and strength of this side is going to have to be called upon again but I think we can do that."

    They sure can do that. Flintoff sure can do that - Five wickets bowling unchanged for 18 overs on the trot. Australia allout for 367. Top performance.

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    A walk in the clouds

    Friday, September 09, 2005
    Should they have not walked? Any other time, in a less significant game the decision would have been a no-brainer - Against an attack with the likes of Flintoff and Harmison, if the light is offered, you always take it. But in a series deciding game like this, where every session is important, the "live today and fight tomorrow" policy doesn't seem to be the right one to employ.

    Quotes :
    Justin Langer - "With the light as it was, if we had lost a wicket it might have been difficult for the new guys to come in. We lost some time, and that's frustrating. But there's nothing we can do about the weather and hopefully there is still going to be plenty of time left in the game to force a result".
    Ashley Giles - "You can understand it a little but Australia need to win this game. We were ready to start and we were a little bit surprised and shocked. Of course I hope they live to regret it but there's three days left in this Test match, there's a lot of time. We can't, and Ricky Ponting can't, afford to cloud watch."
    Jonathan Agnew - "They (the Aussie openers) were well set, having put on 112 for the first wicket, and Australia cannot win the game while sitting in the dressing room. Every over is crucial for them - and while it can be awkward batting in poor light, the conditions were at worst, murky."
    Geoff Boycott - "England were so much under the cosh that Michael Vaughan will have been delighted by their decision to take the offer of bad light. I think they should have tried facing a few balls to see what the light was really like before going off."
    Michael Slater - "Both players were going so well that I was intrigued by their decision to take the offer of bad light. They were probably thinking that rain was about to come in 20 minutes so they were worried that England would be able to up the ante for that short passage and Australia had nothing to gain."
    Christopher Martin-Jenkins - "Anyone would have thought that it was Australia, not England, who needed only to draw this match to clinch the Ashes. For the time being, at least, Australia have voluntarily surrendered the initiative that Langer and Hayden had worked so hard to gain."
    Angus Fraser - " Opinions on the wisdom of the decision vary. Why a team would opt to take time out of a game they have to win surprised most in a capacity crowd of 23,300 - Australia's faith in meteorologists, who have forecast reasonable weather for the final three days of this thrilling series - is obviously far stronger than those of us who have spent our lives mistrusting their predictions."

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    Mutare - Latin for "change"

    "Change" in form is what Rahul Dravid needed and he played himself into some good form with an unbeaten century by the end of the second day's play in the practice game against the Zimbabwean Board XI (at Mutare).
    He put his head down and had a net. Classical Dravid at a slightly hurried pace unfolded. The feet moved and the elbow followed suit; he also bent into his drives. It was like watching a conscientious student revise lessons before an exam.

    Rahul, Please.. please dont get "bowled" again. Get runout or hit the ball down long-on's throat, but just dont let the furniture behind you get disrupted.. We want you to be the wall.. We need you to be the wall..

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    The "Pluperfect Prestissimo Player" of the game

    Thursday, September 08, 2005
    I haven't heard that phrase in a very long time. Simon Barnes uses Rudyard Kipling (From "The Day's Work - The Maltese Cat") to laud Shane Warne in his match report after the first day's play. I went through quite a few reports, I rate this the best.
    He amazed without surprising, and he inflicted his will on England. As we move towards the climax of this impossible series, it becomes increasingly clear that we are not witnessing England versus Australia. We are watching England v Warne, and it is still in the balance.

    So True. With due respect to the likes of McGrath and Ponting, irrespective of the outcome of this game, this series would always be remembered as the one where the English battled against a one man army.
    In a passage of play that was Jordan-esque, he took four wickets. He didn’t do this through extravagant bowling, spitting menace and lavish turn. It wasn’t the moment or the pitch for that. He did it by means of an armoury of subtle variations and the unsubtle infliction of the will.

    Infliction of the will.. Well, Shane wasn't the only one inflicting his will on the first day. There was Straussy who seemed keen on telling all and sundry that he is no longer Shane's Darryl (read "bunny") and then there was Freddie who was bent on displaying his own way of inflicting his will. Let the better "inflictor" win.

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    Cricket in the White House

    What do Andy Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan, Andy Johnson, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, John Kennedy and George Bush (yeah, dubya too) have in common apart from being the President of the United States?

    Playing the English game!!

    Check it out..
    Andy Jackson - LH Bat (Trinidad & Tobago)
    William Henry Harrison - (Hampshire)
    James Buchanan - RH Bat, SLA orthodox (Rhodesia)
    Andy Johnson - RH Bat (Shropshire)
    Chester Arthur - RH Bat (Surrey)
    Benjamin Harrison - RH Bat, RH Medium-fast (Cumberland)
    John Kennedy - RH Bat (Warwickshire)
    George Bush - LH Bat, Leg Break Googly (Western Australia).

    Surprised? Well, if Yasser Arafat can play cricket, why can't the American Presidents?


    The Scorpio Speedsters

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005
    The third annual Scorpio Speedster contest is supposed to start in Delhi later this month. The aim of the event is to unearth hidden pace-bowling talent from various cities across the country. The stakes are much higher this season with the winner getting a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakhs along with a full season's training at the MRF Pace Foundation (winners of the previous installments won a cash prize of Rs. 75,000 each along with a two week stint under Damien Fleming at the Australian Centre of excellence).

    The whole thing makes a very good concept for reality television, but it hasn't really been able to provide an answer for the Indian pace bowling woes so far. Most of the contenders in the previous editions clocked in the mid 130s (kph), but none of them really fell in the tear-away class (the Shane, Shoaib and Brett class).

    Few Profiles :
    Narvanda Aiyappa - the 26 year old Karnataka Ranji player won the inaugural 2003 contest with a speed of 135 kph. He definitely has not fulfilled the promise that he showed earlier on.
    Parwinder Awana - the Delhi speedster from Sumit Academy won the 2004 contest with a speed of 138 kph. He has not been able to get into the Delhi Ranji squad. The tall speedster was turned away after he had attended trials.
    Anupam Sanclecha - the 23 year old Pune lad who made it to the finals in 2004 is the only one who has made some sort of impression. He now plays for the Maharashtra Ranji squad and has had a very good debut season.

    Wish this year's contest would unearth someone with 140+ speed (kph). Too bad, Iqbal is just a silver-screen character.

    Ajay Jadeja - “At the end of the day, this is just a platform. The youngster, after being trained at the MRF Pace Academy for a year, would still go back into the system and it will be upto the selectors to decide who gets into the team and who doesn’t.”
    Parwinder Awana - ‘‘The stint in Australia was very beneficial. It has boosted my confidence. I am now more confident of making it to the Delhi Ranji team this year.’’

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    "You cannot sideline your parents just because they are old."

    That is what the BCCI President, Ranbir Singh Mahendra had to say when asked why "old" players were being given continued preference. Not sure if I understood the implication. Is he saying that Ganguly is his Dad?

    Team India is supposed to undergo a 5-day review (after the Zimbabwe tour) by a panel comprising Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Srinivas Venkatraghavan (good to see him get involved) and Greg Chappell. Reviews of any kind are good as long as the results are fed back into the system. Would be interesting to see how this pans out.

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    Azhar, Mongia and Jadeja in the news

    The last time their names cropped up together in the news media, it left a huge blotch on the nation's cricketing heritage. In the past few days, their names have cropped up again, this time for completely different distinctive reasons.

    Md. Azharuddin - Apparently, the D-Company has a "supari" (contract killing) out in Azhar's name and the former Indian Captain has been provided with some sort of security cover by the Hyderabad Police. Whatever be his past credentials and whatever be the reason the underworld is after him, I just hope he remains safe.
    Nayan Mongia - He wants to be a selector. Something about him being in a position where he wouldn't let others suffer the same way as he did. He wasn't wanted as a player, not sure why he thinks he would be wanted as a selector.
    Ajay Jadeja - He is hosting the third edition of the "Scorpio Speedster" contest (the hunt for India's fastest bowler). As long as I dont have to watch his movie again, I dont care what he does.

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    Of hitting the ball twice, the spirit of the game and earning brownie points

    Monday, September 05, 2005
    Hit the ball twice - If a batsman hits the ball twice other than for the purposes of protecting his wicket or with the consent of the opposition, or if he attempts a run after hitting the ball twice to protect his wicket, he is out.

    Escape from disgrace
    No batsman has ever been given out in this fashion in international cricket (correct me if am wrong). Andy Blignaut came perilously close to becoming the first to do so in last week's match between Zimbabwe and New Zealand (Harare 31st August '05). Blignaut failed to connect a ball properly off Vettori and the ball kept bouncing near his legs. He attempted to push it away with his body in vain. And when he sensed the fielders around him moving in, he vigorously hit the ball away. That was enough for the fielders to immediately appeal.

    Spirit of the game
    If I were the umpire, I would have followed exactly what the rule book says and given him out. But umpire Daryl Harper (officiating in his 100th one-day international), the gentleman that he is, went upto the New Zealand skipper and gave Fleming an opportunity to show some spirit and withdraw the appeal. Fleming withdrew the appeal and Blignaut stayed. That was a very good gesture from the kiwis.

    Brownie Points
    Thanks to Daryl, the kiwis managed to earn some good brownie points. New Zealand won the ICC spirit of cricket award last year. This year's awards (the oscars of cricket) would be presented on october 11th. The voting for the awards has not started yet and this particular gesture would definitely not go unnoticed.

    Question to ponder
    I dont mean to start a debate, but say the same thing were to happen towards the end of the play in tomorrow's final against India. With the trophy on the line, would Fleming do the same thing? May be he would. Say, it were the final of the world cup. Would he do it?

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    No resting Kaif

    Sunday, September 04, 2005
    Too much talk on resting players these days..
    Greg Chappell (on resting kaif) - "Obviously that's an option for us to consider. Though Kaif having got a hundred would like to carry on."

    Greg C said that yesterday. Kaif is playing today (Poor Suresh Raina doesn't get a game in this tournament) and am so glad that he is. India is 34/3 (chasing 250) as am typing this (Dravid just got bowled YET AGAIN) and Kaif has a lot of work to do before he thinks of resting again.

    Oh wait.. Kaif is gone (36 -4). LBW Andy Blignaut. He can go rest now.

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    Breaking glass..

    Charles Coventry's previous (before today's game against India) 4 scores at the international level were 3 off 10, 25 off 19, 0 off 2 and 35 off 21 (the last 3 of them in the ongoing tournament). He showed glimpses of his talent in the last game against New Zealand, but today he gave a complete exhibition of his skills. There were 7 hits to the fence and 3 over the fence in his innings of 74 off 99 deliveries. The stand out shot being the straight six (shimmying down the track) that smashed into the glass windows behind the cameramen. It was good to finally see an innings that the zimbabwean supporters could applaud and cheer for.

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