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    Mahi Mahi

    Monday, October 31, 2005
    I had cutlets made of Mahi Mahi for dinner. But this post isn't about that. It is about this guy whom his family members fondly address as Mahi - yeah, this is about the bloke of whom they say "Dhoni uska naam hai - Dhona uska kaam hai" (which roughly translates to "Dhoni is his name.. taking 'em all to the cleaners is his game"). This is about the guy with King Aragon-like locks, with King Viv Richards' like swagger, with a gladiator-like built, with Nomar Garciaparra like mannerisms (the way he straps and unstraps his gloves before facing each ball is something which the Red Sox ace also does) and a million dollar smile.

    His unbeaten 183 came off just 77 scoring shots. Except for that one over in which Tendulkar got out, Dhoni spent the entire duration of the game on the ground and in the process broke a few records. His was the highest ever score made by a wicket-keeper batsman in limited overs cricket and he would cherish this a lot because the previous holder of that record is easily the greatest of all the wicket-keeper batsmen that have ever played this game. With this one innings his career average has jumped up to an impressive 49.73 in 22 matches (with a strike rate of 108.9) and he has made a very strong case for himself to be included in the test squad. Dinesh Karthick hasn't done badly, but at the moment Dhoni seems to be playing at a completely different level altogether. I would just love to know (hope it would become a reality someday) how much Dhoni and Sehwag can plunder if they can bat together for the entire fifty overs - 200 apiece is my guess?

    Before I sign off, I would like to wish the other Mahi who ended up on the losing side, a very happy married life. Mahela will not be playing in the next game as he is getting married the same day. Luv-3 down in the series is not exactly the position he would have wanted his team to be in at this stage - hope his wedding would bring him better luck when he returns for the fifth game.

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    A wedding without the best-men

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005
    Mahela Jayawardene is getting married to Christina Sirisena (a travel consultant who once went to school in India) on November 3rd. His best mates would not be suited up at his wedding, as they would be sweating it out in Pune in the fourth ODI against India. Hopefully, they wouldn't be 3-0 down and going into the Pune game to save the series - if it really comes to that, would he develop cold feet and wear his cricket shoes on? Guess not. But the idea of an anxious run-away groom running to save his country makes a nice story, doesn't it?

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    "No runner for you"

    Sunday, October 23, 2005
    I have a very vivid recollection of something that happened to me years ago - summer of 1993 in Nellore. It was a match between students aspiring to be engineers and students aspiring to be doctors. I used to open the batting for the engineering stream blokes and on that particular day I carried a slight fever and a pair of very sore legs into the game. After fielding first under the scorching sun, the body temperature increased and my legs were really struggling when we went into bat. Ten overs into our innings, I asked for a runner and the captain of the medicine team denied me one. I had a huge argument with him, but he kept harping on why I shouldn't have played the game when I wasn't really fit and that he wasn't there to do any favours to the opposing team. The umpires went with him and I got out soon after holing out to deep mid-wicket. We ended up losing and it did take a while for me to speak with that captain guy again.

    The reason why I am bringing this up now, is because of something that happened in the 20-20 game between the Kiwis and the Springboks. Scott Styris carried a niggle into the game and hampered it even further during the course of the game. When he asked for a runner, Graeme Smith refused to grant him one. I dont support players going into a game without being fully fit, but I dont really like the idea of the opposing captain deciding whether a runner needs to be granted or not. It should be the umpire's (sole) prerogative to decide whether the batsman got injured (or the injury got worsened) during the course of the game and whether he genuinely requires a fresh pair of legs or not. Graeme Smith belongs to the new generation of brash and battle-hard skippers who wouldn't flinch atleast once at kicking their opponents when they are down. Fleming is a class act and he might not have done the same, but it does make sense to keep the skippers out of this decision making process. With technology taking away quite a few of the powers of the umpires in the middle, they wouldn't really complain at being the sole judges of whether a runner is warranted or not.

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    A worrying doctor and a disgruntled heckler

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005
    Ganguly (and his elbow) is fit and ready to play for the East Zone in the Duleep Trophy match in Rajkot on Thursday. The Telegraph has an article about Saurav telling his doctor (Dr. Kalyan Mukherjee) in Kolkata - “Kalyan-da, tumi kichhu chinta koro na (Bengali for - dont you worry), I will come back into the team.”

    I don't know, if I get injured and am trying to recuperate, I would like my doctor to tell me not to worry rather than me telling him the same.

    The article goes on to quote Mr. Mukherjee saying, “After one and a half hours of intense practice, he did feel some pain in his elbow, but that was understandable since he was holding the bat and bowled after a long layoff. But he told me not to worry then, he told me not to worry now.”

    So all those who have been worrying about Saurav and his elbow, please don't. Ganguly will be back soon.

    According to a different article elsewhere (Mumbai Mirror) about Ganguly's Mumbai visit, an impish heckler (I wouldn't really want to classify him as a "fan') seems to have given Ganguly a hard time at the airport by mouthing, “Kyun bekar mein hum logon ka time kharab karta hai. Na run bana tha hain na kuch…(Hindi for - why do you unnecessarily waste our time? You dont score runs or anything for that matter)”

    Poor Saurav, what can he do with immature blokes like those. He can't just shut them up by saying, "Tumi kichhu chinta koro na, I will come back into the team".

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    Zimbabwean Cricket - reaching for the abyss

    Kenyans are touring Zimbabwe. They are now into their third and final game and they are completely humiliating the hosts. Even though Zimbabwe is technically fielding its "A" side, the team is packed with their regulars. The first match was a 3 day game which they lost in 2 days by an innings and 12 runs, the second was a one-day game which they lost by 30 runs and the on-going third game, which is again a 3-dayer is heading on the same lines. The series against India did throw up some encouraging signs, but this latest humiliation against a non-test playing nation from their own continent is bound to send them hurtling towards a rapid nadir. (Coming to think of it, it is a shame that India was not able to win the second test by an innings.)

    In the middle of this, Heath Streak, their only test-class player other than Taibu, has decided to quit international cricket. He has just signed a contract with Warwickshire as the county's new skipper (taking over from Nick Knight) for the next two years. He now joins likes of the Flower brothers (Essex) and Sean Ervine (Hampshire) who have quit playing for Zimbabwe and shifted their focus to the county circuit.

    As if this isn't enough, the players now find themselves in protest against the Board for terminating the contract of their former coach, Phil Simmons.

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    Beach Cricket

    Sunday, October 16, 2005
    I have played cricket in the streets, playgrounds, backyards, tennis-courts, classrooms, dormitories and lots of other wierd places, but I never really got to play cricket on the beach. I really have got to try it someday.

    I just stumbled across the wikipedia entry for "beach cricket". For those of you, who miss beach/gully cricket, just reading those "rules" is bound to bring back lots of lost memories.

    Pix Credit: Taken in Arambol (Goa, India) by Charles Ghantous.

    Pix Credit: Taken in Mumbai (Arnala Beach) by Manu Awasthy.

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    Very Very Sorry Laxman

    We all know that Laxman can bat at No.3 and score run-a-ball hundreds and we all do know that for some reason that isn't really enough for the selectors to put him in the ODI side. He should have used this tournament to try and do something new - do something outside of his comfort zone - like pressing on the accelerator in the middle overs. He should have stepped on the accelerator after completing his fifty instead of taking it easy and reaching his 100 without any risks. I know am being unfair, but if you look at it from the selectors' point of view, he hasn't offered anything new. He still has to bat at at the top (preferably No.3), he still needs 100+ balls to reach his hundred, he still can't improvise and accelerate at the end and he still is the No.1 candidate to be swapped with a super-sub in the middle of the match if India is bowling second. After top-scoring for his side in both the games, he would feel really disappointed if he doesn't feature in the squad for the Sri Lankan series. He has done better in this tournament than some of illustrious colleagues from the senior side, but is it really good enough?

    This is what I wrote about Laxman's chances after he had scored a century for India A against India B in the Challenger Series. But with both Ganguly and Kaif not being in the scheme of things, I would have picked Laxman over Gambhir. It is not that he is out of form. It is not that he is too old - he is younger than Sachin, Saurav, Rahul, Anil and Yadav. It is not that he is the worst of all fielders - now who can be worse than Saurav. It is not that he is arrogant and is a bad influence in the dressing room - well atleast no emails have been sent out about him. Then why?

    Chappell did mention in his (now very much public) email that he did not see a place for Laxman in the ODI setup and that he had spoken about it to Laxman after the SriLankan tour. The selectors too seem to feel the same about him. But I'm really not sure about this idea of completely shutting down a player's chances in one form of the game for good. Things have changed in the Indian dressing room since Laxman last played for India in the one-dayers and the selectors should take a note of it. Saurav and Kaif are absent, Rao and Raina have not exactly done wonders in the limited opportunities that have come their way, Sachin is just returning back to serious cricket and Viru is not in the best of ODI form. The team needs some honest triers and Laxman should have been given another opportunity to prove his critics wrong.

    Related article : Vijay Lokapally has a piece in The Hindu on why Laxman's omission defies all logic.

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    355 to get in more than 300 overs

    There are still 3 days left in the game, but it is highly unlikely that the game would last more than 4 sessions. In fourth innings run chases on tricky wickets like these, you need to have a good start, you need someone to play a blinder at the top of the innings like the one that Sehwag played in the first innings. Unfortunately he has a very poor second innings record and he got out again without improving on it. Smith was dismissed after being set up by a great exhibition of fast bowling from McGrath - 4 different kinds of deliveries that deceived the bastman, followed by a deadly "you-need-to-be-really-lucky-to-play-the-correct-line" yorker.

    Australia are clearly the favourites but my heart says that the (rather it craves to see) the greatest middle order of the decade (if not the century) will finally come to the party. Much has been said and written about them being not playing like a "team", but their hard-earned reputation and pride are at stake here and that is enough to ensure that there wouldn't be any lack of motivation or commitment. Dravid, Lara, Kallis, Inzamam and Flintoff - if these 5 cant get those runs, then who can? Dravid has looked really good for his 17 and he would be the key to a good start on the fourth morning. Lara knows that this his final chance for making up for all those cheap dismissals on this tour - the law of averages is on his side now and he has to make this attack pay. Flintoff has shown in this test why he is the "player of the year" and it is upto Kallis now to prove that he is in the running for the next edition's award too. Inzamam did not want to travel all the way to Sydney just for one game, but now that he is there he should make the Aussies pay for it. He got out stumped by an awesome delivery from MacGill in the first innings, but there are very few batsmen (Dravid is one) out there who can play leg-spin better than the Pakistan captain. Flintoff has batted well on this tour, but for the World XI to really win this game, atleast one of the batsmen batting above him should make a big hundred. Murali and Harmsion have done their bit with the ball, and it wouldn't be fair to make them bat again in this test match.

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    Teams for the India-SriLanka series

    Friday, October 14, 2005
    Indian Squad : Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Venugopal Rao, Suresh Raina, JP Yadav, MS Dhoni (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, S Sreesanth, RP Singh.

    Ganguly and Kaif are out injured. In their absence VVS would have fancied his chances - but Gambhir (I didn't see that coming) gets a look in instead. Zaheer and Balaji did not do anything extraordinary in the Challenger series to deserve a comeback. Sreesanth did all the right things including the wickets of Sachin and VVS and so deservedly gets a place in the Indian side. Rao, Raina and RP retain their places. If Gambhir does get to open against the SriLankans, it would mean that either Sachin or Sehwag drops down the order. I would really like to see Sehwag, Yuvi and Dhoni bat at positions 4,5 and 6.

    SriLankan Squad : Marvan Atapattu (capt), Mahela Jayawardene (vice-capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chaminda Vaas, Upul Chandana, Farveez Maharoof, Russel Arnold, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Nuwan Zoysa.

    Nuwan Zoysa gets recalled and is the only new inclusion. The world No.2 team looks as menacing as ever and Tom Moody would be keen on proving a point or two in his first visit to the country after being rejected in that high-profile job interview earlier this year.

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    Challenger Series Oct '05 - Final - Notes

    Thursday, October 13, 2005
    India B innings: Cox had an outage this morning and as a result I couldn't catch the first half of the match. I got to watch only the highlights of the India B innings during the break. Robin started off with a couple of flicked fours, but fell soon after playing an airy cover drive straight to Kaif. Sriram fell in similar fashion for 8. Mongia followed soon after top-edging a cut and made it 43-3. Yusuf Pathan made 20 in a hurry and failed to read a Bhajji doosra. Dhawan seemed compact in his 26 until he snicked one to the keeper off Zaheer. Parthiv was again the pick of India B batsmen, but his tenure was cruelly cut short by another pathetic decision by the umpire (umpiring in this series was really bad - no wonder it has been hard to find a good Indian umpire after Venkatraghavan's retirement). The under-19 skipper, RaviKant Shukla added 50 for the 6th wicket with Parthiv and stuck around till the very end making a very patient unbeaten 26 off 71 balls. The super-sub Sunny Singh was drafted in early in place of Bose, but he yorked himself for just 5. Piyush, Bhandari and Sree Santh tried to exhibit their shimmying skills, failed miserably and got stumped by Dhoni. They were bundled out within 43 overs and not playing the entire quota is a cardinal sin at any level - international or domestic.

    Zaheer picked up 3 wickets and bowled with good control - seems like a good thing to keep dropping him out of the side now and then. The spinners shared the remaining spoils - Bhajji 2-23 off 8 and Karthik a fifer for 29 off 9.5 overs. Hopefully the pair of them would carry this rhythm into the SriLankan series.

    India Seniors Innings: Vidyut, who finally got a game (thanks to Agarkar's absence) did enough to make a claim to the long list of one-day-openers-in-the-waiting list. He hit 15 boundaries in his man-of-the-match winning 87 and departed when they were just 5 runs away from victory. He used to be a very good left-arm spinner during his under-19 days and it is a pity that he hardly bowls these days. Sachin played four glorious shots to the fence and got out trying to cut a googly off young Piyush. Sachin seemed to be in decent nick while he was there and Chappell has every reason to believe that he is very close to hitting some good form. Yuvraj and Dhoni missed out and became the two other victims of Piyush's impressive 3-wicket haul. Venugopal Rao made 18, Yadav made 10 and Parab 4 as the Seniors side stuttered to victory. Irfan and Karthik remained unbeaten at the end with 11 and 4 respectively.

    SreeSanth and Chawla were the pick of the bowlers. SreeSanth was easily the best bowler in the tournament and was deservedly named the "Man of the Series". The team for the SriLankan series is to be named tomorrow and he would be fancying his chances of featuring in it. The wicket of Sachin should have pleased Piyush to no end - he is still very young and would have to wait for his turn, but I would really be disappointed if he doesn't make it to the Indian side in the next couple of seasons.


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    Cricket Relief - Uneven Ground

    Pix Credit: Taken earlier this year in Kotli, AJK by Gharib Hanif.

    Kotli is one of the areas that was seriously hit by saturday's earthquake in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir). My prayers are with all those families who got affected by the quake and I sincerely wish that these innocent kids would get to play their favourite game again as early as possible (even if their uneven playground has become even more uneven). There is a lot of relief action going on and it is heartening to see the ICC be so dedicated in bringing relief to these victims.

    For more information about resources, aid and volunteer efforts, please visit the "Quake Help" blog.

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    Xiva - The automatic "chuck" detector

    Arun Manohar and AV Varun, two aerospace engineering students from IIT Chennai, have designed an image-based flex detection system (they call it 'Xiva') that alerts an umpire when a bowler bends his bowling elbow at an angle greater than 15 degrees or `chucks'.
    A camera is placed in line with the bowler's crease to capture his action. The frame capturing the release of the ball is chosen, filtering the unnecessary background. Flex angle can be measured by drawing straight lines from the located hand. The flex angle criterion will decide the chuck.

    It is not a thoroughly finished product yet, but Varun and Arun seem to be keen on sending a proposal to the BCCI once its error rate gets reduced. Irrespective of whether BCCI/ICC buys into the concept, it should be atleast useful for coaches at various youth-academies to catch faulty actions of young bowlers.

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    Challenger Series Oct '05 - Match 3 - India B notes

    Robin Uthappa played a dream knock. The stand-out feature of his batting was his uncanny ability to switch gears to great effect. 88 off his 116 runs came in boundaries and he took just 14 balls to advance from 61 to his hundred. He might not get an immediate look in but he seems just the kind of guy that can play Sehwag's role to perfection on sub-continent pitches.

    Dhawan played second fiddle to Robin and was unlucky to get run-out off a deflection from the bowler's hand at the non-striker's end. Robin and Shikar bat really well together and their running between the wickets was great to watch.

    Sriram made an unbeaten 45, but he would know that his performances in this tourney haven't been good enough to make a strong case for him. He was given 2 overs to bowl and he went for 15.

    Mongia made a 40 too but he is a much better bowler than Sriram. Of all the spin-bowling all-rounders that have been on display in this tournament, he is probably be the best. If he doesn't make it to the team this season, he might have to be content with opportunities in the county circuit for the remainder of his career.

    Parthiv didnt get to bat for long and had an ok day behind the stumps. Bhandari, Sree Santh and Bose picked up 2 wickets apiece, and Santh was the pick of the three again and returned figures of 2-44 from his 10 overs. Yusuf Pathan bowled a decent spell without ever looking like taking a wicket. Young Piyush bowled well and picked up 2 wickets in the slog overs.

    India B made it to the finals, but I still think India A with Badani and Powar in it is a much stronger team and would have been a better opposition to the Senior Side in the finals.


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    Challenger Series Oct '05 - Match 3 - India A notes

    Gambhir and Jadhav missed out on getting easy runs on a very good batting wicket. VVS and Raina did not miss out, but atleast one of the them should have batted till the end. That did not happen, and the late order batsmen collapsed while trying to up the run-rate. It was a 300+ wicket and 260 was never going to be good enough.

    We all know that Laxman can bat at No.3 and score run-a-ball hundreds and we all do know that for some reason that isn't really enough for the selectors to put him in the ODI side. He should have used this tournament to try and do something new - do something outside of his comfort zone - like pressing on the accelerator in the middle overs. He should have stepped on the accelerator after completing his fifty instead of taking it easy and reaching his 100 without any risks. I know am being unfair, but if you look at it from the selectors' point of view, he hasn't offered anything new. He still has to bat at at the top (preferably No.3), he still needs 100+ balls to reach his hundred, he still can't improvise and accelerate at the end and he still is the No.1 candidate to be swapped with a super-sub in the middle of the match if India is bowling second. After top-scoring for his side in both the games, he would feel really disappointed if he doesn't feature in the squad for the Sri Lankan series. He has done better in this tournament than some of illustrious colleagues from the senior side, but is it really good enough?

    Raina batted well in Laxman's company and but his bowling was taken to the cleaners by Robin Uthappa. If he is seriously being considered as someone who can give the team a decent fifth bowling option, he must add more variety to his off-spinners.

    Dinesh Karthik was rightly promoted up the order to go for some big hits, he hit a couple and perished by holing out to the fielder at long-off.

    VRV Singh was also promoted (prompted by his heroics in the previous game) but couldn't score any this time and was out trying to heave young Piyush out of the ground. VRV was duly given the new ball this time, but he failed to make a breakthrough. By the time he picked up Robin's wicket in the 37th over, India B needed just 11 runs to win. He might have not done enough in these two games to warrant an immediate slot in the Indian side, but he sure has done enough to be in the selectors' loop of thought for the remainder of the season.

    Niraj Patel didn't get too much time - made 14 off 10 and would probably have to wait till the next edition of the tournament to make any further impression on the selectors' minds.

    Tewari, a huge success against England under-19 earlier this year, made 9 off 13 in the slog overs and bowled one eventful over (a run out, a four, a six and a retd-hurt) for 10 runs.

    Powar was dropped to bring in Nadeem and that proved costly. Without Powar, the spin-bowling department seemed very pedestrian. Nadeem probably needs to put on as much weight as Powar needs to lose (but as long as they perform, their weights shouldn't really matter). Nadeem bowled 9 overs for 58 and picked up Mongia's wicket. At this stage of his career, he doesn't really seem to be good enough to replace Murali Karthik.

    Balaji had another forgettable day. He went wicketless and has done nothing in this tournament to merit a comeback into the Indian ODI side.

    RP Singh, who had economical figures of 2-34 from his 10 in the previous game went for 67 in 7.5 overs. He was mauled out of the attack by Robin Uthappa.

    Badani was the super-sub for this game. One would have thought that he has more chances of making into the Indian team than the likes of Niraj Patel, but by making him sit out, he has been given clear signals that his chances are now running out.


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    Challenger Series Oct '05 - Match 2 - India Seniors' Notes

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005
    Sachin Tendulkar failed again. (Sid Vaidyanathan has a nice piece on his comebacks). I still maintain that sooner or later some bowling attack is surely going to pay for all these failures of his.

    Zaheer was rested for the game and as a result Parab got an opportunity to come in and bat at the top of the order. He played a few good drives but was unfortunate enough to slip and get runout. I dont think Parab has much of a chance as an opener for India, but it was nice to see him get one more chance and it was sad that his innings had to end that way.

    Kaif failed again. He is supposed to be the man in form and hopefully this slump wouldn't last too long. On a postive note, he seemed very relaxed as a captain in the first session of play.

    Unlike Kaif, there is no slump in form for Yuvraj. He is getting very consistent with his scores these days and that really is a very good sign. Chappell was all praise for him after the day's play and seems to believe that Yuvraj has reached another level. Whatever that is, I just hope Yuvraj stays there. He is a treat to watch when in full flow and off late, he has been flowing very well.

    Rao was clean bowled first ball off a no-ball by a Sree Santh delivery. But after having had very little luck in the Zimbabwe series, Rao knew the worth of such strokes of good fortune and he was in no mood to waste it. He made a delightful century and the best part of this innings and the one in the previous game is the way he paced his runs. He started off slowly and once he got his eye in, he let his aggressive instincts take over. At the start of the series, his place in the squad for the Sri Lankan series might have been a tad iffy, but with scores like these to his name, his place is now a certainty.

    The bowlers did well to restrict the B side to 240. Pathan picked up 3 wickets while Agarkar picked up 2. Yadav bowled his customary tight line and Kaif had enough confidence in him to bowl in the slog overs. Harbhajan and Karthik bowled better than they did in the previous game, but they still aren't in the best of form and I just have a feeling that they would go for lots of runs against Sri Lanka.


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    Challenger Series Oct '05- Match 2 - India B notes

    Aiyudda Robin Uthappa played one game for India B in the previous edition and scored 66 in 48 balls. He replaced Arun Kumar at the top of the order for Karnataka in the Ranji Season and scored one big hundred (162) against Madhya Pradesh. He was in the ROI squad in the Irani Trophy but could not make it to the XI. This game against the Seniors side was another huge opportunity to showcase his talent and he blew it. He got out trying to play the drive too early for just 10. He was later swapped in the field to bring the super-sub, Piyush Chawla in.

    Shikhar Dhawan was in the India Seniors side last time and got to play all the three matches. He scored a century in the second match and added 246 for the first wicket with MS Dhoni. He made one big score of 130 for Delhi against Karnataka in the Ranji season and is definitely good enough to make many more. It is good to have more than one player fighting for each position in the national side - and with the likes of Robin, Shikar, Gautam and Dheeraj fighting for the top order spot, the future of positions 1 and 2 seems to be in pretty good shape. In this game, Shikar failed to convert his good start and got out trying to play the cut shot a bit too close to his body.

    When Sriram first came onto the international cricket scene in 2000, he used to get out very frequently trying to play the pull shot and holing out to the fielder in the deep. Five years later and with only 8 ODIs at the international level, he still has problems playing the pull. He top-edged it this time to the lone fielder at deep square leg. He did make 44 off 51, but for him to harbour any hopes of making a serious comeback, he needs to do better than that. He did not get to bowl.

    Dinesh Mongia made 34 off 52 before slashing one down to third man. He bowled 3 overs of left-arm spin later in the day without any luck. He seemed a bit lost with his bowling changes and field settings once the partnership between Yuvi and Rao started blossoming. The middle order in the side is a bit short on experience and being the skipper, he needs to bat a bit more responsibly in the next game.

    I didn't expect to see Yusuf Pathan in the playing XI ahead of Piyush Chawla. Yusuf was a last minute addition to the side after Saurav got ruled out and Parab got swapped from the B side to the Seniors side. And I have to say he did well. He seems to be a bit too tall for a leg-spinner and there has to be a good reason why he chose to bowl the slower variety. He bowled a decent spell without picking any wickets and like his younger brother he showed that he can be a decent bat as well. He made 31 off 35 with 3 good hits to the fence. He is still a long way off from joining his brother in the Indian dressing room, but he definitely has potential to do that some day.

    We all know that Parthiv Patel can bat. He has hit bowlers like Brett Lee all around the park before and this innings was just another indicator of his potential before the stumps. It is his work behind the stumps that has let him down in the past and that is where he has to prove that he has improved. There was an odd fumble or two from him later in the match, but say even if he has improved a great deal in the past year, he would have to wait until Dhoni and Kaarthick mess up their chances. He is still a contracted player and he might soon find himself being ousted out of the contract system - seems fairly unlikely that BCCI would give contracts to three wicket-keepers.

    Sunny Singh had a good Ranji season with the bat but couldn't really get going after walking into bat with a little over 10 overs left in the innings. He failed to score. He was given 5 overs by his captain to bowl his gentle medium pacers and he didn't do anything out of the ordinary in those 5 overs.

    Nair, the Kerala skipper, did one run better than Sunny and played all over a Bhajji delivery that held its line. His captain gave him only two overs and he went for 14. He might be rested in the next game to accommodate the youngsters on the bench and from the looks of it, it seems to be "pottei" (Bye in Malayalam) for Nair.

    Sree Santh, who wears spectacles while batting made a scratchy 12 with the bat. Having said that, I have to say that there was no scratchiness whatsoever with his bowling. He bowled at a good pace with a good rhythmic action, moved the ball either way and picked up the wickets of Sachin and Kaif. He clean-bowled Rao off a no-ball and the umpire denied him the wicket of Yuvi with a very poor decision. His name has been doing the rounds on the selection table for quite some time and he should be getting a look in sooner or later. He went for runs when he pitched short, but he does seem ready to enter the big league.

    Bhandari opened the bowling with Sree Santh and he bowled a decent spell without any luck. Ranadeb Bose also ran in hard and bowled with purpose but couldnt manage a breakthrough. Among the three fast bowlers in the B side that were on display, Sree Santh was a clear step above the rest.

    Young Piyush was drafted in late as the super-sub. He bowled 3.5 overs and did nothing spectacular. I dont really expect him to start bowling deliveries which would pitch well outside off, turn and clip the off-stick straightaway, but I do like the look of his action and I do expect him to do well this season.


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    Cricket Oscars

    My picks for the emerging player, test player, ODI player and player of the year awards were Pieterson, Kallis, Pieterson and McGrath. Three out of four is not bad. I wanted a bowler (McGrath) to win the player of the year award, but apparently the voters were not thinking on the same lines.

    Kallis and Flintoff were named joint players of the year with 86 votes each (McGrath got only 39). I'm not sure if Flintoff deserved to get so many votes. He might be a strong contender for next year (with all the Ashes glory), but I would definitely put Kallis, McGrath and Glichrist ahead of him for this year. If the voters were looking to vote for an all-rounder, Glichrist should have been their pick - he had a much better all-round performance in both forms of the game. I just think the voters breathed a bit too much into the post-ashes-freddie-mania and succumbed to it.

    Simon Taufel won the best umpire award again this year (that should have been easy - he is easily the best of the lot). England won the "Spirit of Cricket" award (New Zealand won it last year). The "Spirit of the Cricket" award is selected by an elite panel of Umpires and Referees and the captains of the ten Test teams - given the history between Match Referees and Indian Cricketers, it would be a while before India gets the award.

    The ICC also announced its World ODI and Test Teams of the Year (chosen by Sunil Gavaskar and co. - the same party which selected the Rest of the World Teams for the Super Series) and the selectors seem to have got both the teams right this time.

    ICC Test Team of the Year :
    Virender Sehwag, Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting (capt), Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Andrew Flintoff, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shane Warne, Chaminda Vaas, Glenn McGrath. 12th man: Anil Kumble.

    Dravid (lost to Ponting for the No.3 slot), Pollock, Boucher (had to make way for Glichrist), Harmison, Akhtar, Muralitharan and Vettori - members of the Test side playing in the Super Series do not find a place in the Team of the Year. Chaminda Vaas (should have been in the Super Series squad in both forms of the game) gets an entry into the XI and Anil Kumble (who was very disappointed at being left out of the Super Series squad) gets to be the 12th man (and Warne's backup).

    ICC ODI Team of the Year : Marvan Atapattu (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Rahul Dravid, Kevin Pietersen, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Andrew Flintoff, Andrew Symonds, Daniel Vettori, Brett Lee, Naved-ul-Hasan, Glenn McGrath. 12th man: Jacques Kallis.

    Sehwag, Pollock, Gayle, Lara, Sangakkara, Afridi, Akhtar, Ntini and Muralitharan - from the World side which played in the Super Series ODI leg last week are the missing names. There is no Ponting. Atapattu comes in as the skipper. Inzamam gets an ODI spot - he (nor Multan) can complain now. Naved-ul-Hasan gets the fourth seamer spot and this is an apt reward to his splendid performances in the past year (He should have been picked ahead of Akhtar for the Super Series).

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    Challenger Series Oct '05- Match 1 - India A notes

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005
    Gautam Gambhir started aggressively and looked set for a big score before slashing one down the third man's throat. He is a class act - no doubt. He is definitely up there in line for the opener-in-waiting slot. But how many teams do carry an extra opener on the bench in the shorter variety?

    Dheeraj Jadhav showed no respect to Zaheer Khan and blasted him for four boundaries in one over (3 beautiful drives and a lofted straight hit shimmying down the track). His over-eagerness costed him his wicket and that was the only "am still good at this level" moment for Zaheer in this game.

    Despite the slow over-rate, Laxman captained well in patches. His bowling moves seemed to be working well until the Rao-Ajit partnership took over. Laxman seemed to be in good touch with the bat and ended up being the top-scorer with 48. Chasing 290 without anyone scoring a 50 is a clear indicator that everyone in the team chipped in.

    Raina did not do anything special with the ball in his 7 overs. His innings was cut short by a poor decision just when he looked set for more. His best moment in the game was a superb forward diving catch in the deep to dismiss Harbhajan in the last over of the Seniors' innings.

    This was a big game for Badani. He did all the hard work compiling a patient 46 off 71 runs and then ended up making the cardinal mistake of getting out without seeing the side through to the end of the game. He got out trying to accelerate.

    Niraj Patel played well. His chances of making into the national side in the near future might be pretty limited, but he seemed in no mood to let this opportunity go without a fight. His 37 off 44 was very important to the eventual outcome of the game. He got out tamely by getting runout while lazily walking back to the non-striker's end with his eyes off the fielder.

    Dinesh Karthik did his case no harm - he kept well and played a very good cameo of 26 off 19 towards the end. He seemed good enough to finish the match in a hurry until he played one cheeky shot too many.

    Ramesh Powar picked up 2 wickets and scored a run-a-ball 16, but he is really bad in the outfield. He dropped a catch and was very clumsy in the field. His no-balls with his slow run-up also did not win him too many fans.

    Balaji had a forgettable day with the ball. Except for the ball which took Sachin's wicket, he seemed fairly pedestrian. He is out of the Indian ODI side and unless he does something really extraordinary in the remaining games, his chances of getting back into the national side for the SriLanka series are almost Zilch.

    VRV Singh does have pace. No question about that. He is probably the fastest in the country and should definitely be groomed for the future. He was wayward at times but he did surprise quite a few batsmen with his speed. He ended up playing a sweet little cameo with the bat in the end. No serious claims of being an all-rounder, but the innings had lots of attitude written all over it. He blocked the ones that he didn't feel comfortable with and smashed the ones that were in his slot to the ropes with disdain.

    RP Singh was easily the pick of the bowlers. 2-34 off 10 against a strong batting lineup are pretty good figures (especially when someone like Balaji went for 76 off 10). But the one thing that goes against this kid, is his lack of real pace. Unless he manages to add a couple of more yards of pace to his repertoire, he is probably going to struggle at the next level. He did show that he was no mug with the bat either by keeping his nerve and scoring those 10 runs in the final over.

    The super-sub Nadeem did not get to play. I would really like to see Nadeem and Tewari being tried out in the next game.


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    Challenger Series Oct '05- Match 1 - India Seniors' notes

    Sachin's comeback innings did not last too long. He made 12 before being beaten by a superb away going delivery off Balaji. There is still some cricket left in the tournament and some bowling attack is going to pay sooner than later. He seemed pretty fit though he didn't get to bowl.

    It wasn't Dhoni. It wasn't Rao. It wasn't Yadav. It was Irfan Pathan who walked into open with Sachin. The experiment didn't really pay off but it should sure give a huge boost to Irfan's batting confidence. He hit a few handsome strokes, got dropped twice and finally got beaten for pace by a VRV special. But the worrying part was his bowling. He went for 69 off his 10 and his record on unhelpful wickets continues to be mediocre.

    Skipper Kaif did not have a great day. He got out early and none of his bowling changes worked later in the afternoon. He would be hoping for a better show from his bowlers in the remaining games.

    Yuvraj did what he has been consistently doing in recent months - come out at the fall of early wickets and resurrect the innings. He looked good for a hundred but holed while sweeping Powar immediately after reaching his 50.

    This is an important series for Venugopal Rao. He knew that a couple of bad knocks for him and couple of good ones from the likes of Mongia and Badani would be good enough for the selctors to drop him from the side. He started off slowly and did a great job accelerating towards the end. He finally ended up with a 99 ball 98 and that eventually clinched him his MOM award. He looked really nervous at the presentation ceremony. Not sure if that was because they just lost or if he has terrible stage fear - whatever it is, he seemed pretty lost out there when talking to Charu Sharma.

    Dhoni missed out with the bat. He failed to put the sweep shot down. His keeping was neat and that is what counts in the end - as long as he does well behind the stumps, it is going to be real hard for Dinesh or Partiv to replace him.

    JP Yadav was real unlucky for getting run-out at the non-striker's end by some neat reflexes from Powar. Yadav was easily the pick of the bowlers and he continues to impress with his wicket to wicket line and consistent just short of a good length deliveries.

    Ajit Agarkar made a very good 54 with the bat - it is a good sight when he really gets going, expecially those straight lofted strikes over the bowler's head. He was given only 5 overs to bowl by his captain and he did not do anything spectacular in those overs.

    Harbhajan Singh picked up Badani's wicket, but he didn't really ooze much confidence. He is the No. 1 spinner in the side and it is important that he gets into some sort of rhythm before the upcoming ODI tournaments.

    Zaheer Khan did not do anything to suggest that he needs to be picked again into the ODI side. He was taken apart early on by Dheeraj Jadhav and he never really recovered from that onslaught. The fact that he allowed a No.11 batsman to score 10 runs off him in the final over of a domestic tournament would rankle him for some time to come.

    Murali Karthik failed to get his Lancashire form going and ended up giving 49 off his 8 overs. He is now preferred over Kumble in the shorter version and he needs to do more to convince people that he merits a place ahead of Kumble.

    The supersub, Vidyut was never employed. He did get to field and picked up a catch in the deep to dismiss Powar, but he surely would want to do more than that.


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    The roof and the tree

    Sunday, October 09, 2005
    The New Regulation
    In matches played in stadiums with retractable roofs, if the ball hits the roof, the concerned delivery would be treated as a "dead ball".

    Mike Hussey hit one off the middle of the bat and sent the ball soaring up into the skies, but it hit the metal roof and landed in no man's land. The shot seemed to have half a dozen runs written all over it until the ball's trajectory was cruelly cut short by the impact of the metal on the leather.

    I'm a huge fan of the "retractable roof" concept, but this particular ruling doesn't really appeal to me. It would probably help to have a 40 yard (or something in that vicinity) circle marked up on the roof - if the ball hits the roof beyond the circle, it should be signalled a six; if it hits within the circle, the ball should be considered to be still in play and if the fielder catches it before it hits the ground, the batsman should be given out. This is kind of similar to the case where there is a tree inside the ground - if the ball hits the tree below a particular height it is signalled a 4; if it hits above the marked level, it is signalled a 6 (different grounds have different rules, but this was used to practised in the Canterbury ground).

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    Statutory Warning : Strictly no whites

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    This is one place where playing with a white ball and sporting white clothes doesn't make much sense. With the white mountains as the backdrop, there is no need for a white sightscreen either. The outfield is bound to be sluggish, the aerial strokes are bound to get precedence over the ground shots and the fielders are bound to enjoy diving and making sliding stops.
    Pix Credit : Taken in Chhitkul, Himachal Pradesh by Manu Awasthy.


    The $500 catch

    Matt Partinton earned Aus$500 for spectacularly catching a Gilchrist sixer in the stands on friday. The World XI fielders would have been willing to part with much more than $500 for a catch like that on the field to see Gilchrist's back. Atleast for the third one-dayer, they would be hoping to see the end of Gilchrist before he gives any such opportunities to the people in the stands (They would rather have Sehwag or Gayle or Flintoff provide those $500 chances to the spectators).

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    Challenger Series - Ganguly ruled out

    Friday, October 07, 2005
    Ganguly is not playing in the Challenger Series. He has been diagnosed with a mild tennis elbow symptom and would have to take rest (no parachute training till then) for 10 days. The Challenger Series was a good opportunity for Ganguly to make a strong case for himself before the selectors got together to name the captain for the upcoming series. With this new development, the selectors would find it a bit easy in naming Dravid as the new skipper. Hopefully, atleast this time they would make it clear to all and sundry that Dravid is the long-term captain and that he isn't just filling in for someone who is injured.

    In Ganguly's absence, Kaif has been named the skipper for the Challenger Series. Kaif has always been regarded as a good captain-in-the-making (ever since his junior days) and it is good to see the selectors show some faith in him.

    Interestingly, Satyajit Parab has been pulled out of the India B side and put in the Seniors Side as Ganguly's replacement. Dhoni would probably open the innings with Tendulkar and all of a sudden the middle order of the Seniors side doesn't really look all that menacing. The twelfth man would be either Parab or Vidyut.

    Yusuf Pathan comes into the India B side as Parab's replacement. He is the fifth spin bowling all-rounder in the side (Mongia, Sriram, Piyush and Nair are the other four). I would have expected a batsman to have been brought in, but this arrangement should allow young RaviKant Shukla an opportunity to break into the XI as a batsman.

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    Bullying Ganguly

    Thursday, October 06, 2005
    After publishing (they were the first to publish) the full text of Chappell's email, DNA seems to have become obsessed with the topic of Ganguly and his snooty ways. This time they have dug up an excerpt from Ian Austin's (the "blockhole" delivery specialist from Lancashire) auto-biography (published a few years ago), "Bully for you, Oscar".

    "The lads did their best to make him feel welcome, part of the dressing room. They offered to take him out in the evenings, but he didn’t want to know. Before long, the feeling was that if he couldn’t be bothered to make the effort, neither could we. There was no bust-up. He just went his way and we went ours.

    It was so different with Murali and Waz (Wasim). Perhaps those two spoiled us. The dressing-room culture is an important part of the framework of a team. Everyone has to fit, take the jokes on the chin and join in the banter. Ganguly didn’t see it that way. In a way, I feel sorry for him. He missed on something special.

    Maybe one day he’ll look back on his time with Lancashire and wonder if he could have made more of it. He simply wasn’t the right man for the Lancashire dressing room".

    Any more auto-biographies, diaries, memories? Anybody who lived in Lacashire during those "Lord Snooty" days is welcome to send in his/her entry to the friendly Indian media. Not just the players. The groundsmen, the scorers, the janitors, the gatekeepers, the taxi drivers, the restaurant waiters - all are welcome.

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    Getting used to the All Stars game and Playing for Honour

    When the All Stars games were first organised back in the 1920s (I think) there was an overflow of sceptcism and doubt. How could Yankees play alongside Red Sox - it was scandalous!

    But those doubts were dissolved reasonably quickly and the events so quickly became part of the fabric of sport in America that even the doubters themselves couldn't believe they had ever cast aspersions on the wisdom of it. But for a couple of years people watched with mild bewilderment and confusion, wondering whether it was 'real'.

    Exactly the same is now happening with cricket's Super Series.

    Neil Manthorp believes that there is still every chance that the Super Series can turn into an All Stars contest worthy of the name. I believe so too. In the same article, he goes onto add..
    The sight of Vettori and Murali bowling so beautifully together, of Kevin Pietersen and Pollock chatting like old mates, of Virender Sehwag applauding Shoaib Akhtar and of Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara consoling Andrew Flintoff was fascinating viewing. In fact, it was compelling and compulsive viewing.

    In a different article, Mike Haysman says that he is a big wrap for this concept but would lose interest in it if the World XI doesn't get its act right in the next game. He goes to the extent of saying,
    "It is an enormous honour to play for the World XI. It is dishonorable not to live up to expectations."

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    For the Philatelist

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Royal Mail has finally put the Ashes Stamps up for sale on its website. There is a miniature sheet for £1.96, a presentation pack for £2.50 and a first day cover for £2.72.

    The choice of images could have been a lot better. I would have picked the image of Freddie bending over and patting Brett Lee at the end of the second test - that for me is without doubt the best moment of the entire series and that should have been captured on a stamp instead of some random on-the-field moment.

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    "shen shi yun dong" - the noble game

    China recently had its first cricket development workshop and people have already started talking about them taking over the cricketing world by storm. The Asian Cricket Council has a report (I love that "cricket on the Great Wall of China" image) on this and so does the Forbes magazine.

    “Never in my life have I seen any country’s children pick up the game so quickly. They had the basics of the game – hitting and throwing – within just five minutes.” - Rumesh Ratnayake, (former SriLankan cricketer) the Asian Cricket Council’s Development Officer for China.

    From the sound of it, it doesn't seem too long before we get to see another chinaman being able to bowl a "chinaman" (I was dying to say that). Puss Achong, the carribbean cricketer of chinese origin, who played Test cricket in the 1930s was the first left-arm spinner to bowl wrist spin (Hence the name "chinaman") - hope to see one like that in my lifetime.

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    Challenger Series - The missing names

    Monday, October 03, 2005
    List of players who played in last year's edition and are missing out this year : Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Gagandeep Singh, Rajesh Pawar, Yusuf Pathan, SS Paul, Rohan Gavaskar, Joginder Sharma and Ambati Rayudu.

    Dravid and Viru are away in Australia, playing for the World XI. Kumble is supposed to have some sort of a niggle - if the selectors think that this is the end of the road for him with respect to the ODIs, they should let him know about it. I personally think he can play a definite role as the super-sub on helpful wickets. Nehra is still nursing the injury that he sustained in Zimbabwe - the coach thinks that he needs to be disciplined, but he has been the best of the lot in recent tournaments and so he would get to play as soon as he passes his fitness test.

    Gavaskar Jr has rapidly gone out of favour within an year's span and unless his Dad becomes the chief of selectors and displays some blatant nepotism, his career at the international level is over (There are way too many spin bowling all-rounders in the country). Gagandeep Singh and SS Paul, both well built pacemen - got to warm the benches at the senior level last year without getting a game. A season later, (Gagandeep took 46 wickets at 17.58 and Paul took 34 wickets at 20.58) they find themselves out of contention. Not sure what Amit Bhandari did to merit a place ahead of these two. Joginder Sharma, one of the stars of last year's challenger series, did get to play 3 ODIs against Bangladesh. He didn't grab his opportunities there and he finds himself out of reckoning this year. Left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar and Leg spinner Yusuf Pathan (Irfan's brother) did not exactly set the stage on fire this season, and as a result they have missed out.

    Ambati Rayudu had a terrible season with the bat last season. He scored just 155 runs in 7 matches at 11.92 for Hyderabad. He is in the process of moving to Andhra and hopefully that would help him in getting back to prime form. He is still very young (turned 21 last month), he still has loads and loads of potential and is way too good to be losing his way like this. He has been touted as the next best thing for quite some time now and I really really hope that he would not end up being someone like Amol Muzumdar.

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    Challenger Series - "Kingfisher" India B

    Team: Dinesh Mongia (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Robin Utthappa, S. Sriram, Sunny Singh, Satyajit Parab, Parthiv Patel, S. Sreesanth, Ranadeb Bose, Amit Bhandari, Ravi Kant Shukla, Piyush Chawla and Sreekumar Nair. Coach: Robin Singh.

    The "B" team is the weakest of the three teams. Robin Singh is the coach and he knows quite a bit about being the underdog - he would definitely fancy his team's chances against the seniors and the A-side. It is good to see Dinesh Mongia be named as the captain. Mongia had a decent outing with the Leicestershire Foxes in the county circuit and he would be looking to make an impression at the start of the season.

    The team has as many as four spin bowling all-rounders. All four are left handed batsmen. Dinesh Mongia, Sridharan Sriram (he must know that his chances are running out) and the Kerala skipper, Sreekumar Nair bowl left-arm orthodox while young Piyush Chawla (for me, he seems to be the one to watch out for) bowls leg-spin. Sreesanth, Bose and Bhandari are the pacemen. Shikar Dhawan and Robin Uthappa missed out in the Irani Trophy and they would surely get to play in this series. Haryana's Sunny Singh had a great domestic season (654 runs at 59.45) and he would like to continue the same form. Satyajit Parab is 30+ and he might feel that he is racing against time - this could be his last chance and he would be giving it his all. RaviKant Shukla, the under-19 skipper is another exciting prospect in the team, but he still has a long way to go before being considered for the senior level. Parthiv Patel is the keeper. He made his debut 4 years ago and at 21 he is already being termed as a discard. Age is on his side and he should be using every little opportunity to show that he is better than the rest.

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    Challenger Series - "AlChemist" India A

    Team: V V S Laxman (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Hemang Badani, Neeraj Patel, Dheeraj Jadhav, Dinesh Kaarthick, Ramesh Powar, R P Singh, Laxmipathy Balaji, V R V Singh, M Nadeem and Manoj Tiwari. Coach: Sandeep Patil

    There are some who believe that VVS Laxman has one of the best cricketing brains of his generation and that he would make a very good captain for India someday. There are some who believe that Sandeep Patil is the best Indian coach available (and that he has an MBE of his own - "Mumbai bred elegance") and that he should be the first one to step in if Greg C were to send out any more emails about Sourav. There are some who believe that Hemang Badani still has it in him to be the "Michael Bevan of India". There are also some who strongly believe that Balaji should always be the one sharing the new ball with Irfan Pathan. All those believers get one more opportunity to strengthen their beliefs.

    Gautam Gambhir and Dheeraj Jadhav (he played well in last year's edition) are very good openers - both good strokemakers. But I really dont see either of them being able to push for a place in the Indian ODI side (being one-dimensional - "they only bat" - doesn't really help their cause). Suresh Raina is an exciting prospect, but he should really bowl more to be able to command a regular place in the Indian side. Niraj Patel (left hand batsman) is again one-dimensional, he would have to do something really extra-ordinary to get noticed. Dinesh Kaarthick is the keeper and he should be really concentrating on hanging onto his test place. Dhoni would have to perform really bad in the coming ODI tournaments, for Dinesh to get a look in the shorter version.

    RP Singh, Balaji and VRV Singh provide the pace options. I would really like to see VRV come charging in and hurry the Indian seniors (especially Ganguly). He should have played the Irani Trophy - hope he atleast gets the new ball in this series. Ramesh Powar (off-spin), Shahbaz Nadeem (left-arm spin) and Manoj Tiwari (leg spin) are the spinners in the side. All three spinners are good batsmen too - an indication that the selectors are very keen on unearthing a "spin bowling allrounder" in this series. Powar did well in the Irani Trophy and can tonk the ball really hard and far into the stands - he didn't have a great series against Pakistan and if he can bowl tidily, there is no reason why he can't make a comeback in the shorter version. Tiwari did well against the visiting England under-19 team earlier this year and would be hoping to get atleast a game. Nadeem had a decent domestic season for Jharkand, but didnt really get many opportunities to play against Australia under-19 in the recently concluded series. His selection is slightly iffy and I would have picked Pragyan Ojha instead.

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    Challenger Series - "AirTel" India Seniors

    Sunday, October 02, 2005
    Team: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Y Venugopal Rao, M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, J P Yadav, Vidyut Shivaramkrishnan. Coach: Greg Chappell

    Unlike the previous editions, the seniors side will be playing full-strength (except for Dravid and Viru who are away in Australia). This is a huge series for Sourav Ganguly. His batting would be under scrutiny. His captaincy would be under scrutiny and above all, his rapport with Greg C would be under tremendous scrutiny. Sachin Tendulkar is finally making the much anticipated comeback and that famous million dollar elbow of his would be tested to the hilt.

    Venugopal Rao gets one more chance to play with the senior side. It would have suited him better, if he had been picked to play for either India A or India B - his chances of getting to bat a longer innings are better if he bats against the seniors rather than playing for them (I would be happy if the team management proves me wrong). Tamil Nadu all-rounder, Vidyut Shivaramkrishnan is the thirteenth player in the side. Unless there is an injury to someone, it seems pretty certain that he would be confined to warming the bench (or) fielding to protect someone's shaky elbow (or) carrying drinks and gloves. It is a great honour to share the dressing room with someone like Sachin, but am sure Vidyut would love to rather play in the starting XI against the seniors as opposed to being a drinks-boy.

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    Irani Trophy Day 2 - Karthik, the batsman shines

    After being snubbed by the selectors yet again, the Railways batsmen couldn't really get going on Day-2. They laboured their way to 235 for the loss of 6 wickets by the end of the day's play, thanks largely to a career-best unbeaten 89 by Murali Karthik. Keeping him company at the other end was Yere Goud with a very patient 43 off 193 deliveries. The Indian lower order has been doing well in recent times, and Karthik's performance here is a definite positive (the best part was the ease with which he scored those runs - playing alongside someone like Symonds at Lancashire seems to have helped) for the season ahead.

    Sree Santh was the pick of the seamers with the wickets of Pagnis and Yadav, but unfortunately he couldn't stop himself from running onto the danger area in his follow-through and as a result got suspended by the umpire. This is serious, and he should rectify this problem now than later. Powar picked up 4 wickets, but I rate Sehwag to be a much better off-spinner than him in terms of variety.

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    Irani Trophy Day 1 - Railways takes the honours

    Saturday, October 01, 2005
    Railways took the honours on the first day by bundling out Rest of India for 223 and then playing 6 overs without losing any wicket. On a wicket which offered little help, their bowlers showed why they are the best in the domestic circuit. The highly under-rated seamer, Harvinder Singh picked up 3 wickets, off-spinner Parida picked up 4, Karthik accounted for two and Yadav snared the remaining one. The Rest of India openers, Gambhir and Jadhav (they scored 47 and 53 respectively - they are bound to be compared against each other every time they play) started off well adding 82 for the first wicket but none of the others could capitalise on that.

    While the game was going on, the selectors picked 39 players for the Challenger Series. Except for the left-arm spinner RamKumar, everybody else in the Rest Team (including the ones not playing this game - Robin, Shikar and VRV) made it into the selected teams. On the other hand, except for Murali Karthik and Jai P Yadav (who are already part of the senior side), none of the other players in the Railways side were reckoned to be good enough by the selectors.

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