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    Happy Slog Day

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005
    I have been told that today is Blog Day ('appy Blog Day to all fellow bloggers). But in the cricketing world, today (Aug 31st) needs to be remembered as the "Slog" Day.

    On this very day in 1968 at St Helen's Swansea, Sir Garfield Sobers, playing for Nottingamshire hit six sixes in an over off the bowling of Malcolm Nash (Glamorgan). Purists would argue that there was no real slogging and that they were all good cricketing shots, but just for the sheer power of those heavy strikes, I would remember the day as the "slog" day. This post is meant to help everyone relive that amazing over.

    From an old BBC link.
    Nash saw his first two deliveries disappear into the stands of the Cricketer's Inn. The third went into the pavilion enclosure and the fourth was sent over the scoreboard. The fifth was driven straight and although Roger Davis caught it he fell over the boundary in the process, causing another six to be signalled.

    Sobers fiercely pulled the sixth ball out of the ground and into St Helen's Avenue. The ball itself was not found until the following day.


    And from an old interview that Sobers did for cricinfo in '98.
    One of the things about the six sixes which really comes over me every time somebody asks a question, or says to me I've just seen them, or people always ask me about it.. It makes me feel that's the only thing I've ever done in the history of cricket. It wasn't really good cricket.. 6 6's are not good cricket, it was an occasion where we were looking for quick runs.. It was a team occasion, looking for quick runs, the idea was to try and get as many runs as possible. There were two versions of how to get quick runs.. The Everton Weekes version and the Lord Constantine version. Lord Constantine said you should hit the ball in the air, because there are no fielders there to catch it, but you have to be sure to hit it over the boundary line. Everton Weekes said if you keep the ball on the ground, then nobody can catch you.

    On that occasion I chose the Lord Constantine version, since my wicket was not an issue, I decided I was trying to hit it in the air, and take the risks. It was only about the 5th six that I thought, here's something that hasn't been done, why not try it. Records have never meant a lot to me, if I have ever broken records, they have come in the stride of my duty to my team.. If you look in my career, you will find that most of the records, we won the matches, it wasn't a draw it was never a situation where we decided, I want to score 365 runs at all costs, or go and hit 6 sixes regardless, those thoughts never go into my mind. Always it goes into my mind that the team needs quick runs, you have to make them as fast as possible, getting out didn't matter.. I was captain, we had to get a lot of runs.. the score was 270-300 and I decided I'd have to take the chances to get them. Obviously I knew for the last ball he would change his action, he wouldn't bowl the last one slow, he was going to try and prevent me from hitting him for six sixes, he knew his name would be on the wrong end of the world record. I decided wherever the ball was bowled, I would go after it, I wasn't going to let it be a wide. Luckily for me, he dropped it short, and there was a short boundary on the leg side, and as soon as it hit the middle of the bat, it was all over but six sixes is not good cricket, it's not the kind of cricket that you want to teach youngsters!

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    Joyce.. Not James.. Ed Joyce..

    Ed Joyce, the talented left handed Middlesex middle order batsman is not related in any way to the Irish writer James Joyce, who gave the classic "Ulysses" to the literary world. But he could fashion a classic upset or two and rock the cricketing world, when he leads Ireland in the ICC World Cup 2007. Ireland is placed in the "Jamaica pool" along with Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe and they would definitely be fancying their chances against Taibu's men.

    Upset or not, Irish Cricket is bound to get a huge boost with the world cup qualification and their cricketers stand to gain a lot just by rubbing shoulders with the best of the cricketing world.

    Carmel Crimmins has a report here. [And yeah, as Carmel says, Samuel Beckett (the only Nobel laureate to play first class cricket) would really be a happy man if he were alive to see this.]

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    Ma.. I got mentioned on BBC

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005
    In a piece titled "Blog before wicket", Alan Connor (BBC magazine) reviews all those web logs out there which are discussing the Ashes. Most of my favourite bloggers get a mention. So do I.
    Vishnu Pavan Beeram at Willow And Leather sees a parallel with the argument over negative bowling, opines that "having a 'perfect substitute' fielder improves the quality of the game being played" and concludes: "Ponting has more serious problems to ponder over."

    The post that got mentioned can be found here. Much thanks to Alan Connor and the guys at Desi Pundit for making the "sitemeter count" shoot up in recent days.

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    The Second Coming...

    All dropped cricketers dream of a second chance. Some get it soon (and keep getting every time they get dropped). For some it takes years and for some it never comes. Robin Singh spent seven years in wilderness after making his debut in Port of Spain against the West Indies in 1989. He was 33 when he reappeared in the 1996 season and this time around he did not waste any opportunities. A player with limited abilities, he knew the importance of commitment and tenacity and played to his strengths.

    Jai Prakash Yadav reminds me a great deal of Robin Singh. Not just because he is a big-hitter and bowls wicket-to-wicket military medium pacers. But because, he has shown the same zeal to make up for the lost years in his second coming. He made his debut in 2002 against the West Indies and got dropped after a couple of matches. He is 31 years old [though he says he is 30 :) in the TV clip that they show before he comes to bat] and is now back on the international scene. He forced his way back into the team on the back of a very strong performance (56 wickets and 629 runs) in the domestic season. He went to Sri Lanka, didn't get a game, thankfully didn't get dropped again and finally got a game in Bulawayo. He bowled a decent spell when the kiwis batted. When he went into bat, India were tottering at 43-7. After playing 10 years on the domestic circuit, he did know the importance of this innings. He had waited long enough and he was not going to go back to being the "best player-on-the-ranji-scene but not-good-enough for the national team". He failed to take India home, but showed enough character to suggest that he is hungry for more chances.

    He might not go the same distance as Robin Singh, or may be he will - but all the same, he does need to be persisted with. Despite his long locks, he will never be a poster boy (same goes for Rao - not everyone can match Dhoni's locks), and despite his domestic record, he might never get a Test match - but as an utility cricketer for the one-dayers, he has very little competition and the role of the "batting all-rounder" is his for the taking.

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    Vote of confidence for Venugopal Rao

    Greg Chappell - "He [Yalaka Venugopal Rao] is a fine youngster with good attitude and he knows that the team is behind him. Unfortunately, twice in two games he got two very good balls."

    Good for Rao. The team supports him. He had 2 opportunities to come good at the top of the order and he failed to score on both the occasions. He was done in by an express yorker (off Bond) in his first outing and a beautiful outswinger (off Streak) in the second. Those were only his 2nd and 3rd innings at the international level, but he would know well that getting out to jaffas or not, he is running out of chances. Marvan Atapattu had scores of 0,0,0,1,0,0 in his first 6 innings as a test bastman, but not all of them are as lucky. For someone who was a member of the victorious under-19 Indian squad that won the world cup in 2000, and wants to emulate the same with the senior team, time has now come to grab the opportunity and make it count. If he doesn't, he would soon join the long list of those fine youngsters with good attitude (the likes of Sriram, Badani, Gavaskar Jr, Mongia, Sodhi), who failed to realize their potential at the international level.

    One of the main reasons why Yuvi and Kaif continue to be persisted with (inspite of them being inconsistent) series after series is that the players who are supposed to be breathing down their neck have failed to grab their opportunities.

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    OK.. India are better than Zimbabwe

    "Zimbabwe are better than you" - was being loudly chanted by the spectators at Bulawayo after India collapsed to 44 for 8 against New Zealand.

    And India duly showed the spectators in their next game (at Harare) that rankings dont lie. A number seven team is always better than a number nine team. Now tell us how we can beat a number three side?

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    Gillespie at Trent Bridge.. Hayden at The Oval?

    Calls are out for Matty Hayden's head..
    Michael Slater - "The time has come for Australia to drop Matthew Hayden. He's struggled to make runs all series, as he did in 2001 in English conditions. In truth, he has been out of form for 12 months."

    More often than not, an out-of-form player gets carried in a winning team.. But when the team is not performing, the same players become excess baggage. Matty Hayden himself would be the first to acknowledge that he is not playing to his potential. So who should be the replacement? Slater wants Katich to open and all-rounder Shane Watson (currently playing for Hampshire) to come in and provide Australia with a fifth bowling option. If McGrath comes back, I dont think the Aussies would need a fifth bowler. Playing Brad Hodge in the middle order would be much more useful.

    England, on the other hand would have to decide between Collingwood and Tremlett, if Simon Jones doesn't get fit for the fifth test. Mike Gatting is backing Collingwood. I would pick Tremlett just for the simple reason that he gives a better bowling option than Collingwood's gentle seamers. The way England batsmen have batted in the last 3 matches, I dont think they need any more support in that department.

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    "This can't be happening to us, we don't deserve this."

    So thought Ashley Giles as England started losing wickets. He recounts the final moments at the crease in his column for the Gaurdian.

    My favourite part of the piece..
    "Come on, let's you and me get it done," he (Hoggard) said, with a bit of a smile.
    Now that is someone who really knows that he deserves to win.

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    More on the "substitute" row

    Monday, August 29, 2005
    More reactions..
    Glenn McGrath - ""The only time you should go off during a Test match is obviously if you need to go off for an injury or pop off for a quick toilet break. That's it. Test cricket to us is played by the guys who are in the team. If you are not fit enough or you are looking at ways to keep your players fresh, I think that's not quite in the spirit of the game. As a player myself, I'd keep playing. You would have to drag me off the field to go off the field."
    Michael Vaughan - "We just had a fielder on, he ran Ricky out with great throw. It was a great piece of fielding. [The bowlers] take a lot of liquid on board and sometimes you just have to nick to the loo."
    Matthew Hoggard - "Simon was not able to walk, he couldn't field and we were not going to replace him with somebody with clown feet."

    I just love Hoggy's quote..
    The debate on the "perfect subtitute" is still on, but for now Ricky Ponting is poorer by 75% of match fee as a result of his outburst.

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    The perfect substitute

    Sunday, August 28, 2005
    The stunt
    Ponting, who made 48, was called for a tight single by Damien Martyn, and Pratt, fielding for the hospitalised Simon Jones, threw down the stumps from cover with Ponting six inches short of safety. As he waited for the third umpire's decision, Ponting was seen having an animated discussion with Aleem Dar, the square-leg umpire, and he also exchanged words with some of the fielders as he left the field as well as aiming comments towards the England dressing room. (from cricinfo)

    The reactions
    Geoffrey Boycott - Whatever Ponting was chuntering about when he walked up the steps my answer would be simple. Why don't you run faster or chunter at Damien Martyn for calling you for a daft single?
    Michael Slater - It was a huge bubble of pent-up emotion bursting and I'm sure he regretted it immediately.
    Duncan Fletcher - "You want to take a run to a cover fielder and get run out, whose fault is that?"
    Jonathan Agnew - "He shouted obscenities at the England balcony as he stomped into the pavilion - a sure sign the Aussies are now rattled."
    Justin Langer - "Perhaps in this day of professionalism it's just another way of getting the best out of the resources that are available and within the rules,"

    The Apology
    Ricky Ponting - "I let myself down and I apologise to those who see me as a role model. My frustration was compounded by the fact I was run out by a sub fielder, an issue that has concerned us and one we raised before the series. "

    Well, it is well with in the rules, no questions there. Quite similar to the argument that goes for negative bowling. If not anything, having a "perfect substitute" fielder, improves the quality of the game being played. Ponting has more serious problems to ponder over, than to worry about the quality of the substitute that the opposition is fielding.

    More on this..

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    Flight Tickets Needed Immediately

    Saturday, August 27, 2005
    From (city or Airport) - Bulawayo (BUQ)
    To (city or Airport) - Harare (HRE)
    Tickets - For a team of beleaguered "Bond - Struck" cricketers from India
    Contact Person - Amitabh Choudhary (Team Manager)


    So, all you travel agents out there, get your act together NOW.. coz the BCCI couldn't do it (yeah, AGAIN).

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    License to kill

    Friday, August 26, 2005
    "I have always hated that damn Bond. I'd like to kill him. "
    -- Sean Connery, the legendary scottish actor.

    Exactly the words you would imagine each Indian player to be saying after what happened to them today in Bulawayo (Gosh, "the place of slaughter" is really living up to its name).

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    Sehwag is my Dad!

    So reads a poster being held by some young bloke near the boundary line. I dont really get it. Was it just the result of too many "who is ur daddy?" questions being posed at him? Gavaskar, in the commentary box, thinks Hindi and translates it to "Sehwag mera baap hai". But I still dont get it. For the galactically uninitiated (blokes like me), that is a jaffa.

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    Selecting Super-Sub

    Thursday, August 25, 2005
    If the reports from the Telegraph are to be believed (and trust me, they are always spot on), India would be playing Jai Prakash Yadav in the starting XI with Murali Karthik as the super sub in their opening game against the Kiwis. So the likely lineup is - Viru, Dada, Dhoni, Dravid, Kaif, Yuvi, Yadav, Aggie, Irfan, Bhajji and Nehra with Murali as the super-sub.

    Looks like a very well balanced side on paper (Harsha advocated the same XI in one of his earlier columns). Personally, I would like to have Murali in the playing XI with Yadav as the super sub. Yadav has a decent first class bowling record but am really not sure if he is a better bowler than Murali. The fifth bowler has been India's weakest link in recent times and it would be in the
    team's best interest if they always field their top 5 bowlers.

    An ideal playing XI should consist of the top 6 batsmen (assuming the wicket keeper is one of them) and the top 5 bowlers in the team. Selecting the super sub should be based on whether the "combined match winning ability" of the batsmen is greater than that of the bowlers (selected in the XI) or not. If the batsmen have better combined-ability (as in India's case), the super sub should be a bowler. If the bowlers have a better combined-ability (as in England's case), the super sub should be a batsman. (England played Vikram Solanki, a proper batsman, as their super sub in their matches against the Aussies earlier this season. Yes, the fact that they have the world's best all-rounder playing for them gives them the added flexibility).

    Nothing against Yadav, but I dont think he is among the either the top 6 batsmen or the top 5 bowlers in the team. However, he is very well suited to play the role of the super sub. If India field first, he can be swapped with Nehra after the first innings. And if India bat first and lose their top 5 batsmen cheaply, Yadav can come in to bat instead of Murali/Agarkar and roll his arm over as the fifth bowler later on. With Karthik as the super sub, there isn't much value added if India field first.

    This surely is a highly debatable topic and am sure it would be discussed at length as the tournament progresses.

    Update 1 (after the kiwi innings) - India is playing Venugopal Rao as the super sub; helps India's cause as it is batting second. About JP Yadav, he bowled well within his limitations and ended up having the third best bowling figures. Still believe, that fielding the top 5 bowlers would have helped India close the Kiwi innings much earlier. But who are the top 5? Aggie continues to disappoint and Harbhajan is still struggling to find his rhythm this season.

    Update 2 (after the Indian innings) - The Indian super sub was clean bowled first ball off the bowling of his Kiwi counterpart. In the end for India, it didn't really matter who their super sub was. Their best chance of winning was if the Kiwi supersub had not come into play at all.

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    Sehwag Vs Bond

    Cricket is a team sport and the purists would tell you that individual battles mean little in the larger context of the game. Yet, time and again, it is these little battles between individuals which make this game a wonderful spectacle. The upcoming India vs New Zealand game in the videocon triangular is being touted by many as a contest between Viru "am just a knock away from prime form" Sehwag and Shane "the never felt this rejuvenated" Bond. Stephen Fleming is no exception. From his column in the Hindu -
    I am really looking forward to the game, and the Sehwag-Bond contest is one that I am waiting for. The Indian star has come a long way since we played India last, and containing him will be one of our main aims. We have succeeded in doing that in the past by denying him width and tucking him up, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the pace and accuracy of Bond.

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    Permanent Team Manager

    Harsha Bhogle laments the absence of a permanent team Manager for the Indian Cricket Team in his latest article for newindpress.

    The little things might seem unimportant in the larger picture but they are symptoms of a malaise. Indifference to detail suggests lack of preparation or a certain cockiness; neither needs to be a member of the team. A good touring team has somebody to look after the details so that the performers are free to focus on their job. Even our television crews work like that, a good international team must. Some people take time to settle down in a new environment, some travel badly, some may not like the hustle and bustle or arrive-play-go. A good manager will take control of all this and he becomes a critical component of a touring party.


    The team reached Bulawayo barely 24 hours before the match. The hot afternoon Bulawayo (which means "place of slaughter" in native Ndebele) climate is less forgiving and takes time adjusting to (even for people from the sub-continent). This whole itinerary fiasco could have been avoided if the team had a permanent manager with well-defined responsibilities.

    The concept of having a permanent manager started in Australia in 1984 when Bob Merriman, current chairperson of the national cricket board, became the first full time team manager. Their current manager, Steve Bernard has been with the team since the 97-98 season. South Africa has Goolam Rajah in a similar position. Even Zimbabwe (who have got everything else wrong) has someone like Babu Memon holding a permanent position.

    But for the Indian team, as Harsha mentions, it is more of a handout job. It has been widely reported that Greg Chappell has asked the BCCI to appoint a permanent manager as part of the support staff. Hope he gets what he wants, sooner or later.

    Being heckled by the rival team captain about your lack of planning (esp. some thing as mundane as itinerary planning) doesn't really look good on paper. Does it?
    "I am a bit surprised at Indians' late arrival at the venue," said Fleming. "It will be interesting to see how they manage their energies. If they win then obviously it is a smart move but if they struggle, as I expect them to struggle, it wouldn't be such a smart move."

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    So, it was Dona's B'day.

    After all the furor about his late arrival, Ganguly finally reveals the real reason.
    "I came late because that was my wife's birthday on 22nd. I had to stay back to be with her for at least some time."

    Yeah, Birthdays are important. Especially the wifey ones.

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    Shaun William Tait

    He is fast. He is raw. Is he the missing spark in the Aussie bowling attack? This is what all the experts had to say about him ahead of his debut at Trent Bridge. (4th Ashes Test 2005). [Quotes pooled from various web sites]

    Wayne Phillips - "He is an exciting fast bowler who comes into a well-run group which will give him plenty of support. He is also a huge Gillespie fan, from a mentoring point of view." (Ironically, Tait replaced Gillespie to make his debut)
    Shane Warne - "Watching Shaun Tait in the nets, I don't think many people like facing him. You've got an exciting 22-year-old kid who is bursting at the seams and hitting blokes on the head left, right and centre."
    Dennis Lillee - "He has all the resources in his armoury to stick the ball right up the noses of the England batsmen."
    Jeff Thomson - "The bloke [Tait] took 65 wickets in Pura Cup cricket last year. He can obviously bowl and that's all that matters."
    Michael Vaughan - "We hear he's got pace and we've played against a similar bowler, we think, in Fidel Edwards last year in the West Indies - but until you've faced someone it's very difficult to say how you're going to respond and also how he's going to respond to his debut."
    Geoff Lawson - "He's a very big, strong guy and looks a bit like James Anderson when he's bowling because he doesn't look where he's going. He swings the new ball away from the right-hander with an unorthodox action and gets reverse swing into them with the old ball."
    Jonathan Agnew - "Tait has pace, for sure - and an unusual slingy action which will take some getting used to - but he is also likely to be nervous and capable only of bowling short spells."
    Darren Lehmann - "I would love to see Shaun Tait make his Test debut. He's young, he's exciting and he's got pace, but I think Michael Kasprowicz will get the nod as replacement for Jason Gillespie because of his experience. "
    Kepler Wessels - "If they want to win I'd play him. He's different. They haven't seen him before. Now is the time to blood him because it might be too hard in the last Test. He has an unusual action which batsmen can have trouble with if they haven't seen him before."
    Ricky Ponting - "I've had to cope with him a few times during the summer in the nets. It's just the way he approaches his bowling - he runs in and tries to bowl as fast as he can at every opportunity."
    Shaun Tait (on himself) - "I let myself go and let them have it. I'm not a line-and-length type bowler. A lot of aggression goes into my bowling and I use my natural ability to make things happen. People say I'm similar to Jeff Thomson but he was before my time so I never really saw him bowl."

    Justin Langer was the only one who felt that picking both Brett Lee and Shaun Tait together would affect the balance of the bowling attack and that Michael Kasprowicz would be a better bet.
    On a side note, did you guys know that "Tait" is the name of a small nocturnal and arboreal Australian marsupial (Tarsipes rostratus) about the size of a mouse. It has a long muzzle, a long tongue, and very few teeth, and feeds upon honey and insects. Called also noolbenger.

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    The "Reporting late to work" scandal

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005
    The breach
    Greg Chappell wanted his team to assemble in Mumbai early on Monday. But some of them reported late. The skipper was the worst of the offenders.
    Rediff - The BCCI had earlier scheduled the media briefing for 1800 IST, but it was later changed to 2100 IST as Ganguly had not yet reached Mumbai. It finally started at 2130 with Chappell and physio John Gloster addressing the gathering. Ganguly was conspicuous by his absence. In fact, while Chappell, Gloster, trainer Gregory Allen King and bio-mechanics expert Ian Frazer sported India blazers, Ganguly, who addressed the media at 10 pm, was surprisingly casually attired. And, needless to say, the India skipper did not even care to apologise for his unpunctuality.


    The umbrage
    Greg Chappell was definitely not pleased and he definitely did not try to hide his feelings about the whole thing. He was visibly upset and so was his support staff.
    The Hindu - Not for a moment was Chappell and the support staff cheerful. He even staged a walk-out, briefly, requesting Prof. Shetty to ask the posse of photographers and camera crew to move to the back of the room and to bring in a semblance of order. Thereafter Chappell's answers were curt.


    The redress
    There were quite a few reports about this and the BCCI had to make some sort of statement (some sort of redressal) about the fiasco. The BCCI secretary finally came out and finally said it.
    The Indian Express - "The board is not happy with the (casual) attitude of some players. We are seriously thinking how to set this right,” said Board secretary S K Nair. According to the board’s instructions to the players, they were scheduled to check into the hotel near the airport’s international terminal before mid-day, but some players arrived much later than that.


    The vindication
    The coach was not happy. Scathing reports were out. The BCCI had made its statement. Now someone had to make a case for the captain. Who better than the good old guys at Telegraph (aka the Ganguly camp). They always do know the real facts. Don't they?
    The Telegraph - It was learnt that captain Sourav Ganguly was not informed about a pre-departure press conference at 6 pm in Mumbai on Monday, so he planned accordingly and landed around 9 pm.

    So it was just a classic case of simple misinformation. Really? We get it now. It was much ado about nothing. Thanks for keeping us in the wake.

    Update - So, it was the wife.

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    Comprehending the "Event Symbol"

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    A "Blue Man Group" like guy (only that he is red) running with a bat in hand; a white ball about to drop on his head; three sticks and five palm leaves on a blue stamp like background - that is probably what got etched in my mind when I first saw the event symbol (for the ICC cricket world cup 2007). But apparently there is more to it.
    It is a logo that expresses the joy and exuberance of cricketers and cricket fans worldwide, in a Caribbean setting. The vibrant red figure central to the logo captures the exuberant energy of dance and celebration. The colour red represents the passion that the fans both in the West Indies and around the world have for the game of cricket.
    The spirit of cricket and life in the Caribbean are shown through the close association of the core Cricket symbols of bat, ball and stumps, all presented in a palette of vibrant colours and shapes of symbols from the Caribbean.
    The positioning of the bat and ball are figurative elements of the palm tree forming the trunk and fruit. The vibrant green of the crown of the palm tree, and the azure blue which stands for the surrounding sky and seas are the backdrop in which this prestigious tournament will take place.

    Guess, you need some special skills to comprehend all that by just looking at the logo.

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    Meet "Mello" - Mascot for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007


    The theme for the selection - a zest for life, a life philosophy and the warmth of the people. The result - Mello : He’s in his teens—cheeky and curious and socially aware like so many young people today. Socially aware? Well, Notice the red ribbon that he is wearing? That is to show his support for the ICC/UNAIDS initiative.
    Through word play and further research a name was selected. Once a name was chosen the Mascot concept grew from there, neither an object, animal nor person but instead a youthful, friendly, contemporary character with bright eyes, a big smile and an abundance of personality.

    This is what the ICC official web site has to say about the mascot. (BTW, the official website for the world cup is http://www.cricketworldcup.com)

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    Second Best

    Suddenly, there's one thing that's holding this country together -- cricket. And it's fascinating being an Indian cricketer here at this time. Only some months back, we in India were talking about a resurrection and about being the second-best team in the world. There was hype, there was drama and we cricketers were on a high. At the moment, that's what's happening in cricket's mother country.

    Touch of deja vu for Aakash Chopra (and the whole of the cricket loving Indian Nation). But, the stark difference is that India at no point looked like bettering their "second best" tag while the current English squad looks like every bit of the team that could stake a claim to be the very "best".

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    Balanced Side -- Harsha's take

    Sunday, August 21, 2005
    Harsha Bhogle in his latest column for the Indian Express gives his take on what would be the ideal composition of the Indian team for the upcoming Videocon Triseries (24 Aug - 6 Sept) in Zimbabwe.
    I believe the following team gives India the best possible chance. Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif, Dhoni, Yadav, Agarkar, Pathan, Harbhajan and Nehra with Venugopal Rao as the sub to be used only if India field first.
    It gives the team the flexibility of playing Dhoni up the order if needed, of using either of Agarkar and Pathan as a pinch hitter if required and, more than anything else, picking five bowlers — each of whom can make his first-class team as a bowler alone.

    It is balanced enough, on paper. For this to be a reality, JP Yadav needs to prove his ability with the ball (He has always been a decent bat - it is with the ball that he needs to raise his game at the international level) and show that his performances in the Ranji season were no fluke.

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    "Add years to your life and life to your years"

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005
    Aakash Chopra explains the common Indian attitude towards gymming and how "running" used to be pretty much the only fitness routine during his early days.
    In our country, and I'm talking about urban India here, health awareness is increasing by the day but by and large, there's still a mental block about gyms -there's a perception that it's for bodybuilders, the rare fitness fanatic or sportsperson and more and more, overweight young girls readying for marriage! We hardly ever see middleaged men and women working out. To be fair, it's tough to take time out of hectic lives where earning a living is a priority. But people do manage the balance -- it depends on time management and prioritizing. And is a question of habit.

    Aakash might still be fancying his chances of making a comeback as an opener (If Ghambir fails, he might be the one that the selectors might fall back on); Whether he makes it back or not, he definitely has a bright future as a sports scribe. His writing this season from England has been a huge revelation. Here is a list of all his articles (for Hindusthan Times).

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    Iqbal - Panacea to all Indian pace bowling woes.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005
    Shreyas Talpade plays Iqbal, a teenage pace bowling sensation, in Nagesh Kukunoor's new film ("Iqbal - The Rampur Express" : our answer to the Rawalpindi express) about a physically challenged villager making his way up into the Indian team. Wish the Indian selectors could unearth someone like him. He could be just the guy Greg C is looking for.

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    Australia - Looking its age

    "The end is nigh for this great team", says Peter Roebuck in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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    India lost because a number seven team played like a number seven team

    Thursday, August 11, 2005
    The best one-day teams in the world are built around the right balance of bowlers, batsmen and all-rounders but they have two pillars they stand on. These are non-negotiables, without them the greatest skill can be rendered irrelevant. One is called fitness and the other fielding and they are the easiest things in the game to perfect.

    writes Harsha Bhogle in his latest column for the Indian Express.
    The fielders have to function as the sixth bowler in a side and they must take two wickets in every match. Anything less should be inadmissible if excellence is the objective.

    I've heard Harsha say this before (about the fielders functioning as the sixth bowler). I'm sure the Indian players do realize this, but it would be nice if each and everyone of them reads this piece before assembling for the next preparatory camp.

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    Debacle Reason 5: The "C" factors -- Confidence & Choking

    Everybody from Arjuna "the-7+4-strategy-is-the-best coz-we invented-it" Ranatuna to Greg "the-we-need-to-bat-better-bowl better-field-better" Chappell, and from Rahul "the-could-have-not committed-suicide" Dravid to my loving "the-dont-you-get-bored watching-them-lose" wife think that India lost because they were trifle low on confidence. Really? Let us see.

    There were a few individuals out there who didn't really have enough confidence to back their own abilities. Like, Ganguly did not have enough confidence to back his ability to attack the spinners. There are very few prettier sights in world cricket, than the Prince of Kolkata gracefully dancing down the track and sending the spinning deliveries go soaring into the stands. Yet, for some reason he seems to have completely forgotten about that facet of his game. That sure is a lack of confidence. But did he cost us the game? No.

    Yuvi and Dravid played very sensibly and showed no signs of discomfort facing Muralitharan. Yuvi fell while trying to up the tempo a bit. Dravid lost his brain for a second and attempted a suicidal run. Those things happen and they weren't because of lack of confidence.

    At this stage, India was still on course. Kaif came into the match on the back of an unbeaten 83. He has been in these situations umpteen times before and knows exactly how to finish the game. Dhoni on the other hand had a bad day with the gloves and that definitely affects the confidence. This is where the role of a mentor (coach/captain/senior players) comes into play. He should have been told that they trust his abilities and that he should build a partnership with kaif. Dhoni fell trying to play across the line to a straight delivery, something that he would have played to long on/off for a single on a not-so-short-on-confidence day. Pathan, I believe fell not because he choked. He believed that he could take on any bowler (forget Murali) and backed his ability to clear the boundary. Impetuosity wasn’t really the need of the hour and the coach/ captain should have made that very clear to him what his responsibilities were. (I know they say that at this level, there really isn’t any need for spoon-feeding -- but the best of the best sometimes have a tendency to look for guidance when the going gets tough; Dhoni and Pathan are still young and are in their starting years in international cricket - they needed guidance) It was a bit too much for the rest of the support cast to finish it off, though I feel Harbhajan's wicket was a total waste and that kaif could have managed to find the fence more often than not.

    India played 5 bowlers because they expected Dhoni and Pathan to play their roles with the willow in hand and that didn't happen. Whether they were told about the added responsibility or not, whether they knew what the need of the hour was or not, I don’t know. India lost, not because their players lacked confidence in their own abilities but because they lacked confidence in their ability to win as a team. They lacked confidence in the ability of their fellow teammate. Why wasn't Dhoni promoted ahead of kaif when Yuvi fell? Wouldn't that have boosted Dhoni's confidence? Why didn't kaif sacrifice his wicket and let Dravid bat on? Didn't he have enough confidence in his captain's ability to finish off the game? Would Pathan/Harbhajan have thrown their wickets away if they had enough confidence in Kaif's ability to finish the game? Why weren't the rookies (Raina/Rao/Yadav) allowed to display more of their wares in the league matches? No team can win when pushed against the wall, if the team members don’t have enough confidence in their fellow member's ability. Having tremendous belief in one's own ability is a great quality -- Having the same belief in your partner's ability and putting the team's interest infront of self is an even greater quality.

    When we talk about a team's confidence level, it is important to understand the relationship between the following. (a) the player's personal performance, (b) the effect of that player's performance on other members in the team (c) the player's response to the positive/ negative feedback/vibes he gets from his coach/ teammates.

    Together, these factors interact and influence the eventual outcome. Dhoni didn't perform well with the gloves. He was tardy behind the stumps and the bowlers (Nehra did) did openly show their displeasure at his work. His confidence was low during the changeover and he failed to come to terms with his mental demons when he walked into bat. A little promotion up the order (just one place) would have done the trick. It would have empowered him to give his very best. There are lots of instances in team sports, where one player's mistake demoralizes all the players around him, thus dragging the team to defeat. It is just like how one player's courageous display (VVS' 281) spurs the entire team to march towards victory.

    On a parting note, I don’t think you need a traveling sports psychologist to keep the confidence levels of the team UP at all times. All it would take is a good sense of camaraderie and the basic will to put the team before self.

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    Debacle Reason 4 : "Lack of character"

    Saying that they lost because they lack character is a harsh statement. Nehra came in to the tournament with a huge question mark over his fitness and he showed lots of character and heart in this tournament and put his hand up every time his captain threw the ball at him. Isn't that character? In the final, Sehwag knew that his critics were baying for his blood when he walked in under the lights to bat. He blasted 26 off an over on way to a 22 ball 48. Isn't that showing character? Yuvi's century in the match against the Windies had character written all over it. For that matter, even Ganguly showed some character in his new capacity as "just-a-batsman-not-the-captain-fielder-in-the-deep". Agree that there were some (Zaheer, dunno why he immediately comes to mind) who could have shown better commitment, but that really wasn't because of lack of character.

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    Debacle Reason 3 : "Lack of motivation"

    No. At this level, playing for the country is enough motivation. Clichéd statement, but very true. The very fact that they are entering the field wearing the Indian colors is motivation enough. Add to it, the adulation, the endorsements and er.. the endorsements; you don’t need to go find anything else. Though it is hard to believe, "motivation" isn't really the problem.

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    Debacle Reason 2 : "Lack of talent"

    No, not at all. Their individual records speak volumes of their talent. Each and every one of them is a potential match-winner in his own right. (Don’t you dare bring this up before Ganguly -- he'll start his lecture from the time he scored his first boundary in his backyard)

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    Debacle Reason 1 : The "5+1+5" strategy

    No, that wasn't the reason. The choice of the bowlers could have been different (Balaji in for Zaheer; No, I wouldn't have played Yadav, because he is a batting all-rounder, someone in the class of Ganguly, bowling wise), but the very idea of playing 5 regular bowlers was long over-due and it needs to be persisted with. Even when Sachin is back, unless the team has enough confidence in eking out 10-15 overs at less than 5 an over between Sachin/ Sehwag/ Saurav consistently, the "5-bowlers" strategy needs to be given a decent run. Even with the super-sub rule, having 5 regular bowlers in the starting XI and a batting all-rounder as the super-sub makes a lot of sense.

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    India's debacle in the Indian oil cup final - Post Mortem

    Many experts (everyone is an expert in his/her own right) have given many different reasons for India's debacle in the Indian oil cup final. "Lack of confidence" has been the front-runner among the reasons cited. I'll be posting a series of posts dissecting /discussing the various reasons. This discussion pertains only to the performance of the team in the Indian Oil cup final. It is not an attempt to give a generic answer to all of the losses in the finals of previous cups.

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    "The biggest difference that marriage has made is that I’m not single!"

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005
    Nay, I didn't say that. Murali did.

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    "I will not quit"

    "I will not quit" is almost an Australian sporting anthem and it is intimidating. Their cricket team may not be awash in good manners, but it is fuelled by an inexhaustible pride. Australia does not merely out-skill its peers, it does courage better than them, too.

    So writes Rohit Brijnath in this wonderful article in The Hindu, about men who are willing to go beyond their own personal boundaries.

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    Ashes, a warm-up for the one-dayers?

    No, Freddie Flintoff didn't play the test match of his life with such intensity just to get warmed up for an upcoming one-day series. It is the Ashes of the "fairer gender" that am talking about.
    England's captain Clare Connor justifies why, for the women, the real thing is the one-dayers which, in the men's game, are the Panda Pop to Test cricket's Coke. "It's on the one-day game that we are judged," she says, and even hints darkly that plans may be afoot to abolish women's Tests.

    On a related note - Men or women, the Aussie tail-enders are tough. The women were 115-7 at one stage, and then their tail wagged (and wagged) to take them to 355. Cheers to the tough Aussie spirit.

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    Let the anger out.. Show your aggressive side.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005
    When Yuvraj completed his ton and let it "out" (no guesses at what he said) at the dressing room, it just seemed like one more of those "I proved you wrong" outburts. But the way, the Indian bowlers are celebrating the fall of each wicket - the glaring, the yelling and the pump-fisting - it makes you wonder if there is more to it. Have the players been urged to get themselves in touch with their aggressive side? Have they been asked to let their anger "out" when the oppurtunity presents itself? Maybe am right? or Maybe am looking too much into it? But all this does really add to the compelling drama.

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    I think he is out.. What do you think? I really think he is out.

    43 year old Tyron Hirantha Wijewardene used to be a left-had bat and left-arm medium fast bowler during his days as a first class cricketer. This post has nothing to do with his playing abilities. It is his umpiring skills that are worth talking about. Especially, the phase immediately following a vociferous appeal by the fielding side. He makes his decision, lets the players know about it and then makes sort of a furtive glance at the other umpire on the field, as if he needs an approval. More on the lines of -- "I think he is out. I really do.. What do you think? Please say 'yes'.. Please". OK, I might be pushing it a bit too far, but it really is very amusing to see him give his verdict (more amusing than Bucknor's slow death finger or Billy's crooked finger).

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    Gloved without the bat in hand - NOTOUT

    With just 3 runs away from what would have been an incredible victory, Kasprowicz gloved a snorter off Harmison and Geraint Jones (shoving aside all his mental demons in the process)took a good tumbling catch down the legside. Billy Bowden's crooked finger went up and the packed Edgbaston crowd erupted. The curtains had been drawn on what was one of the most entertaining test matches in the history of Ashes. But spare a thought for Kasper, who went down on his knees as soon as the wicket was upheld. He would be even more devastated when he learns that he was technically "notout". Kasper took his eyes of the ball, tried to fend it (by taking his right hand off the handle of the bat), the ball brushed his right glove which was off the handle and then carried to the keeper. Now the rule book says that this is not out. For a gloved catch to be legitimate, the glove should be in touch with some part of the willow, at the point of contact with the ball. A very small technicality, which no one realized until some purists in the commentary box started studying the replays more closely. It would have been a tough task for Billy Bowden to have picked something like that. So much for technicalities.

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    You win some - You lose some

    Saturday, August 06, 2005
    Kevin Pietersen survived a huge appeal for caught behind, the first ball he faced off Lee. It did appear like a clear nick on camera and KP celebrated his reprieve with 2 clean hits over mid-wicket off the bowling of Warne (his Hampshire skipper). His luck flattered to deceive and he ended up being adjudged caught behind off Warne. The ironic part, being that this time the ball touched everything (KP's pad, body, elbow) except the bat on its way into the keeper's gloves. As Nasser Hussain puts it so often, such things (read luck) even out over a period of time. It is sad that in this case, it couldn't wait until KP could complete his 4th consecutive half-century.

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    "You cover the off and I'll hit the leg"

    Friday, August 05, 2005
    Poor Andrew Strauss. In the first innings, the ball pitched well outside the off stump, he shaped up to play it to square, only to find it spin sharply into him, go past his bat and crash into the furniture behind him. In the second innings, that particular delivery should have been playing (replaying rather) up in his mind when he saw the ball pitching in the same spot. This time around he shuffled across and covered his off-stump well enough, only to see the ball turn even sharper, go past his legs and crash into the middle and leg stumps. Talking of satisfying sleeps, there doesn't seem to be anything of that sort in store for poor Andrew, atleast until the end of the Ashes. Shane Warne, the magician -- take a bow.

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    So he can bowl.. he can field..

    3/78 at 3 r.p.o, including the wickets of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke is not bad at all. Really, not bad at all. Ashley Giles did come out to the press conference at the end of the day's play and said that he had no points to prove. Whether he was just being diplomatic or not, we would never know. All the same, he would have gone to sleep tonight, a very very satisfied man (as satisfied as a man who has just proven his point). The match isn't over yet and he still has a significant role to play if England has to pickup 10 more wickets. But that shouldn't come in the way of a well-deserved satisfying night's sleep.

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    ‘‘He that doesn’t throw the dice will never get a six.’’

    One of my favourite sidhuisms (wouldn't be surprised if the term "sidhuism" gets into wikipedia, sooner or later). It has been a while since I heard that one. Harsha Bhogle uses this in his latest column on Indian Express to state the obvious - the Indian team needs to start taking more risks if they nurture any hopes of climbing up the current ICC ODI rankings table. Much has been said and debated about the merits/demerits of the 7 batters/4 bowlers formula.
    The idea behind playing seven batsmen, as the Sri Lankans showed when they first implemented it in 1996, was to give the top three batsmen the freedom to attack knowing that there were four others to stop a slide. But at the core of that set-up was the fact that Aravinda da Silva and Jayasuriya could give them 15 overs in almost every match. And so for India to continue with this approach, the wicket-keeper must be a batsman and the other six between them must commit 15 overs everytime.

    There isn't anyone really in the Indian top order who can show any sort of consistency with the ball. Irfan Pathan has played enough quality innings and has demonstrated enough ability to make the No.7 slot his very own. Agreed, that there have been occasions where playing an extra batsman has won matches for India (the Natwest trophy final - Yuvi/Kaifi starrer - comes immediately to mind), but there have been far more matches of late that have been lost because of the lack of a regular fifth bowler.

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    Viru's "good luck" and Saurav's "no luck"

    It is just amazing how much of access the Telegraph folks (esp. Lokendra Pratap Sahi) have into the Indian team's dressing rooms (read - hotel rooms). It is as if Ganguly always has a Telegraph reporter following him 24/7. Ganguly lost his keys.. Ganguly sat at the far end of the dining table.. Ganguly is mad.. Ganguly is happy.. Ganguly is not so mad.. Ganguly is not so happy.. so on and so forth. I have always thought that they should have a separate "Ganguly Column" in addition to the regular sports one, dedicating it entirely to the daily (hourly rather) activities of the "Not-captain-Now" batsman. Anyway, this latest article about Arthi arriving in Colombo and Dona not doing the same is quite amusing. Especially, the last paragraph.

    “Now, I’ll be at home till our Zimbabwe tour later this month... Dona would have come had I been required for the three (Asia versus Africa) ODIs in South Africa soon after this tri-series,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

    Saurav never really lets go of anything that hurts him. Does he? (Yeah, Inspite of all his recent failings, he does really deserve a place in the Asian side.. But neither Saurav nor Vishnu Pavan [nor Lokendra Pratap Sahi] gets to decide that) Doesn't really waste any oppurtunity to rub it in. Does he?

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    Defensive father.. Aggressive daughter

    Sania Mirza, 18, is the first Indian-born woman to win a WTA tournament. Even though many people thought she should be a doctor or lawyer, her parents let Mirza choose her own course, which is unusual in India. She has a pierced nose and bellybutton and five piercings in her ear. She carries two cellphones, a smashing forehand and an aggressive attitude. "My dad was a defensive batsman in cricket," Mirza said, "and he told me that if I played sports I should always go on the offense."

    So goes the article in LA Times about the Indian teen sensation (ok, she had to share the article space with Peng Shuai, but it still was about her, wasn't it?). So why is this being posted in a cricket blog? One, it does have a willow connection and two, anyone with a pierced nose, a bellybutton and a smashing forehand would always get a free entry into my blogging space.

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    “Ab kya kahen? Bas kuch khana hai"

    Thursday, August 04, 2005
    Now we know why Sehwag, Dhoni, Raina and others didn't perform to the best of their abilities in Dambulla. Hope the promised "desi meals" in colombo would do wonders to their appetite on the cricket field. Guess, it is time a chef is added to the dressing-room staff. Anyone out there with good culinary skills (read - ability to cook something more than just rice for a buffet) and ready to serve the Indian team, please forward your resumes to the BCCI. Wonder who would interview the candidates? Not the same team which interviewed Chappel and co.

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    "I hate Ashley Giles"

    Nothing personal. I dont really hold any grudges against anyone. That is just the name of an article that I posted in a site (visited mostly by people from the sub-continent) more than 3 years ago. Now that we are on the subject of Giles having a ball in his hand, I just thought that it would be a good idea to provide a link to it.

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    Can bat..... Can bowl? Can field?

    "Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field. Famously, they said that about the last England side to win the Ashes. Now they are saying it about me." - Ashley Giles, after the first Test.

    Today he scored 23 off 30 with 4 boundaries. Like all other English batsmen that were on display today, Giles was in a real hurry trying to prove his detractors wrong. Unlike in the previous test, the tail did wag today and helped England get past 400. More than his batting, England needs Giles to display his wares with the ball in his hand. Hope Giles puts his hand up and show that he CAN bowl, the next time Vaughan throws the ball in his direction.

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