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    The official chauffeur

    Friday, March 31, 2006

    Hope he gets to ride it all alone in the next game.
    [Image Courtesy: AFP, BBC]

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    Winning in the skies

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006
    I was able to catch the live action of only the last three wickets in the England innings of the Delhi ODI. I was on the flight to Hyderabad from Frankfurt when the Indian bowlers made up for their batsmen's mediocre performance. The internet is free on Lufthansa these days (not for long, I guess). The flight attendants give 30 min coupons to access the net.. it was an almost empty flight and the hostess was more than willing to give away as many as I needed. I used sgstream to get the streaming. The buffering sucked but the win made up for it. sgstream was airing feed from DD and that added to the irritation factor. Bowler starts his run up, it buffers, batsman completes his shot, buffers again and then Aishwarya Rai pops up from nowhere holding a coke (or was it a pepsi? dont remember). I wouldn't recommend live streaming with the current broadband speeds on Lufthansa yet, but it is a good feeling when you are miles up in the air and your team pulls off a win like that. Top of the world, literally.

    On a side note, I'll be working from home in Hyderabad for a few months (2-4). I did intend on catching some live stadium action while in India, but given my busy schedule that is highly unlikely. Blogging should continue without any problems. I also do intend on capturing and posting lots of gully cricket photos. Watch the space.


    No Sachin

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006
    ODI Squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Venugopal Rao, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Rudra Pratap Singh

    Sachin has a shoulder problem and needs immediate surgery. He is expected to be out of action for atleast 3 months and that would mean he is certain to miss atleast the ODI segment of the Carribbean tour which starts in mid May. With Sachin out, the ODI opening slot is up for grabs again. Gambhir seems to be the selectors' favourite for now. If he doesn't get going against England, there might be a new face/new experiment in the West Indies.

    Apart from losing Sachin, the rest of the squad was picked on expected lines. Munaf Patel gets a well-deserved break ahead of Zaheer Khan. Harbhajan is back while Powar gets to retain his spot (at Karthik's expense). The team has 5 seamers (2 left and 3 right) and two off-spinners. Venugopal Rao gets back into the squad after missing a couple of tourneys. He sure hasn't set the domestic scene on fire in the past few months, but he seems to have shown enough potential during his time in the dressing room last year to merit a comeback.


    Jaddu gets to play against England.. again

    Ajay Jadeja, the Rajasthan Ranji skipper has been named the captain of the Rajasthan Cricket Association President's XI to play against England in a warm-up game before the ODI series. His last match against England was in the '99 world-cup in which he helped India win with a crucial cameo of 39 (off 30). Flintoff is the only English survivor from that game.

    RCA President's XI
    Ajay Jadeja (capt), Gagan Khoda, Gautam Gambhir, Venugopal Rao, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wk), Vikram Rajvir Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, Pankaj Singh, Sanjay Gill, Dishant Yagnik (wk), Jaidev Shah, Vikrant Yadav.

    There are some interesting names in the squad. For some reason, 17 players (understably, a few too many from Rajasthan) have been named. There are quite a few with international experience. Gambhir, Rao, Raina, Powar and RP Singh are in the ODI squad selected to play against England and would want to treat this as an opportunity to impress the team management for a place in the final XI. Jadeja and Khoda would want to show that they are still good enough against quality opposition. VRV Singh has made it twice into the Indian dressing room in recent months without getting a game and would be keen on proving a point or two. Piyush and Rohit, the highly talented under-19 world cup stars would be hoping to get a hit against an opposition like this. Parthiv is the main wicket-keeper for this game. Rajasthan's Dishant Yagnik who was in the news recently for scoring a last ball six off Ganguly's bowling in the Deodhar Trophy is the second keeper (why 2 keepers?). Tamil Nadu's Vidyut seems to have somehow learnt how to get into these "President" squads. Hope he makes use of opportunities like these. The rest of them are fillers from Rajasthan and other Central Zone squads.



    This post has nothing to with the CBS hit show, but if you are a regular viewer you would understand that everything in life can be explained using numbers.

    Forget for a moment the importance of having specialists at the top of the order and the objective of sending in a night-watchman. Before the start of the second innings, Pathan was averaging 28.75 with the bat in the series while Anil Kumble was averaging 36.67 to his credit. The series averages of Sehwag and Sachin currently stand at 23.75 and 16.3 respectively. Now would you blame the team management for sending in Irfan and Kumble at No.s 2 and 3?

    India needs a further 295 runs in 90 overs with 9 wickets in hand. No one has ever scored that many in the fourth innings to win a test in India (India did however make 347 to tie against Australia in the '86 chennai Test). But what are records for if they can't be broken. The Indian teams of the past would have played out for a safe draw.. But the current Indian side has done enough in the past few months to suggest that they aren't the sort who would back away from having a go at an improbable victory. They would look to preserve wickets in the first couple of sessions, score at about 2ish an over and have a go at it in the final session. Ideally if the target comes down to 150-175 in 30 overs with about 6-7 wickets in hand, India would be in with a real chance. Especially if you have someone like Sehwag (hope his back doesn't affect his batting) and Dhoni batting at 7 and 8.

    With due respect, inspite of the fifth day pitch, Monty and Udal aren't really in the same league as Kumble and Bhajji. England would be hoping that the pair of them would stand up and deliver, but I don't really think the Indian batsmen would consider the English spin attack as a real threat. The real threat would be from Hoggard, Flintoff and Anderson. Of the 90 overs, given the bowling conditions, I would expect the seamers to bowl about 50 of them. So even if only 100 runs are scored off the seamers, the Indian batsmen are well-equipped to score at about 5 an over off the spinners.

    I understand that history tells that an English victory is the likely result, with a draw being the second favourite. But if you stick to just the numbers, India should be the favourites to win tomorrow.


    4,4,4 and the Hariha"ran out"

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Too bad Dhoni's innings had to end this way. 10-15 overs more with Dhoni at the crease and India would have been in a much better position. The "runout" verdict is just another example of technology being only as good as the person using it.

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    Ice on the wall

    Steve Waugh effuses praise on the Indian Skipper in an eloquent piece.
    I had just completed my book "Out of My Comfort Zone" last year, and I thought a foreword penned by a cricketer would add to the book. I also decided that it should ideally be by an opposition player, as I felt that any Australian would paint a picture of me that might have been flattering but not entirely truthful. The first player who came to mind was Rahul Dravid. His was one of the most respected names in the game, he was honest and articulate, and in many ways played his cricket the way I did - not too flamboyant, mostly steady.

    I called him, gave him a stiff deadline and asked him if he would be able to write it. Being the nice bloke that he is, he agreed immediately, and within a couple of days sent a wonderful piece for the book.

    Rahul is the kind of person whom young cricketers can look up to not only because of his success but also because of the way he conducts himself. His remarkable career is proof that nice guys don't finish last. He believes one can be ruthless on the field even while maintaining decorum. He is also a player any captain would like to have when the chips are down, and it's obvious that challenging situations and tough oppositions bring out the best in him. Finally, he is a complete team man who goes about his work with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

    Not too flamboyant, mostly steady - Dravid is probably the more steadier of the two while Steve, a bit more flamboyant than the other. Steve made the "slog-sweep" his own. What shot does Rahul own? The supremely balanced flick-drive through the mid-wicket would be my pick.

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    Spill.. Scoop.. Spill.. Kick.. catch

    Thursday, March 16, 2006
    Jacques Rudolph c Gilchrist b Kasprowicz 10 (76 for 5)

    This was on the first day of the ongoing test at Cape Town between SA and AUS. The edge flew off Rudolph's bat straight to Shane Warne at first slip. Warne missed it, lost balance, fell on his back and in the process kicked the dipping ball up in the air for Gilchrist to do the rest.

    This dismissal reminded me of another bizarre catch that I saw years ago as a nine year old. I watched the replay so many times that it still remains fresh in my memory.

    Maninder Singh c Gooch b Dilley 3 (272 for 10)
    In India's first innings of the 1986 Leeds Test, Maninder Singh edged a delivery off Dilley straight to Graham Gooch at first slip. Gooch dropped the ball. Bruce French, the Wicket Keeper then dived to his right and scooped the ball back to Gooch from inches off the ground. Gooch missed it again, kicked the dipping ball up with his foot and finally made the catch.

    [Pic Courtesy: Getty Images]


    Nehra fit... but will he fit?

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006
    Nehra says he is fit and sees no problem in making a comeback as soon as he finds some rhythm going.

    "Munaf, Sreesanth and R P Singh were performing well. Once I am fully fit and in good rhythm, getting back into the team will not be a problem."

    Good to see him high on confidence, but it isn't really going to be that easy getting back into the national team.

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    Not so super ideas

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006
    Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson have put together a list of 11 unsuccessful ideas that were supposed to enhance the game, but ended up not adding any value.

    The eleven not so super ideas include - Foam Pads, Boundary nets, Two-day first class cricket, coloured bats, Aluminum bats, 1992 World cup rain-rule, Zone 6 city challenge, Super sixes, Super Cup '99 , Super series '05 and Supersubs.

    I would like to add one more to the list - the ODI rule where the side batting second was docked overs as a penalty for not completing the first 50 overs of the game in time. The rule was dropped after the 2003 world cup, but it sure was highly unpopular during its brief existence.


    The Wall's parents

    Rahul Dravid attributes his wall-like qualities to his upbringing.

    The focus, tenacity and intelligence that personify his batting may be characteristics handed down from his mother Pushpa, who at the age of 55 did a doctorate PhD in art, The Sunday Telegraph wrote on Sunday.

    She has now retired but taught architecture at Bangalore University for 30 years. "She's very determined woman so I guess that's something that rubbed off," he said.

    "I get some of my temperament from my dad as well, who's a relaxed sort of person. He's retired now but he was a food scientist for a company that made jams and juice, that sort of stuff; he worked there for 30 years.

    "I think the environment they helped create for me when I was a kid, encouraging me to play cricket and whatever I wanted to do, helped. I would not have been able to achieve any of this without the support of my parents, family or my wife."

    His parents must be really proud of the way he has batted for India in recent years. But more importantly, they should be proud of the way he carries himself, on and off the field and the kind of role model he has become for the youth of the nation.


    "He could have been in Zambia instead..."

    After Munaf's exploits in his debut test, everyone wants to know more about him. Sudheendra Tripathi (Express India) visits Ikhar to find out more from the villagers who first spotted his talents..

    Yet he almost didn’t make it to cricket. ‘‘His father had decided to pack him off to Africa’’, says Javed ‘Khairoo’ Ghanchi (21), the Patels’ neighbour on Mirza Street, a relatively plush area with concrete roads and neat ground-plus-one houses. ‘‘Mirza-ji (Munaf’s father) had even sold a chunk of his 20-acre zameen to send him there.’’

    Ghanchi, Munaf’s close friend, would know. Every family in predominantly Muslim Ikhar has at least one son living in Zambia, Nigeria or somewhere in the United Kingdom, sending expatriate earnings home to supplement the income from the cotton farm.

    And Munaf, Ghanchi says, ‘‘has never worked on his farm’’. Instead, he was the carefree sort — even at cricket, which the other villagers would play with a passion once the cotton fields had been tended to.

    ‘‘That’s because he was a genius with the bat’’, says Dr Maqsood Patel, physician to Munaf and the entire village. ‘‘He has three centuries to his credit.’’

    Another friend, Siraj Chhadat, adds: ‘‘And all of them scored at a strike rate of over 100, mind you.’’ There’s even talk of his volleyball prowess, especially smashing.

    It is always interesting to hear what the neighbors have to say. Isn't it? I'm just happy that he didn't go to Zambia.


    A very dark day in ODI bowling history

    Sunday, March 12, 2006
    Chasing 435 to win, South Africa are 190/1 in 22 overs (well and truly on track). Unbelievable hitting. Now what are the odds that a team defending 434 would start choking.

    Update 1: 242/2 in 26 overs. I got out of my seat and Smith got out. I promise I'll not budge again till the end of the game.

    Update 2: Gibbs 150 0ff 100. 18 runs off the 29th over. The required run rate less than 8.

    Update 3: 279/2 in 30 overs. 156 required off 20 overs with 8 wickets in hand - A normal chasing score in 20-20 cricket.

    Update 4: Gibbs gone. 175 off 111. One of the best ODI innings that you would ever get to watch. 136 now needed off 18 overs.

    Update 5: 300 up in 32.2 overs. Batsmen all over the world would be queuing up to make love with this batting beauty.

    Update 6: 93 needed off the last 10 overs. South Africa have slowed down a bit after the fall of Gibbs' wicket- only 63 runs came between overs 31-40.

    Update 7: Just 2 off the 41st over. Great over given the context. Bracken making up for the dropped catch (Gibbs) earlier.

    Update 8: 80 off 8 overs needed. The record for the most number of 4s in an ODI has just been broken.

    Update 9: 77 of 7 Overs with 4 wickets in hand. Another great over from Bracken. If Australia win from here, they would have to owe the victory to this spell from Nathan. Is it just me or has Damien Martyn suddenly become a liability in the field? He has misfielded quite a few in this game.

    Update 10: I know Mick Lewis is supposed to be the best death-bowler in Autralian domestics, but I'm not sure if he is the right bowler now. 16 runs coming off 44th over including 2 atrociously hit sixers over the cover boundary. 61 now needed off 6 overs.

    Update 11: Johan Van der Wath is creaming them all. This bloke can sure hit it a long way. 47 now needed off 30 balls.

    Update 12: 38 needed off 24 balls.

    Update 13: Van der watch gone for 35, neat little cameo. 399/7.

    Update 14: 400 up for the second time in the game. Unbelievable.

    Update 15: 30 needed off the last three overs.

    Update 16: Mick Lewis makes a century as well, off his bowling though. He is now officially the most expensive bowler in an ODI innings.

    Update 17: Just 13 now needed off 12 balls. 113 runs of Mick Lewis' 10 overs.

    Update 18: It ain't over yet. Telemachus slogs one ball too many and Hussey takes a great tumbling catch. 2 more wickets to go. Andrew Hall is a nice batsman to come in at No.10.

    Update 19: 7 needed off the last over. What a game.. What an incredible series.. Brett Lee to bowl the last over with Boucher on strike.

    Update 20: Boucher smashes it back onto the bowler's shins. Lucky stop. 6 now needed off 5 balls.

    Update 21:Four .. thatz a four.. Hall gets it past the mid-wicket fieldsman.. 2 to win off 4

    Update 22: I just can't believe this is happening. Hall is gone. Why did he have to hit it in the air? Ntini now to face Lee. 2 off three needed.

    Update 23: Ntini gets 1. 1 needed off 2. Ruddy Brilliant.

    Update 24: They have done it.. they have done it. Boucher hits it past the mid-on fielder for a boundary. Easily the best ODI game ever. Smithie boy will have a lot to say tonight.. Now who are the chokers?

    872 runs scored off 99.5 overs. Best ODI game ever from the batting point of view. But spare a thought for the bowlers. This would sure go down as the darkest day ever in the history of ODI bowling.

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    A Selection Of Eleven Unsung Cricketers

    Friday, March 10, 2006
    Cross-posted on DesiCritics

    Kiran More and the other Indian selectors have made it very clear that they are looking at blooding youth and just youth at every possible opportunity. This sure doesn't augur well for the future of all those domestic cricketers who are 30+ and still doing quite well. Last year, the Australian selectors handed out baggie greens to two very talented 30+ cricketers (Brad Hodge and Mike Hussey) who had kept scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket for over a decade. But I don’t think that is something which the Indian selectors would dare to do. Cricketers in India start very young these days, almost as young as female tennis stars. The average age of the Indian debutant is getting lower by the day. If he doesn't get a look in by the powers that be before he reaches his late 20s, he is as good as forgotten. Knowing this, it is always heartening to see all those aging cricketers who turn up every season with the same enthusiasm as they did for their first season. It does take some really special motivation for them to keep trekking on and putting on one exceptional performance after another.

    I've tried to pick a team from this pool of unsung heroes. Some of them have never played international cricket while others have had a small taste of it. They are all in their 30s and their chances of getting a call or a recall are as good as Ganguly and Chappell becoming best buddies again. The team of eleven includes one specialist opener, three middle order batsmen (with 24000+ runs between them), two medium pace bowling all-rounders who can open with both bat and ball, one wicket-keeper who can also open the innings, one leg-spinner, one off-spinner, one left-arm spinner and one fast bowler.

    Connor Williams: His only international appearance came against South Africa in the controversial Centurion Test in 2001-02. Unfortunately for him, it ended up being named an "unofficial" test. He was picked for the home series against England that followed, but India's predilection towards makeshift openers (Deep Dasgupta was made to open) denied him a spot in the playing XI. After that, he was never really in contention. Having finished this Ranji season with 555 runs at an average of 55.5, Connor Williams would like to believe that he could repeat the same form for a few more seasons for Baroda.

    Sanjay Bangar: In the limited time that he was associated with the Indian team, he did little wrong. His stint at the top level included a sparking test century in only his second game coming in at No.7, three sedate half-centuries as an anchoring opener, a match-winning 57 off 41 balls in the dying stages of a 320+ run chase against the West Indies and some testing spells of seam bowling in helpful conditions. Picked for the '03 world cup in South Africa, he did not get to play a single game. In the year following the world cup he got to play only 4 ODI games before being dumped for good. The snub by the national selectors proved beneficial for Railways, as Bangar led his team to a Ranji championship victory in the 2004-05 season.

    Amol Muzumdar: He still holds the world record for the highest individual score on debut (260) at the first class level. Mumbai cricket's Mr. Dependable has so far amassed 8000+ first class runs and is still going strong. He ended up being this season's leading run-scorer in the Ranji Elite Group with 672 runs at an average of 67.20. Schooled at Sharadashram and coached by Ramakant Achrekar, Amol was expected to become the next Tendulkar. After being on the fringes for almost a decade, he now finds himself completely sidelined. For someone who showed so much potential as a youngster, it is a pity that he might have to end his career without ever getting to represent his country.

    Jacob Martin: Another prolific run-getter in the domestic circuit with 8000+ runs. He was picked for three overseas (Canada, Australia and South Africa) ODI tours at the turn of the century. He got to bat on 8 occasions, made three 30+ scores and also ran himself out three times at crucial junctures. His last game for India resulted in a loss against Kenya, putting a forgetful end to an international career that never really got launched properly. He continues to be amongst runs at the domestic level and ended this Ranji season with 571 runs at a healthy average of 63.44.

    Sridharan Sharath: Ardent followers of Tamil Nadu cricket still find it hard to fathom the fact that Sharath hasn't been able to break it into the national team. He has served Tamil Nadu well over a long period of time and for someone who has batted at No.5/No.6 for a majority of his career, he has a very impressive record – 8080 runs at an average of 52.81. Elegant with drives and murderous with cuts and pulls, he has single-handedly scripted many memorable wins for Tamil Nadu. He was involved in a serious career-threatening motor accident in 1994, at a time when his career was starting to blossom. He had to under-go a major surgery and the recuperation process took a while, but the way he fought back into reckoning and became a reliable force in the domestic circuit is an inspiring tale in itself.

    MSK Prasad: 30 years of age is like 45 in "Indian stumper" years. When the Indian team started to distance itself from Nayan Mongia in 1999, a golden opportunity presented itself, but Prasad failed to make the most of his chances. After the disastrous 1999-2000 Australian test series in which none of the Indian batsmen could get going, the axe had to fall on someone. Prasad had been one of the many failed openers tried in the series and though he had a fairly good series behind the stumps, it came as no surprise when he was dropped for the ODI series that followed. His only notable performance at the international level came in the '99 LG cup final against South Africa at Nairobi, when he made a fighting 63 in a losing cause. He still opens the batting for Andhra and he still manages to put on impressive scores on the board. But to compete with the younger brigade (the likes of Dhoni, Kaarthick, Parthiv, Ratra and Pinal Shah) for a spot in the national squad, he might have to go invent a time machine.

    Sairaj Bahutule: From being at the receiving end of a 664 run partnership between Tendulkar and Kambli in a Harris Shield game to playing alongside them for Mumbai at the Ranji level as a teenager, from being Kumble's first serious leg-spinning competitor to playing for India in Kumble’s absence, from being the first choice replacement for Kumble to being the third (behind Piyush and Amit) choice, from leading Mumbai to a Ranji Trophy championship victory to shifting allegiance and leading Maharashtra against Mumbai - Sairaj has seen and done quite a few things in his career. In 14 years at the first class level, he has picked up 529 wickets (that is more than a handful of wickets for someone who has always been criticized for lack of variation) and is just 10 runs short of completing the "5000 runs - 500 wkts" double. By grooming young Piyush to be Kumble's apprentice, the selectors have firmly shut the door on Bahutule.

    Jai P Yadav: He is probably the only one in this list who has an outside chance of making the selectors do the unthinkable. After a poor introduction to international cricket in 2002 when he played a couple of games against the West Indies and disappeared, Yadav was given a much-deserved second chance last season. He got to play 10 ODIs, but managed to put on just one meaningful performance - a spirited knock of 69 against NZ in Bulawayo. With Dhoni and Pathan rapidly developing into destructive world-class all-rounders, the utility value of Yadav's stock has gone down dramatically. The team-management is no longer looking for the so-called "bits and pieces" players and that should certainly hurt Yadav's chances. However with over six and half thousand runs and 200+ wickets at the first class level, he still remains one of the most consistent all-rounders in the current Indian domestic circuit.

    Aashish Kapoor: There aren't many players in the Indian domestic circuit who have represented teams from all four corners of the country - Tamil Nadu in the South, Rajasthan in the West, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in the North and Tripura in the East. If he gets to play for some team in the central zone before he retires, he would have had the distinction of representing all 5 zones. As an off-spinning allrounder who came through the ranks playing a lot of junior cricket with the likes of Ganguly and Dravid, he kept the selectors interested in him for a good part of the late 90s. He got to play a handful of tests and ODIs (spread over a period of 6 years), but just couldn't cement his place for long at that level. With 392 first class wickets in 17 years of first class cricket, he is still going strong.

    Ashish Winston Zaidi: If he had been born a decade late, the story of his life would have definitely turned out a lot different. He would have been remembered for lot more than just as the UP cricketer with a name from three different faiths (His mates call him Amar Akbar Anthony"). For someone who was once touted to be the fastest bowler in the country, his best (and only) shot at donning the Indian colors came in 1992 when he was picked for a national training camp. He was at his peak in the early 90s and would have fancied his chances at making his international debut around the same time as Srinath. 34 years of age now and in a career that has spanned 18 years, he has managed to scalp 378 first class wickets. He is still fit and very much an integral part of the UP team, this year's Ranji champions. He ended the season with 30 wickets at 26.33 apiece, pretty good returns for someone who is considered a spent-force by the selectors.

    Nilesh Kulkarni: Not many international cricketers have picked up a wicket off their first ball in test cricket. Also, not many have ended up with figures of 1-195 off 70 overs in their debut innings. Nilesh Kulkarni dismissed Marvan Atapattu off his first ball in that torturous '97 Colombo test in which Sri Lanka raked up a score of 940. He played only a couple of tests after that and managed to pick up only one more wicket. Unusually tall (6'4") for an Indian spinner, he has done really well for Mumbai over the years picking up 332 wickets at less than 25 apiece. He led Mumbai into the Ranji finals this season, where they lost to UP and he would be hoping to get that last step right next season.

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    Murphy's Law and the VJD method

    Thursday, March 09, 2006
    Murphy's Law ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong") continues to haunt Sourav. Playing in East Zone's last Deodhar Trophy game, he was out caught behind for a first ball duck. East Zone ended the tournament at the bottom of the points table.

    On a side note, this was a game curtailed by bad weather conditions and it was good to see the VJD method being used instead of the D/L method to calculate the runs required to win by the chasing side. For those of you who are interested in knowing more about the VJD method, here is a link to a pdf file (from the Feb '04 Current Science journal) which explains it in detail.

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    Piyush Chawla.. second youngest Indian test cricketer

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006
    At 17 years and 75 days, Piyush Chawla has become the second youngest Indian test cricketer behind Sachin Tendulkar. Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (another leggie), who is commentating at Mohali moves to the third spot.

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    Yet another bad day in a forgettable year for the deposed Indian skipper

    Monday, March 06, 2006
    Imagine yourself as a bowler bowling the final over of a limited overs game (could be at any level, international, domestic, neighborhood whatever) with the opposition requiring 13 runs to win with just one wicket in hand. You say to yourself that you are a decent bowler and you back yourself to contain the batsmen and take your team to a victory. Now say the batsmen somehow manage to squeeze 8 runs off the first 5 deliveries. With five required off the last ball, you would want to think that you have done alright. You put a majority of the fielders on the ropes, say to yourself again that you can do this and try to bowl something that wouldn't give the batsman an opportunity to swing his arms. But as luck would have it, the batsman makes room for himself, swings at it like there is no tomorrow and clobbers the ball over the extra-cover boundary. How do you feel inside? It is one of those - can't explain how sickening it is - kind of horrible feelings. Isn't it?

    Now imagine this to be a Deodhar Trophy game between 2 teams placed at the bottom of the points-table. Imagine you are Sourav Ganguly and the batsman who hit you for a six is a 22 year-old rookie from Rajasthan who hasn't even played a dozen games at the domestic level. That inexplicable horrible sickening feeling seems to multiply a dozen times instantaneously. Doesn't it?

    Courtesy: The Hindu
    A last-ball six off Sourav Ganguly made little-known Rajasthan wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik an instant hero at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium on Monday.

    As the ball soared over extra cover to clear the ropes, this 22-year-old left-hander from Banswara conquered his feeling of disbelief, raised his arms in triumph and hugged last-man Harvinder Singh. After all, the duo had taken 14 runs off Ganguly's final over and scripted Central's thrilling one-wicket victory over East in the Deodhar Trophy league encounter.

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    Sunny Side or Shady Side?

    Courtesy: Sunny Side, Deccan Herald
    Inspite of Pathan scoring 35 off only 25 deliveries, the signal that was sent by demoting Tendulkar wasn't a good one. The little champion, when he came in to bat, scored at a strike rate more than 100 runs per ball as if to show that he has not lost it. Then, what about Harbhajan's promotion above V V S Laxman and Mohammad Kaif who is an acknowledged one-day specialist?

    Yes, we have seen Pathan's promotion in one-dayers work in India but this changing of batting order was exactly the same thing that Ganguly was castigated for in Zimbabwe. Now, it's called experimentation but when the former skipper was doing it, it was called spreading panic. Guess it depends on what media relations one has.

    The title of Gavaskar's latest article reads, "Change in batting order uncalled for". Well, I think those two paragraphs in that article of his are totally uncalled for. For me apart from Jaffer's two knocks, the only positive for India from the Nagpur test was that final session on the fifth day. The simple logic behind promoting Irfan and Dhoni ahead of Sachin was to give themselves a realistic chance to have a go at the target without risking a collapse. Now how hard is that to understand?

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    The 14th frog-leap anniversary

    Saturday, March 04, 2006
    It was on this very day in 1992 that Javed Miandad mimicked More's appealing by jumping up and down like a frog - this incident would sure be somewhere at the top of the long list of memorable Indo-Pak ODI moments. Enjoy the clip.

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    Aussies getting strangled in Cape Town

    Friday, March 03, 2006
    They are struggling at 7-4 in 11 overs. Ntini has 4/4 in 5 overs of which 4 are maidens. Pollock has 0/3 in 6 overs with 4 maidens. There have only been 4 scoring shots so far. Gilchrist, Jaques, Martyn and Clarke are already back in the pavilion. Incredible stuff.

    Update: Australia bundled out for 93. Ntini ended up with figures of 6/22 as South Africa won by a huge margin of 196 runs. Without Ponting and Symonds the Aussie lineup is starting to look real shaky.

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    21 opening combinations in 6 years

    Thursday, March 02, 2006
    Wasim Jaffer made his debut for India 6 years ago against the South Africans at Mumbai. He played a couple of games, disappeared, got to play 5 tests in 2002, disappeared again before making a comeback at Nagpur yesterday. In the 6 years since his debut, India has tried 21 different opening combinations (with Jaffer himself featuring in 4 of those).

    Here is the full list:
    Jaffer-Laxman, Jaffer-Dravid, Das-Ramesh, Das-Badani, Das-Dighe, Das-Dravid, Das-Dasgupta, Siddiqui-Dasgupta, Das-Bangar, Das-Jaffer, Jaffer-Sehwag, Bangar-Sehwag, Bangar-Parthiv, Chopra-Sehwag, Sehwag-Parthiv, Yuvraj-Sehwag, Gambhir-Sehwag, Gambhir-Dravid, Gambhir-Pathan, Sehwag-Dravid, Dravid-Laxman

    Of the 16 players featured in these 21 combinations, only 5 of them are specialist openers in the true sense - Jaffer, Das, Ramesh, Chopra and Gambhir. Sehwag's has been the only success story in that long list of make-shift openers. There were definitely a few combinations which promised to last for long (especially the ones between Das and Ramesh, Sehwag and Chopra, Sehwag and Gambhir), but for some reason or the other fell apart.

    Jaffer is currently in imperious form. He looked as classy as ever in today's knock in the first innings at Nagpur. He is at the moment technically a few notches better than Gambhir and if he can convert that form of his into a string of meaningful scores in this series, there is no reason why his partnership with Sehwag wouldn't do better than the ones tried out in the last 6 years.

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    Monty.. handy player for India?

    Courtesy: Rediff
    Laxman, known for his abilities against spinners, gave his first hand impression about England's left-arm tweaker Panesar.

    "Panesar is a good spinner, and with a little bit of experience he will be a handy player for India," he said.

    I'm guessing this is a typo, but wouldn't really blame Laxman if he thinks Monty is an Indian.


    1000 international wickets for Murali

    It would be a long while before this record gets broken. There is no contemporary bowler in a threating distance for this one.


    Boycs' 100th 100

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006
    This is a video clip of Geoffrey Boycott reaching his hundredth first class hundred (This was in the Headingley Test of The Ashes 1977). No prizes for identifying the bowler. If you are not able to figure out who the bowler is, please ask Ganguly.

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    Happy B'day Strauss (March 2nd)

    He got a start yesterday. This would have been a happier B'day if he had been able to convert that 28 into a big ton. I don't think he would want to watch the replay of his dismissal today. But the others can..

    [Video Courtesy: Blokes at YouTube]

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    Teenaged test debutants for England and India

    England went in with 3 debutants yesterday at Nagpur. 21 year old Cook, who opened the innings looked mature beyond his age and showed great promise. I was curious to figure out the last time England handed out a test debut to a teenager and this is what I was able to dug out. It is interesting to note that England has had only one teenaged debutant at the test level in the last 10 years - late Ben Hollioake was 19 when he made his test debut in 1997. During the same period, India handed out the blue cap to 6 teenagers - Harbhajan, Nehra, Kaif, Parthiv, Irfan and Kaarthick. In the entire history of test cricket, only one Englishman has been able to make his debut before reaching the age of 19 (Brian Close, back in 1949).

    What do you infer from this? There has never been a real teenaged sensation worthy enough to don the English colours. English players are considered test material only after a few good consistent seasons at the test level. Life is good for a teenaged cricketer in India as opposed to that in England. Indian teenagers are more talented at that age. The Indian selectors give more importance to under-19 performances than to Ranji performances. Take your pick(s).

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    Zimbabwe humiliated .. again..

    Kenya toured Zimbabwe late last year, played a few games against the "A" side and completely humiliated the hosts. That series prompted me to say that Zimbabwe was reaching for the abyss. After seeing how the new-look Zimbabwean senior side has fared in the last couple of games, I really don't know what to say. Today's game was incredible. Defending a lowly total of 134, the Kenyan bowlers bundled out Zimbabwe for a paltry 69.

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    Chappell Speak - On Ganguly, working for the people of India and other things..

    Chappell has given lots of interviews in recent times. Here is one of the better ones - from Guardian's Mike Selvey, deserves to be read in full.

    On Ganguly..
    "I'm not the hard-nosed control freak that I have been portrayed. I'm thorough, a realist, a pragmatist and I'm honest. Much has been written and said, a lot of it misleading, but in essence I told Sourav that if he wanted to save his career he should consider giving up the captaincy. He was just hanging in there. Modest innings were draining him. He had no energy to give to the team, which was helping neither him nor us. It was in his own interest to give himself mind space to work on his batting so that it could be resurrected. He was not prepared to do that. What I didn't realise at that stage was how utterly important to his life and finances being captain was."

    On working for the people of India..
    "I don't think anyone can imagine just how much of a goldfish bowl it is until you are in it. I have travelled here before and been conscious of it but once you are inside that bowl it is quite amazing. The job I do carries with it an enormous responsibility, not so much to my employers but to a cricket-mad nation. I genuinely feel that, while I am being paid by the BCCI , I am working for the people of India, those who support the team, and they are many and varied and from all walks of life. I am lucky that I have been exposed to many different aspects of this country."

    the Beatles comparison..
    "It is an unnerving experience to drive out of stadiums after we have won games or lost them and see the streets lined with people from all walks of life, particularly those from poorer communities whose only glimpse of the team would be as the bus flashes past and to see their faces light up. The only thing I can liken it to is the Beatles motorcade when they arrived in Australia in the 1960s. People lining the streets from the airport to the city. That happens here every day with this team.

    and a dressing room story..
    "There was a very poignant photograph in the paper one day recently just before we played in Lahore. A lot of Indian supporters wanted to come to the match. Now they can cross the border but you have to drive there, then leave the car and walk across and get a car or bus the other side. It is a huge effort for many to support the team.

    "The picture was of a woman, elderly, scrambling through the border. It is for people such as her that we are playing the game and the players and I realise that. We pinned the picture on the dressing room wall to remind us. We drew a lot of inspiration from that."

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