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    The Gourmet Opener

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    For all those who loved the Salt-Crusted Red Emperor and the Calypso Crayfish recipes from Matt Hayden's first cook-book, the Prawn Pita Pizza, the Salmon Quiche, the Veal Stew with Parsley Dumplings and the Rib Eye on Spinach with Beetroot and Horseradish Puree recipes from his second book should look really yummy. Hayden (was bitten by a dog recently) would be looking to serve more than just good food in the upcoming Ashes series.

    Pix Credit: Allenandunwin

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    Rajasthan's Worcestershire connection

    Courtesy: Worcester News
    Worcestershire's England internationals Vikram Solanki and Kabir Ali are preparing to experience life as overseas players.

    The County duo have signed up to play first-class cricket for the Rajasthan Cricket Association this winter in India's Ranji Championship Plate Division.

    The Ajay Jadeja led Rajasthan team lost to Saurashtra in the Plate final last season. The inclusion of the two England discards will surely bolster Rajasthan's chances of winning it. Worcs skipper Solanki was born in Udaipur and spent his early childhood in Rajasthan. He is 30 years old and he would be hoping a good stint with his birth state would give him enough confidence to stage a comeback at the international level. Kabir Ali is 25 and has managed to play just one test and 14 ODIs after making his debut at the international level in 2003. He looked woefully out of depth against Sri Lanka earlier this year and was dropped for the subsequent tournament. Though the quality of teams in the Plate group is not as great as those of the Elite teams, there would still be ample opportunities for these two to test themselves on the Indian soil.

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    Selection thoughts

    • Virender "Why is Jaffer here? To breath down my neck?.. I can bowl.. Can he bowl?" Sehwag
    • Sachin "I should do well in SA .. no McGrath there" Tendulkar
    • Wasim "Why am I here? If I fail in the ODIs, would I be jeopardizing my test chances?" Jaffer

    Middle Order:
    • Rahul "what is happening to this team? Aren't we sticking to the process enough?" Dravid
    • Mohammad "For a change, I don't feel guilty for keeping Laxman out.. that's Raina's job now" Kaif
    • Suresh "why is Jaffer here? yeah Kaif is right.. I admit it.. I'm guilty for keeping Laxman out" Raina
    • Dinesh "Sorry Laxman, Feel for you, know exactly what you are going through" Mongia

    • Mahendra Singh "Kaarthick being in the squad doesn't affect me" Dhoni
    • Dinesh "Can both keepers play? I'm a better keeper, especially off Anil Bhai's bowling" Kaarthick
    • Irfan "hmm.. Zaheer is back.. I can bat at No.3.. Can he?" Pathan
    • Zaheer "I can't be as bad as Irfan.. my grandfather can't be as bad as Irfan" Khan
    • Shantakumaran "They should have never dropped me for the Champions Trophy " Sreesanth
    • Munaf "Zaheer or no Zaheer.. I'm the No.1 seamer in the country" Patel
    • Ajit "Damn it Morton.. What did my finger do to you?" Agarkar

    • Harbhajan "Anil Bhai, you do realize that I'm the No.1 spinner now, Don't ya?" Singh
    • Anil "Finally, someone sensible is heading the selectors" Kumble

    • VRV "Hope Ajit's finger is as brittle as the Indian middle order.. no the WI middle order" Singh
    Missing Names:
    • VVS "Fitness? What do you want me to do? Run a marathon" Laxman
    • Ramesh "Anil Bhai, you can't do this to me" Powar
    • Rudra Pratap "If they hadn't picked me for the Champions Trophy, I would have made it to SA" Singh

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    Yuvi ruled out for sunday's game

    Saturday, October 28, 2006
    Courtesy: Cricinfo
    Yuvraj sustained a cruciate ligament injury when he took a sharp u-turn while playing ko-kho, a traditional Indian game, at the Punjab Cricket Academy (PCA) Ground. He immediately fell to the ground and held his left knee in pain. He was escorted to the dressing-room, where an ice-pack was applied to the area below the left knee after which he was taken to a local hospital for diagnostic tests. Yuvraj will now head to Mumbai to meet Anant Joshi, the Indian board's orthopedic surgeon.

    The team played seven stones before the game against West Indies. That obviuosly didn't work out very well. So they seem to have decided to try Kho-Kho before the game against Australia. Team-bonding exercises, I guess. India would definitely miss the services of Yuvi, who was slowly working himself into some sort of form after a bad start to the season. Kaif would probably be his immediate replacement.

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    What are they hoping for?

    Sunday's game at Mohali between India and Australia is a virtual quarter-final. Here are some thoughts on what some of the cricketers in action would be hoping to do in that game.

    Sachin Tendulkar needs 97 runs to complete 25,000 runs in international cricket. If he gets to do that in this game, India would be better placed to reach the semis. Also, his record against McGrath and Co. in recent times hasn't been that great - scores of 5, 8, 27, 12 and 4 in his last 5 innings against the world's best should hurt his pride. He would be real keen on setting the record straight on what is supposed to be an Aussie-friendly pitch.

    Sehwag has played 13 innings against Australia so far. He scored 2 half-centuries in his first 3 innings and has failed to score any since then. He averages just 22.15 against the World's best. With his ability to bowl restrictive spells, he does bring in a fair bit of utility value even when he fails with the bat. He is the right man to open with Sachin and for India to do well in the World Cup next year, he needs to fire big time at the top of the order. The Australians would be looking to test him with the short stuff and Sehwag would hope to have some answers to that kind of bowling.

    If the pitch behaves the way it did in the SA vs Pak game the other day, there is no point sending in Irfan Pathan at No.3. His continued persistence at No.3 shows the amount of faith that the team management has in Irfan's ability as a batsman. But on a hard and bouncy WACA-like pitch, he just isn't the right man to walk in that early. Irrespective of where he bats, Irfan would be hoping to get some wickets in his opening spell. He is a much better bowler if he gets an early wicket.

    MS Dhoni would be playing his first game against his idol, Gilchrist. He played a fairly uncharacteristic (atleast for the most part) knock in the previous game and would like to play one of his regular-type knocks against the World's best.

    In the 13 games that India played Australia after the World Cup, the team managed to win only twice - VVS Laxman, the so-called test specialist had scores of 102 and 103* in those 2 games. Through out this tournament, because of the pitches on offer, the bowlers have been bowling to test-match like field settings (three slips and a forward short-leg) for most part of the innings. As Ian Chappell said, guess it is time the batsmen played like they do in a test match. Too bad, India doesn't play its test specialist in the ODI team. Suresh Raina is in the team ahead of Laxman because of his superior fielding skills. Raina is a real live-wire on the field, but his batting has been a huge let-down. Raina would probably be replaced with either Kaif or Mongia for the next game, but he would be hoping to get one more chance to convince the selectors that he can do more with the bat.

    Agarkar fractured his thumb in the game against the West Indies and Sreesanth has been flown in as his replacement. Sreesanth is likely to get a game straight away. He would be hoping to make a strong impression and embarrass the selectors for ignoring him in the first-choice squad.

    Adam Gilchrist needs just one more dismissal to complete 400 victims in ODIs - he would be eager to grab any nick that comes his way (or the slips' way).

    McGrath hasn't been his usual self this season. He has picked up just 4 wickets in 6 games at 37.25 apiece. Those figures pale in comparison to his overall average of 22.60. He bowled first change in the last game, but would want to have a go at Sachin and Sehwag first up in the game on sunday.

    After his exploits in Malaysia, Mitchell Johnson would want to have a real crack at the Indian top-order. It would be real interesting to see who gets to open the bowling. Something about bowling to the Indian top-order, just about everyone fancies a chance against them.

    What am I hoping for? I would like to see India go in with Sreesanth and Mongia in place of Agarkar and Raina respectively (and Kaif in place of Yuvraj if Yuvi doesn't recover from his injury). Given the nature of the pitch, Dravid would want to go in with 4 seamers (too bad for Powar, who did so well against England). I would really like to see the Indian top-order bat well. They haven't batted well this season and I would like them (Sehwag, especially) to come real good against the World's best. Now, is that too much to ask?

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    Today's Bizarre Events

    Thursday, October 26, 2006
    OK. India lost to West Indies. Again. The way India has been playing this new season, that result doesn't really come as a big surprise. Here is a short list of bizarre events that occurred during the game.
    • Three Indian batsmen (Irfan, Sachin and Bhajji) were out "bowled" - but none of those deliveries were actually directed at the stumps. They were all dragged onto the stumps from way outside off.
    • Only 25 runs were scored between overs 31-40 in the Indian innings. The way they were batting, Lara wouldn't have cared if he had to use 40 overs of power-play.
    • MS Dhoni needed 41 balls to score his first dozen runs - he usually needs just 2 scoring shots to reach that.
    • Mr.Dew who was expected to trouble the spinners in gripping the ball during the second half decided not to trouble them so much - Bhajji and Veeru went for just 63 runs in 20 overs and picked up 2 wickets between them.
    • West Indies required 12 runs of 15 balls with 7 wickets in hand - But then this West Indies that we are talking about - they lost 4 wickets in the next 10 deliveries and ended up requiring 5 off 4 balls (before Marlon pulled them out of jail).

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    ICC Awards 2006: Women's Cricketer of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Anjum was my initial pick and I'm sticking with her.

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    ICC Awards 2006: Emerging Player of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    Mohammad Asif was my initial pick and despite the dope scandal, I'm still sticking with him. But I do have a feeling that the award would go to Ian Bell

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    ICC Awards 2006: ODI Player of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    My initial pick was Yuvi and I'm sticking with him.

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    ICC Awards 2006: Test Player of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    My initial pick was Ponting and I'm still backing him to win.

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    ICC Awards 2006: Player of the Year - Pruned list of Nominees

    My initial pick was Ponting and I'm sticking with him.

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    Starring Russell Crowe as Bill Woodfull

    Thursday, October 19, 2006
    Courtesy: United Press International
    Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is expected to sign onto the upcoming film, "The Bloody Ashes," based on the life of Australian cricket star Donald Bradman.

    With production scheduled to begin in 2007, the Matthew Vaughn-helmed picture is in talks with Crowe, who won a 2001 Academy Award for his role in "Gladiator," to take on the role of Bradman's cricket captain, Moviehole.net reported.

    Russell is supposed to play the role of Bill Woodfull, the Aussie skipper of the 1932-33 Ashes Bodyline Series.

    Pix Credit: Cricinfo, IMDB

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    Stuck to the crease

    Courtesy: Rediff
    International Cricket Council's pitch consultant Andy Atkinson will try a revolutionary technique for improving the pitch for the ICC Champions Trophy clash between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Friday.

    Atkinson is going to use a commonly used builders' glue -- PVA (Poly Vinyl Acetate) -- on the pitch for extra binding of the playing rectangle.

    For all those batsmen who don't move their feet too much, this is a fresh excuse to play shots with their feet rooted to the crease. It also gives some solace to the slower bowlers - not too many batsmen would be prepared to come down the track and do the shimmy. Jokes aside, I still think there is nothing wrong with having pitches that help the bowlers.

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    Fit me in..

    Friday, October 13, 2006
    The Portuguese born Australian under-19 skipper, Moises Henriques wants to get into the Australian senior squad as soon as possible.

    Courtesy: The Daily Telegraph

    But what about Shane Watson? In your way?

    "I think Shane Watson is an absolutely fantastic player. It's going to be tough to sort of push ahead and hopefully, maybe, we can find two spots in the side," he said.

    The kid seems to be in a real hurry.

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    Australia, New Zealand and England warm up

    Thursday, October 12, 2006
    Australia vs Maharashtra XI - Notes
    Cricinfo Scorecard
    • Shane Watson opened the batting with Gilchrist and made 70 off 83 - Watson is definitely a better option than Katich up the order.
    • Gilchrist, who missed the DLF Cup managed to make just 6 off 17 balls.
    • Symonds was his usual self - scored 78 off 59 with 50 of those runs coming off just 9 scoring shots.
    • Lee, McGrath, Bracken, Hogg and Symonds bowled economical spells while Watson and Johnson went for some runs.
    New Zealand vs Mumbai XI - Notes
    Cricinfo Scorecard
    • New Zealand rested Vettori, Oram and Bond for the game.
    • Fleming, Vincent and Hamish Marshall made runs - all the NZ batsmen struggled against the Mumbai spinners.
    • Nilesh Kulkarni and Aniket Redkar picked up 3 wickets for 63 runs in 20 overs between them.
    • Rohit Sharma continues to impress - he made 61 off 69 balls and kept Mumbai in the hunt for a while.
    • Jeetan Patel and Mark Gillespie picked up 3 wickets each.
    England vs Rajasthan Cricket Association XI - Notes
    Cricinfo Scorecard
    • Bell, Flintoff, Yardy and Dalrymple made runs - Strauss, Pietersen and Collingwood missed out.
    • Ed Joyce batted at No.9 - He is expected to carry drinks, towels and gloves for a major part of this tournament.
    • Flintoff did not bowl and declared later that he wouldn't be bowling against India on sunday.
    • The Rajasthan batsmen had no clue whatsoever against a strong English bowling attack (despite Freddie's absence) - Even the spinners picked up wickets (Dalrymple 2 and Yardy 1).

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    Meet Muralitharan's Biographer - Tishani Doshi

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006
    Courtesy: Mumbai Mirror

    “I have a passion for the game… met Murali in Sri Lanka, thought he was a wonderful personality and did a few interviews with him. Later on, when talk of doing his biography came about, I signed up to cover the non-cricketing side of his life — his being Tamilian, his first 16 years in boarding school, his experiences with the riots in Sri Lanka, his charity work, etc. I think it’s a one-off though."

    The point behind the post? Well, it isn't always that the biography of a cricketer is written by an award winning poet and choreographer. And can't I just post something without making a point?

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    Duleep Trophy 2006 - East Zone Squad

    The folks at PTI were the first to report the East Zone squad and these are the names that they came up with.

    Team: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Lakshmiratan Shukla, Shubomoy Das, Shib Shankar Das, Ranadeb Basu, Debasish Mohanty, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Sourasish Lahiri, A Sinha, Pravanjan Das, S S Rao, D Mohan, S Saigal, P Mallick and Ashoke Dinda.

    Nazeeb Ahmed, Manoj Tiwari and S Sinha.

    Shib Sunder Das became Shib Shankar Das, Ranadeb Bose became Ranadeb Basu and Nechim Ahmed became Nazeeb Ahmed. They missed out the names of Rohan Gavaskar and Deep Dasgupta altogether and also somehow managed to invent a couple of new names - A Sinha and D Mohan. Now how hard is it to pay attention to the selector announcing the names and list them down?

    Anyway, here is the correct list.

    Sourav Ganguly (capt), Subhomoy Das, Arindam Das, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Deep Dasgupta, Saurashish Lahiri, Laxmiratan Shukla, Ranadeb Bose, Rohan Gavaskar, Ashok Dinda, Manoj Tewari (reserve), Shib Sagar Singh (reserve)
    Orissa: Shib Sundar Das, Prabhanjan Mullick, Debashish Mohanty, Sourav Saigal
    Jharkhand: Shiv Shankar Rao
    Assam: Abu Nechim Ahmed (reserve)

    18 players, including 3 reserves were named - 12 from Bengal (quite understandably as Bengal is the only East Zone team which plays in the Ranji Elite group), 4 from Orissa and 1 each from Jharkhand and Assam.

    Openers: Arindam, Subhomoy, Shib Sundar
    The Das trio - SS Das was once the nation's first choice opener. Now he is not necessarily the first choice East Zone opener. He had a fairly ordinary domestic season last year. Subhomoy is the only one of these three who managed to reach the three figure mark last season (did it once). Arindam Das made 5 half centuries, but never went past 70.

    Middle-order: Ganguly, Jhunjhunwala, Gavaskar, Mullick, Tewary (reserve)
    This is a huge season for Ganguly. If he doesn't make a comeback to the national side by the end of the season, a retirement could be on the cards. Jhunjhunwala's claim to fame is a 139 at over run a ball, chasing a target of 303 in the final innings against Railways. He is touted to be Bengal's next great thing and it wouldn't be long to find out if he is the real deal. Rohan Gavaskar had his chances at the international level and I really don't see him staging a comeback. He was one of the commentators during the Challenger Series and from the looks of it, he doesn't really seem like one who would do well behind the microphone. Mullick is 30+ and the reason why his name is on that list is because he made couple of centuries last season including a big double century. Manoj Tewary was a successful leg-spinner during his under-19 days, now he is more of a batsman who can bowl some slow stuff.

    Wicket-Keeper: Deep Dasgupta
    Without Dhoni in the fray, Dasgupta is East Zone's best keeper. And like he showed during his days at the international level, he is more than handy with the bat.

    All-rounders: Shukla, Shib Sagar (reserve)
    LaxmiRatan Shukla was once touted to be the nation's next best all-rounder. He played 3 ODIs in 1999 and then faded away from the selectors' plans. To his credit, he is still a very valuable player for Bengal. He is 5 wickets short of 100 first class wickets and has a pretty decent batting average to go with it. At 25 he is still fairly young, but it would take a super-human effort from him to make the selectors start noticing him again. Shib Sagar is a handy batsman who can bowl orthodox left-arm spin. He is in the reserves for now and would be called up if Saigal fails to make an impact in the initial games.

    Seamers: Mohanty, Bose, Dinda, SS Rao, Nechim Ahmed (reserve)
    Mohanty played his last ODI for India in 2001 against Sri Lanka in Colombo. He turned 30 a few months ago, but is still a great force in East Zone cricket. Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda (SS Paul's replacement - Paul has an injured knee) are Bengal's frontline bowlers and would be providing support to Mohanty. Jharkhand's Rao would be hoping that he would get a few games to show that he belongs in this team. The Under-19 star Abu Nechim is the reserve seamer. Either he or Tiwary would make it to the final 16.

    Spinners: Lahiri, Saigal
    Lahiri is the main spinner. Orissa's Sourav Saigal would be on trial during the first few games.

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    Of Vettori's Class

    Courtesy: Cricinfo
    "I thought we tackled them [the spinners] okay, but we know there is scope for improvement and it is something we need to work on. We will be up against New Zealand shortly and they have a world-class spinner in their ranks in Vettori, and we have a lot of respect for him. We thought today was the ideal practice against bowlers of his class."

    That was Graeme Smith, after the warm-up game against Saurashtra. Ravindra Jadeja, Jaydev Shah (son of the BCCI secretary, Niranjan Shah), Rakesh Dhurv and Shitanshu Kotak bowled 38 overs of spin and picked up 7 wickets between them - a fairly decent job. But if you were Vettori, wouldn't you be offended for being told that you are in the same class as these bowlers?

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    Dhoni's new hairdo

    Due to the extreme hot conditions in India, most of the players from the visiting teams seem to have cut their hair real short. Dhoni had a hair cut too, but it is nowhere near as short as any of them. Irrespective of the change in the hairstyle, Dhoni did seem to be in a murderous mood with the bat in the warm-up game against the RCA President's XI. India plays England at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on sunday and his fans would be hoping that he would be able to repeat what he did the last time he batted on that ground.

    Pix Credit: Businessofcinema.com

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    Duleep Trophy 2006 - West Zone Squad

    Mumbai: Wasim Jaffer (capt), Rohit Sharma, Amol Muzumdar, Vinit Indulkar, Zaheer Khan
    Maharashtra: Dheeraj Jadhav, Sairaj Bahutule, SR Burkul
    Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (vice capt), Sidharth Trivedi
    Saurashtra: Cheteshwar Poojara, Ravindra Jadeja, SM Maniar
    Baroda: Kiran Powar, Rajesh Pawar

    Openers: Wasim Jaffer, Dheeraj Jadhav, Cheteshwar Poojara
    Wasim Jaffer is the captain. Just about a season ago, Dheeraj Jadhav was the first choice reserve opener in the senior side. It doesn't take long for fortunes to fluctuate. Jadhav scored 500+ runs at a 50+ average last Ranji season and he would be keen on making good use of this tournament. Saurashtra's Poojara is the third opener. He was the best batsman on view in the under-19 world cup earlier this year. He was part of the A team that played the Top-End series down under, but he didn't get too many opportunities there to prove his mettle. He is still very young and it would be interesting to see how fares this domestic season.

    Middle Order: Rohit Sharma, Amol Muzumdar, Vinit Indulkar, Kiran Powar
    Rohit Sharma's stock has had a huge surge in recent months and it is upto him to maintain it up there during the coming season. If Suresh Raina continues to fail utilizing his chances at the international level, Rohit might be the one to replace him. And for that to happen, Rohit needs to back his claims with some solid consistent performances at the domestic level. Mumbai's Vinit Indulkar made his first class debut a couple of seasons ago and was once touted to be the next great "kar". He has managed to make just 2 tons in 17 games and that is definitely not enough to make the national selectors sit up and notice him. Amol Muzumdar and Kiran Powar are both 30+ and bring in a great deal of experience to the middle order. They might secretly nurture hopes of doing a Hussey and debuting at a late age, but India isn't Australia and I'm sure they realize it.

    Wicket Keeper:
    Parthiv Patel
    He is easily the best keeper from the Zone. No surprises there.

    Zaheer Khan, Sidharth Trivedi, Suyash Burkul,Sandip Maniar
    Zaheer Khan would really be hoping to play more international cricket and less domestic cricket this season and the Duleep Trophy would be a good platform to try and convince the selectors to pick him for the South African tour. Sidharth Trivedi was one of the stars of the 2002 under-19 world cup and has been fairly consistent at the domestic level in recent seasons. A former Border-Gavaskar scholarship winner, Trivedi picked up 37 wickets last Ranji season at just 15.94 apiece. His Ranji performance won him a place in the A side that played in the Top End series. There is way too much competition in the seamers category in India these days and Sidharth might be way down in the selectors' list of reserve seamers, but he sure would want to believe that he is just one good season away from breaking into the national squad. Saurashtra's 28 year old Sandip Maniar was one of the stars of last season's Ranji plate championship. 73 wickets in 16 first class games at just 21.69 is impressive, but bowling to batsmen of international class is probably a bit beyond his league at the moment. Suyash Burkul is probably in the side because he picked up 20 wickets in 7 Ranji games at an average of 23.15. His average is marginally better than Avishkar Salvi and Swapnil Hazare (both picked 20 odd wickets last season) and that seems to have been enough to get the preference.

    Sairaj Bahutule, Ravindra Jadeja, Rajesh Pawar
    Bahutule is there for his experience. Jadeja is yet to make his first class debut. He is seen as good ODI prospect and he hasn't really got any opportunities in the longer version so far. This season will show us all whether he has it in him to be better than Murali Karthik. Rajesh Pawar had a decent year last season with his left-arm spinners, picking up 23 wickets at 22.56 apiece. He would probably be preferred over Jadeja in the starting XI.

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    Disturbing the furniture

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006
    Pix Credit: Nathan JW (clicked at Palolem Beach, Goa)

    As a kid, I used to love batting in those plastic-chair-instead-of-stumps games. If you get beaten by a yorker and the ball sneaks through the gap between the legs of the chair, you could always argue that the ball did not disturb the furniture. Yeah, yeah, I've had my share of "chaired out" and "leg before chair" dismissals.

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    Duleep Trophy 2006 - South Zone Squad

    Monday, October 09, 2006
    Last Ranji Trophy season, Hyderabad, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka played in the Elite Group while Goa played in the Plate Group. None of these South zone teams made it into the semi-finals. This year's squad for the Duleep Trophy has 5 men from Hyderabad, 4 from Tamil Nadu, 2 each from Andhra and Karnataka and 1 each from Kerala and Goa.

    Hyderabad: VVS Laxman, Arjun Yadav, Ibrahim Khaleel, Pragyan Ojha, Ambati Rayudu
    Andhra: Venugopal Rao, Gnaneshwar Rao
    Tamil Nadu: S Badrinath, Dinesh Kaarthick, Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh, Laxmipathy Balaji
    Karnataka: Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa
    Kerala: Shantakumaran Sreesanth
    Goa: Swapnil Asnodkar

    Openers: Uthappa
    There is only one genuine opener in the squad. I would like to have tried out Karnataka's Bharath Chipli. He averaged above 50 in 8 innings last season and has a much better record than some of the middle order batsmen selected.

    Middle Order: Laxman, Venugopal Rao, S Badrinath, Ambati Rayudu, Gnaneshwar Rao, Arjun Yadav
    Laxman is supposedly fit and needs this tournament to get some form going ahead of the South African tour. S Badrinath (led the South Zone batting averages last year) and Venugopal Rao have been in the India A team for a while and they automatically walk into the side. The next 3 names are interesting. Yalaka Gnaneshwar Rao is Venugopal's kid brother and averaged a modest 31.00 in 9 innings last Ranji season. Ambati Rayudu played for Andhra last season and averaged just above 35 in 8 innings. He is back with Hyderabad this year and would be hoping to prove his detractors that he still has the same promise that he showed as a teenager. The last name on the list is Arjun Yadav. He averaged just 20.09 in 11 innings last year. If he wasn't Shivlal Yadav's son, he would have struggled to retain his spot in the Hyderabad team. It is a real shame that he has been named in the Duleep Trophy squad ahead of Badani (averaged 54.44 last Ranji season) and Chipli (averaged 51.14).

    Dinesh Kaarthick, Ibrahim Khaleel
    Dinesh Kaarthick is the first choice. Khaleel did well with the bat for Hyderabad last season and infact led the team's batting averages (40.20 in 11 innings). He is definitely a much better option than Arjun Yadav in the middle order.

    Seamers: Sreesanth, Balaji, Yo Mahesh
    A fairly formidable pace attack.

    Spinners: Kumble, Ojha, Asnodkar
    Anil Kumble is coming back from an injury and would like to use this tournament as a good warm-up before the South African series. It would mean a lot to young Pragyan Ojha (left-arm chinaman) to be able to bowl in tandem with someone like Anil. Goa's offspinner Asnodkar would be hoping to get a game, but he is likely to miss out from the initial starting XI.

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    Tons and Victories

    Saturday, October 07, 2006
    The Sri Lankans haven't lost a single game in their last 9 games. Though three of those matches were against the minnows, they have shown how balanced a side they are. Their top order has consistently managed to put runs on the board and that has made a huge difference. Except for the one game against Netherlands, every other game has produced atleast one century from the Sri Lankan top-order batsmen. Tharanga and Jayasuriya have made three each, Mahela Jayawardene has helped himself to two while Dilshan has managed to reach the three-figure mark once. (Incidentally, Tharanga has now become the fastest to make 5 centuries in ODIs in terms of matches played - it too him 30 games)

    If the opposing teams fail to get these guys out for smaller scores, they would have a real tough time beating the resurgent islanders.

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    Friday, October 06, 2006
    Y Khan renounces captaincy.
    Y Youhana gets the captaincy.
    But Y?

    coz.. Y Khan is content captaining Y'shire?
    But still Y?

    ps: Y Khan's column.

    Update: New twist in the "yes no yes game" - Y Khan gets reinstated as Captain.

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    Irani Trophy 2006 - The Rest of India Squad

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006
    Team: Wasim Jaffer (capt), Venugopal Rao (vice-capt), Robin Uthapa, Gautam Gambhir, S Badrinath, Dinesh Kaarthick, V R V Singh, S Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik, P Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Sourashish Lahiri, Yo Mahesh.

    The squad includes 10 players from the India Red side that was selected for the NKP Salve Challenger Series. Except for Ramesh Powar, Tej Pal Singh and Raghu, everybody else from the Reds gets a look in.

    Openers: Jaffer, Gambhir, Uthappa
    Jaffer seems to have been selected to give him some match practice ahead of the new season. Gambhir and Uthappa are currently the 2 preferred reserve openers, so no surprises there.

    Middle Order: Rao, Badrinath, Rohit Sharma
    They have all done well in the recent past and get one more opportunity to further their cases. There is no place for Sourav Ganguly in that batting lineup.

    Wicket-Keeper: Dinesh Kaarthick
    No surprises there. Kaarthick is easily the best wicket-keeper in the country. (He is not the best wicket-keeper-batsman yet.)

    Seamers: Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, VRV Singh, Yo Mahesh
    Each of those first three names hopes to be selected for the South African tour and this would be a good game to impress the selectors. Tamil Nadu's Yo Mahesh(one of the stars of this year's under-19 world cup) is the surprise inclusion. I doubt if he would get to play in the final XI barring any injury to anyone from the preferred trio.

    Spinners: Murali Karthik, Sourashish Lahiri, Pragyan Ojha
    Murali Karthik would surely play. He is coming back from an injury and would be keen on showing that he is better than Ramesh Powar. Lahiri has nothing to lose. Young Ojha's selection is interesting - Venkatapathy Raju had to select someone from Hyderabad in his first meeting as a selector? To Raju's credit, Pragyan bowls slow left arm chinaman and there haven't really been too many Indian spinners who do that and it is always good to have some variety in the reserves.

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    Challenger Trophy 2006 - Blues vs Greens - Notes

    Monday, October 02, 2006
    I was reading (rather trying to read) a printed internet RFC document this morning in parallel to following the Blues vs Greens match on willow.tv. It was a 32 page document, one-side printed on regular A4 sheets. Each sheet had rich cutting-edge content on one side and absolutely nothing on the other side. Ironically, the game that I was watching was also as starkly one-sided as that.

    The Blues who went down to the Reds yesterday put on a consummate professional performance today. The Mohammad Kaif led Greens had absolutely no retort to offer to the Blues' onslaught. The Blues amassed 381 runs (236 of those came off just 51 scoring shots - 35 fours and 16 sixes) on the board and bundled out the Greens for a paltry 115. The following is a rundown of the day's play.

    Rahul Dravid won the toss and elected to bat. Sehwag wasn't fit to play, so the 16 year old Tanmay Srivastava was shifted from the Green team to the Blue team (doesn't it remind you of street cricket?) and asked to open with Sachin Tendulkar. Ravindra Jadeja who played in the first game made way for Rudra Pratap Singh. India Green left out Reetinder Sodhi and went in with 5 regular bowlers.

    Story of the first half

    The Willow Version

    The day before the game, young Tanmay would have been nurturing hopes of opening the batting with Sourav Ganguly for the Green team. Come match day, he did better. He got drafted into the Blue team and got to walk out onto the field with a bat in hand alongside Sachin Tendulkar. Unfortunately for him he couldn't face more than 5 deliveries, of which 2 were wides. Balaji dug one in short and Tanmay failed to negotiate the awkward bounce, edging it to the slips.

    Irfan Pathan came in next and started doing what he has been consistently doing at No.3 over the past year - hitting the ball over the in-field and taking the pressure off the batsman at the other end. By the end of the tenth over, the Blues were 55/1 with Pathan on 36 off 33 balls and Sachin on 14 off 24 balls. This is where Mohammad Kaif made his first mistake of the day. Instead of delaying the power-play overs (like Rao did in the previous game), Kaif opted to employ them straight away. In the eleventh over, the ball went past the boundary thrice as Tendulkar decided to join Pathan in the "toying with the bowlers" game.

    The second power-play yielded 49 runs - at the end of 15 overs, the Blues were 104-1 with Pathan past his fifty and Sachin three short of his. But Kaif refused to do the wise thing, took the third power-play and tossed the ball to his young UP team-mate, Piyush Chawla. Sachin made a mockery of Kaif's move by clobbering 2 fours and 2 sixes in the teenager's first over. To his credit, the teenager bounced back immediately by picking up Pathan's wicket in his next over. Pathan returned to the pavilion after compiling 54 at about run a ball.

    Rahul Dravid couldn't have asked for a better platform to walk in and get some form going. With Sachin playing so majestically at the other end, all that Dravid had to do was pick up singles and watch the fun from the non-striker's end. And he did just that. This is where Kaif lost the plot completely. For some inexplicable reason, he delayed the introduction of the regular off-spinner (Lahiri) into the attack and kept the part-time left-arm spin of Badani on for 4 expensive overs. Sachin reached his century in the 25th over and celebrated it immediately by lofting Badani inside out for a huge six over the cover boundary.

    Ganguly was then brought on to bowl his gentle medium-pace and for some strange reason, Sachin and Rahul played him with a lot of respect. Whether they were finding it hard to put away his straight-ish deliveries in to the gaps or whether they were consciously trying hard not to gift him their wickets, we would never know. The only risky shot that was attempted off him was a paddle sweep by Sachin that went for a boundary. Sachin finally fell in the 33rd over trying to blast the off-spinner over mid-wicket. His 139 came off just 100 balls - 104 of them coming off just 24 scoring shots. 10 more overs at the crease and he would have surely ended up with a double century.

    Dhoni was promoted ahead of Yuvraj and Mongia to get some batting practice. Dravid then took over the role of the aggressor. He took on Lahiri’s off-spinners and smacked three sixes over the bowler's head. He got out after reaching his half century pulling Ashish Nehra straight down the throat of the lone fielder on the boundary. Yuvraj Singh sauntered in next and lofted the first ball he faced straight down the ground for a massive 6. Yuvi and Dhoni added 40 runs in 4 overs before Yuvraj finally put a smile on Praveen's face (on his 20th birthday) by gifting him with his wicket. The birthday gift was courtesy a spectacular catch by Piyush Chawla diving forward in the outfield. Mongia came and went. Dhoni then paired up with Agarkar and they smuggled 53 runs off the last 21 deliveries. Dhoni ended up with 79 off 59 balls with 6 fours. The last 10 overs yielded 109 runs.

    The Leather Version

    The bowling sheet for the Greens had some sorry figures. Except for Ganguly, everybody else went for over 6.5 an over. Balaji is probably the best disguiser of the slower ball among the current crop of pacers in the country. He bowls it with almost no change in his arm action. But apart from the slower balls and the ball that picked Tanmay's wicket, he seemed quite pedestrian.

    Nehra did better than Balaji in terms of bowling figures. He did bowl with decent pace but for some reason kept bowling it a bit too short. He seems really fit and it would be interesting to see how fares in the domestic games in the next few months.

    Praveen Kumar had a very forgettable 20th birthday as the Blues' batsmen were in no mood of gifting him anything. The Uttar Pradesh lad who comes from a family of wrestlers started off with a maiden but was smothered for 77 runs in the remaining eight overs. His bowling seriously lacks pace and on wickets which don't offer any lateral movement, his length deliveries simply sit up and invite the batsman to cream the ball to the boundary. There was a recent report in the Times of India comparing him to Kapil Dev, but from the looks of it the comparison seems to be a bit too far fetched.

    Piyush Chawla went for 21 off his first over and did well to concede just 18 off his next. The kid has a good attitude and he would definitely be better for the experience. Badani bowled 4 forgettable overs. Lahiri started well but was taken apart in the end by Dravid and Dhoni.

    Story of the second half

    The Willow version

    Every Senthil, Sundar and Ganesan in the stands wanted Ganguly to do well in the game. Win or lose, they wanted Ganguly to get stuck into the opposition and post a big score. He began well, caressed three boundaries through the off and pulled one to the mid-wicket boundary. Jaffer looked compact at the other end, but the mounting run-rate finally got to them and both of them fell playing airy shots on the offside. Ganguly gets one more chance tomorrow to redeem his reputation, hope he makes it count. Parthiv, playing at No.3 (as he did in the Top-End Series), was the only batsman to make some sort of an impression. Badani made 20 and the remaining 7 batsmen managed to put together just 9 runs. The innings folded up in the 27th over and the Blues completed a comprehensive 266 run victory.

    The Leather Version

    Agarkar was expensive, going at more than 6 an over in his 5 overs. Munaf Patel showed once again why the selectors consider him the best fast-bowler in the country. He bowled a great line and picked up the wickets of both the openers. RP Singh didn't pick up any wickets and went for some runs. Pathan bowled second change and ended up with impressive figures of 2/24 off 7 overs. Given the dip in his bowling form lately, the team management seems to be expecting him to do what Razzaq does for Pakistan - bat aggressively at any batting slot and pick up wickets in the middle overs. Harbhajan picked up 4 wickets for 10 and would be really happy with today's performance after going wicketless in the previous game. Mongia bowled one over, conceded a couple of boundaries and picked up the wicket of Badani. All in all, it was a very clinical bowling performance by the bowlers in blue.

    The huge victory margin gave India Blue a bonus point and guaranteed a place in the final. The Greens would have to win and win big against the Reds tomorrow, if they have to reach the final.

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    Challenger Trophy 2006 - Blues Vs Reds - Second Half Notes

    Sunday, October 01, 2006
    Story of the second session

    The Willow Version

    The story of the Blues' innings followed a very familiar pattern. A good start, a few sudden wickets followed by a resurrecting partnership and then finally a late-order collapse. Sachin and Sehwag walked into open and quickly got into their groove. Aided by some over-aggressive wayward short-pitched bowling by Sreesanth and Zaheer, the openers quickly raced to 70 in 10 overs, with Sachin doing the bulk of the scoring. After playing out a maiden off Sreesanth, Sachin unfurled his full repertoire of over-the-top strokes, including a pulled 6 and a charge down the pitch which ended up going over the long-on fence.

    After 10 overs, Venu Rao decided not to take the power play option and introduced spin from both ends and this brought down the scoring rate a bit. Sehwag who was happy to play the second fiddle till then, tried to hit Powar out of the ground, the ball went miles into the air and VRV Singh spilled the sitter. He didn't last long though, getting himself runout (28 off 36 balls) the very next over off a no-ball.

    Six runs and 10 ten balls later, Tendulkar played an uppish drive off Zaheer Khan's bowling straight into the hands of Venu Rao at short cover. Sachin seemed to be in imperious form scoring 61 off 70 balls with 44 of those runs coming in boundaries. Hope he continues this form atleast till the end of the world cup.

    Rahul Dravid is going through a real rough run with the bat. He was slow getting his bat down in time and got wrapped on the pads by an incutter off VRV Singh. Mahendra Singh Dhoni came in next to take advantage of the delayed introduction of the power-play overs, smashed a boundary through the offside and got out caught behind trying to smash one more.

    Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia then stitched together a 79 run partnership for the 5th wicket off 86 balls by playing some good sensible cricket. They made the most of some listless bowling by Ramesh Powar and just when it seemed that they would take the Blues home, Mongia fell (26 off 47 balls) trying to pull Karthik over the mid-wicket fence. Karthik struck again with the last ball off his spell as Yuvi (57 off 59 balls) tried smacking one over the in-field only to find Uthappa at mid-wicket in the way. The only good thing (apart from the opening stand) about the Blues' batting today was Yuvi's return to form. He didnt score any runs in Malaysia and it was very important that he ran into some decent form before the start of the Champions trophy. This outing should definitely put him in a good frame of mind.

    Pathan and Harbhajan kept the chase interesting for a while, but they kept losing wickets and they finally fell short by 21 runs.

    The Leather Version

    Zaheer Khan ended up with pretty decent figures of 2 for 34 off 8.3 overs but he did really have a tough time bowling to Sachin in the first 10 overs. He kept erring in line, feeding Sachin with lots of hit-me deliveries on the leg-stump and that is definitely not a wise thing to do when you are trying to impress the selectors. He is guaranteed to have one more game in the series and he would definitely be looking to add to this performance today. The good thing is that he looks lean and really fit and hungry for some international action.

    Sreesanth had a mixed outing. He bowled 3 maidens but went for 58 in the remaining 6 overs that he delivered. His opening spell to Sachin and Sehwag was quite dramatic with him staring at the batsman after every delivery. Well, there might be some who would think that you should never stare at Sachin (blasphemous, GODs aren't to be stared at), but it was really good to see the youngster get charged up and give his all. Sachin did have the last laugh smashing the Kerala speedster for 2 huge sixers. Sreesanth bowled really well to Sehwag, pitching it short and into the body and Sehwag didn't like it at all. There were some words exchanged and it was good to see that kind of intensity in a domestic game.

    Murali Karthik was the pick of the bowlers for me. He was introduced into the attack in the 11th over and found turn and bounce off the very first ball that he bowled. He picked up the crucial wickets of Mongia and Yuvi, just when the two southpaws started to threaten to take the game away from the Reds. For someone who is coming back from an injury, he did enough to suggest to the selectors that he is still the third best spinner (and the best left-armer) in the country.

    Ramesh Powar had a very forgettable day in the office. After being out first ball with the bat, he just couldn't get it right with the ball either. He kept bowling short and down the wrong line and it was no surprise that he went wicketless, conceding 68 off his 10 overs.

    VRV Singh was the one who brought the Reds back into the game after the Blues' openers made it look very easy for the batting side. He bowled with some real good pace and steepling bounce. For me, he was the best paceman on display today. His three wickets (for 49 off 10 overs) included those of Dravid and Dhoni and the Punjab lad should be mighty pleased with his efforts for the day.

    At the start of the game, Venu Rao mentioned that it was a real privilege to lead the Reds against the Senior squad and he should be really proud of the way he led today. His field placements after the initial ten overs were spot on and he kept the pressure constantly on with close-in fielders even when Yuvi and Mongia were going about doing their business effortlessly during the middle overs.

    The Blues have less than 24 hours to go and recharge themselves before turning up again tomorrow against the Ganguly-present Greens. One more loss tomorrow and the fans and the media would sure be gunning for some heads to roll.

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    Challenger Trophy 2006 - Blues Vs Reds - First Half Notes

    Story of the first session

    Venu Rao won the toss and elected to bat. The Reds left out at the two all-rounders (Tej Pal and Raghu) and went in with 5 regular bowlers. The Blues left out Wasim Jaffer and Rudra Pratap Singh (probably given a rest after his match-winning performance against Sialkot) and gave young Jadeja an opportunity to field with the senior side.

    The Willow Version

    Someone seems to have told Robin Uthappa that to get into the Indian ODI team as an opener one needs to do everything that Sehwag does at the crease and more. And that includes upper-cutting an opening bowler over the third man fence. Robin perished (10 off 8 balls) trying to do just that very early in the innings on a very good batting surface.

    Gautam Gambhir was a bit slow off the blocks, got dropped in the slips by a generous Dravid early on and then settled down to play a very impressive innings. The remarkable aspect of the innings was the ease with which he started picking the gaps in the second half of his knock. He got runout going for a needless second in the 43rd over, but not before making 110 off 119 deliveries with ten 4s and one 6.

    Subramaniam Badrinath played a few classy shots for boundaries, a beautifully timed straight drive down the ground and a couple of brutal square cuts that cannoned into the hoardings. He tried cutting in the air one time too many and got out (15 out of 20 balls) just when he was looking good for a big score.

    Venugopal Rao started off really well with some lovely hits to the fence, at one point he had 6 boundaries in his 28 and then somehow got pinned down in the middle overs. He ended up making 67 off 101 deliveries and fell while trying to push the scoring rate. Calling him selfish for the way he played would be a bit too harsh, but as a captain a lot more was expected of him. He did stitch together a huge partnership with Gambhir, but one would have liked to see him bat a bit more aggressively in the middle overs.

    Rohit Sharma came into the game with very huge expectations and he did well in a neat little cameo. Very elegant and very straight-battish in his approach, Rohit first lent good support to Gambhir and then after Gambhir's dismissal, started improvising. He fell (33 off 29 balls) in the 48th over trying to hoick Munaf out of the park.

    Dinesh Kaarthick hit Bhajji for a couple of good boundaries square off the wicket and selflessly got out (11 off 9 balls) cross-batting an uppish fulltoss. Ramesh Powar paid the penalty for trying to negotiate a Munaf yorker from the crease without exercising his feet. The rest of the batsmen (the second string tail-enders are no better than the first stringers) tried putting bat to ball and managed to push the score to 280.

    The Leather Version

    Irfan Pathan picked up three wickets, but they were all gifted by the batsmen. There wasn't too much swing for Irfan with the new ball and given the pace with which he is bowling these days, it was fairly easy for the batsmen to negotiate him.

    Munaf Patel was easily the pick of the India Blue bowlers. His first three overs costed 21 runs, but he came back well and was excellent in the slog overs. The tail-enders found it really hard to get him away and Patel ended up with three wickets for 49 runs in his 10 overs.

    Agarkar was his usual self, bowling a few good deliveries interweaved with a few hit-me balls. He did bowl well in the death overs. In Agarkar and Patel, India now has a fairly decent pair of bowlers who can take care of the slam-bang overs.

    There were no wickets for the slow bowlers. Harbhajan went for 58 off his ten. Mongia, Sehwag and Jadeja shared the 5th bowler's quota and went for 60 runs between them. All in all, it was a below par performance by the senior side. If not for their performance in the last 8 overs where they picked up 7 wickets, they would have ended chasing a 320+ score.

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