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    Monty gets to play

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006
    Flintoff has won the toss and elected to bat. Both the teams have gone in with two spinners each. India with Kumble and Bhajji, England with Blackwell and Monty Panesar. Cook gets to make his debut while Jaffer gets another game at this level after a long time. Sreesanth gets to make his debut as well but I'm really disappointed to see India go in with the 6th batsman (Kaif) instead of fielding 5 bowlers.

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    Dinesh Mongia.. making the right moves

    In the past decade, the Indian ODI team selectors tried out quite a few utility cricketers (players who can bat a bit, bowl a bit and field really well) without much real success. There were atleast 4 left-handed batsmen (Dinesh Mongia, Hemang Badani, Rohan Gavasakar and Sridharan Sriram), who could also bowl a few decent overs of orthodox left arm spin, that were tried out. I have always believed that Badani was the naturally gifted of them all. But this post isn't about him, so let me not get into why he hasn't been able to reach his full potential.

    This post is about Dinesh Mongia and the reason am making this post is because I believe that he is the only one of those four who still has a real shot at getting into that squad for next year's world cup. He played in the last world cup and has struggled to get back into the squad since then. After some very good performances for the Leicestershire Foxes, he managed to get a couple of games against the visiting Pakistanis in April last year. India lost both the games and he was dumped again after that. Suresh Raina is the current favourite, but I guess the search for a batsman who can consistently bowl 6-8 overs in each game is still on. And given the recent performances in the domestic games, I would have to say that Mongia is the front-runner for that spot (I would like to believe that Sourav Ganguly is also aiming to slot himself into the same position).

    In the 5 Ranji ODI games that Punjab has played so far this season (the zonal league games are over) he has amassed 444 runs at an average of 148.00 with 2 tons and 1 half-ton. But more importantly he also managed to pick 11 wickets at 14.54 apiece and an economy rate around 4 an over. In North Zone's first game in the Deodhar Trophy against Central Zone, he failed with the bat, but returned with figures of 3/37 in his 10 overs with the ball. With just about an year left for the world cup, he is starting to make the right moves at the right time. He is still 28, experienced enough and has a good head on his shoulders. He probably is not yet in Chappell's list of world cup probables, but if he continues to put strong domestic performances like he has in recent weeks, there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to stage a comeback.

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    W&L featured on Mumbai Mirror

    The post that I made on the team's selection for the Nagpur test seems to have made its way into Mumbai Mirror's Blogger's Park. Click on the image for a larger size.

    Spinners: Bhajji, Kumble, Piyush
    Picking Chawla now is easily the best selection that the selection committee has made in a very long time. Piyush Chawla, the kid from Aligarh Moradabad (Thanks Alok for pointing it out) is ready for the big league - no doubts there. What if he is just 17? The best people to guide him towards a bright future are in that Indian dressing room and that is where he should be. He would definitely learn a lot more and a lot faster being with the Indian team than playing the Deodhar Trophy. (Maninder, Siva and Hirwani lost their way after making their debut at a very young age - I know that, but that doesn't really mean everyone who debuted at that age would turn up that way. There is a huge difference between the support staff then and the support staff now). I'm very excited about his inclusion and it would be really interesting to see if India would go in with three spinners into the Nagpur test.


    The clip below is from a previous mention on Mumbai Mirror in september 2005..

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    HBD Azhar Mahmood, Naved-Ul-Hasan and Yasir Hameed

    Hopefully some day these three talented cricketers would be able to celebrate their birthday together in the dressing room. That would be one big birthday bash. Naved and Yasir (who were born in the same year) might be able to do it. Not so sure about Azhar, he might have to settle with playing county cricket from now on.

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    Kumble and Bhajji in the Orange City

    On the eve of the first test, all the pitch reports indicate a very dry wicket (much unlike the last time a test was played here) that would assist the spinners as the game progresses. As in any home test in the last few years, Kumble and Harbhajan would hold the key for picking up the 20 wickets required to win a test match.

    Kumble has played 4 test matches on this ground. He did not get to bowl at all in one very wet test (He did get to bat and score a half century in that game), but he hasn't done badly at all in the remaining three tests with figures of 3/131 and 3/45, 4/82 and 5/63, 2/99 and 1/89 (this was in that disappointing test against the Aussies in 2004). The interesting thing is that in 2 of these games, he opened the bowling in the second innings (Is that enough to decide against having a third seamer?). He is 6 short of 500 test wickets and he would be very keen on reaching that well deserved landmark in the next few days.

    Harbhajan has played only one test (against Zimbabwe) in Nagpur with figures of 0/58 and 4/46 in that game. After a disappointing tour of Pakistan, he would be raring to make an impression in this series.

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    Supersubs in Deodhar Trophy

    I don't understand the thinking behind having supersubs in the ongoing Deodhar Trophy games. The ICC has decided to ditch the concept and the international teams are having "gentlemen agreements" over not using them anymore in the matches before the so called "concept expiry date" is reached. But to still have it in a domestic tournament (especially when you know that there is no future for the rule) doesn't serve any purpose. Does it?

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    Deodhar Trophy 2005-06: East Zone vs West Zone - Notes

    Scorecard: East Zone 223/5 in 50 overs, West Zone 227/6 in 47.3 overs
    Result: West won by 4 wickets Points: West 4, East 0

    Sourav's return (glad he decided to turn up) did not result in any change in East Zone's fortunes as it crashed to its second successive defeat in the tournament. West Zone made three changes to the team that won the first game with Dheeraj Jadhav, Ramesh Powar and Munaf Patel (they were playing for the Board XI against England) replacing Pujara, Parab and Rohit Sharma. East won the toss and buoyed by the presence of Ganguly at the top of the order, elected to bat.

    East innings
    Lahiri was sent in as the pinch-hitting opener in the previous game. Today, normalcy was restored with Subhomoy and Sourav walking in to open the innings. After having dismissed the likes of Strauss and Flintoff, Subhomoy Das should have looked like easy prey for Munaf Patel - he had Das caught behind in his second over. Deep Dasgupta, Rohan Gavaskar and Rajiv Kumar did not last long and at 76-4, East was in deep trouble. Then came two fruitful partnerships, the first worth 83 runs between Sourav and Manoj Tiwary put East back on track and the unbeaten second worth 64 between Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla propelled them towards a respectable 220+ score. Sourav made 81 off 146 deliveries, really slow by his standards, but given the circumstances he would be happy with it. Tiwary made 55 off 67, but the real hero was Shukla who smashed his way to a 21 ball 42.

    The West bowlers did really well except for that final phase where Shukla went berserk. Salvi picked up 2 wickets, Patel and Powar one apiece, but Asif Makda who went wicketless was the most economical of all, conceding just 32 off his 10.

    West innings
    In the previous game, West had opened with Pujara and Parab with Parthiv at three. This time Parthiv promoted himself (whatever he does, he can never be a Dhoni) up the order and opened with Jadhav as his partner. He didn't last long. The pinch-hitter at No.3 (the obsession with experimenting the No.3 slot continues), Ramesh Powar didn't last long either (29/2). Jadhav and Martin then put on 96 for the third wicket before Jadhav got himself out for a well amde 55. Kiran Powar, Yusuf Pathan and Bhavin Thaker then played three neat cameos to take West home with 2.3 overs to spare. Martin was the top-scorer with 70.

    Ranadeb Bose was the pick of the East bowlers with 2/28 in his 7 overs. Paul bowled a good opening spell but went wicket less. Sourav bowled 4 overs and proved expensive with 29 being scored off them. Nadeem picked up 2 but went at 5 runs an over in his 10.

    In the end the total posted by the East Zone didn't prove enough, on hindsight they were atleast 20-30 runs short. East Zone now moves to Jaipur where they play Central on the 6th of March and North Zone on the 9th. Hopefully they would fare better in the pink city. Parthiv would be real pleased with the performance of his team and West is now at the top of the table with 2 wins in 2 games.

    Points to remember: Sourav's return to domestic ODIs and his sedate 81, Shukla's slog-hitting and Jadhav's good form.

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    Kambli on Kumble

    Vinod Kambli (has he started thinking of an alternate career? guess, it is about time - he did try out as an actor, but that attempt sucked) in an article for the Mid-Day recounts the 1992-93 Irani Trophy game between Delhi and ROI where Kumble took 6 wickets and Kambli grabbed 5 catches in the second innings. He goes onto add his opinion on Kumble's impact on the going series.
    He will be the biggest threat to the England batsmen this time too. The injuries and illnesses to their key players have severely weakened their team. The first Test is for us; we should win it convincingly.

    Whether we should go in with a three-pronged spin attack like in 1992-93 will depend on the wicket. I feel we should go with a two pacers, instead of the third pacer we should give the ball to Kumble. Every time he has gone out, he has bowled his heart out for India. I am confident he will do a great job again.

    Kumble has 40 wickets against England at home. He would be very keen on reaching the half-century mark in the Nagpur test.

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    Cricket, Bollywood and Georgie boy

    Sunday, February 26, 2006
    Courtesy: News24
    Details were hard to come by, but White House aides said on Friday that Bush was expected to mingle with cricket-playing children and meet of the sport's professional players during his stop in Pakistan.

    It was unclear whether the US president, a avid baseball fan, would bat or bowl.

    "It is planned as an opportunity for him to watch and learn a little bit about it. But, you know, who knows what he'll do?" said Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley. "I have not asked him."

    The president himself left no doubt that he'd rather play cricket than see a Bollywood movie, telling reporters on Wednesday that given the choice: "I'm a cricket match person."


    They should make Bush watch one of the following cricket based hindi movies - that way he can get a taste of both Bollywood and Cricket at the same time. [Lagaan is strongly recommended, Iqbal would be my second pick. If he watches any of the rest, he might never go anywhere near Bollywood and Cricket again]



    Also, would some one please let the white house aides know that George Bush has already played cricket (so have Andy Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan, Andy Johnson, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and John Kennedy)

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    "We want speed - 135 kmph speed"

    According to this article in The Hindu, the selectors have now set a benchmark and are very keen on blooding anyone who can bowl at 135kmph speeds.
    The message being sent out by Kiran More and company, with the strong support of Chappell, is clear — India's bowling future lies in speed. "Anyone bowling above 135 kmph is welcome," Bhupinder confessed

    The selectors' search has been relentless. From four-day matches to one-day fixtures, they have been concentrating on identifying youngsters who can be developed as fast bowlers. "We want speed," reiterated Bhupinder. The idea is to keep the replacements ready for combat.

    There are a handful of bowlers in the Ranji circuit who can consistently bowl at that speed. If the likes of VRV, Sreesanth and Munaf do well this season, I wonder if the selectors would raise the bar to 140 kmph next season.

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    Mitchell's full debut and grabbing a Pfeiffer

    Mitchell Johnson is making his full debut today against South Africa at the Centurion Park in his second game for Australia. The tall Queenslander had made a half debut in his first game, getting super-subbed into the squad after more than half the game was over. He did have a forgettable half debut, going for 64 in his 9 overs as NZ successfully chased a 330+ score. Hope he fares better today. On a side note, I'm sure Ian Healy would go real bonkers if Mitchell manages to grab a five-for (Mitchelle Pfeiffer would be really amused. Wouldn't she?).

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    Deodhar Trophy 2005-06: East Zone vs South Zone - Notes

    Saturday, February 25, 2006
    Scorecard: East Zone 183/9 in 50 overs, South Zone 186/7 in 42.5 overs
    Result: South Zone won by 3 wickets Points: South 4, East 0

    East Zone innings
    Compared to the game at Gwalior, this one was a less star studded game (It could have been one if a certain gentleman from Kolkata had shown up). Deep Dasgupta won the toss and elected to bat. Vinay Kumar and Vijay YoMahesh (the under-19 world cupper) opened the bowling attack for the South Zone and posed more than a handful of problems for the East top order batsmen. East kept losing wickets at regular intervals and at 91/7 they were in real trouble and looked like being bundled out within 40 overs. Laxmi Ratan Shukla and SS Singh then stitched together a meaningful partenership and lent the innings some respectability. East ended up with 183 at the end of the 50 overs, a good 40-50 runs short of a match-winning score.

    Vinay Kumar picked up 4 wickets and YoMahesh ended up with two to his credit, but Akhil was the most economical of all with 1/24 off 10 overs. East could have definitely made use of Ganguly in that lineup. Couldn't they? Ok, I know I keep bringing him up. I'll try to refrain from doing so atleast till the end of this post.

    South Zone innings
    Chasing a lowish total on a tricky wicket can become hard at times, but when you lose your top 3 batsmen within the first 6 overs, it becomes even more daunting. Robin Uthappa (who failed against England in the CCI game), Vidyut and Suresh were all dismissed by the new ball bowlers with just 12 on the board. But Hemang Badani and Chandrasekhar Raghu then put on a match-winning partnership of 92 for the 5th wicket. Badani batted in pain with a twisted ankle and it seems unlikely that he might be able to take part in the remainder of the tournament. I was really hoping that he would come good in these ODIs and it is a pity that he got himself injured (he does seem to always get injured at the wrong times in his career, doesn't he?). South Zone lost a few quick wickets in the end but YoMahesh finished the game in a hurry with two boundary hits in the end (wish he had batted this way in the U19 world cup final). The East bowlers put on a spirited performance but in the end the total that they had to defend was just not enough.

    Points to remember: Ganguly's non-show (couldn't help it), Raghu's batting, Badani's injury and Vinay Kumar's bowling.

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    Deodhar Trophy 2005-06: West Zone Vs Central Zone - Notes

    Scorecard: Central Zone 180 all out in 37.5 overs, West Zone 181 for 7 in 46 overs
    Result: West won by 3 wickets Points: West 4, Central 0

    Central Zone innings
    Central's skipper Partiv Patel (good to see him in a leading role) won the toss and duly asked Kaif to send his opening batsmen in. Central was off to a disastous start, losing three (Praveen Kumar, Amit Pagnis and Kaif) quick wickets with just 34 on the board. Mohammed Kaif's terrible form continued as he was out for a second ball duck, clean bowled by an Asif Makda delivery. Kaif's form now seems to be a definite concern and given the way Raina batted at Baroda against England, he might now be feeling some real heat.

    Tejinder Pal Singh (79) and the completely forgotten Gagan Khoda (26) did the resurrection act adding 64 for the 5th wicket. Wickets then fell at regular intervals as Pathan (Yousuf, Irfan's elder bro), despite being expensive ran through the lower order and picked up 5 wickets. Left arm spinner Ravinder Jadeja who did well in the under-19 world cup picked up two wickets for 34 off 7 overs. Central was all out with more than 12 overs to spare and that is a cardinal sin at any level.

    West Zone's innings

    West Zone's start wasn't that great either. Murali Karthik, who was overlooked by the selectors a couple of days back, obviously had a point or two to prove. Bowling with the new ball, Karthik picked up 3 wickets (3/22) within the first 9 overs. Cheteshwar Pujara couldn't continue his U19 world cup form and was the first to perish caught behind. Rishikesh Parab, the other opener and Jacob Martin, the seasoned pro followed suit immediately. At 55/5 West Zone would have thought that they were in with a real chance. But Parthiv Patel, who came in at No.3 and Mumbai's Bhavin Thakker played some sensible cricket and took the score upto 97 before Parthiv fell prey to the guile of Indian Cricket's new wonder kid (Well, wasn't that what Parthiv was called not so long ago ?). Piyush Chawla would have had some awkward moments in the dressing room with Murali Karthi around, but I guess that is all part of the learning process.

    Bhavin Thakker then found an able ally in Rohit Sharma (one of the stars of the under-19 world cup) and together they inched a bit more closer to the target, taking the score to 141. Piyush then broke the partnership by bowling out Bhavin. This brought Ravinder Jadeja (another under-19 star) to the crease and the 2 teenagers then finished the game in style with an unfinished 40 run partnership in eight overs.

    Points to remember:
    Kaif's continued misery with the bat, Parthiv's captaincy (remember he used to captain in his under-15 , under-19 days), Murali karthik's performance with the new ball, Chawla's partnership breaking ability and Jadeja's all-round ability.

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    Munaf Musa Patel - From the wickets of Fleming and Astle to the wickets of Flintoff and Strauss

    Munaf Patel first came into the news when Dennis Lillee famously proclaimed him as the fastest bowler in India in late 2003. The Gujarat youngster was then immediately pitch-forked to make his first class debut against the visiting Kiwis and he didn't disappoint in that game, picking up the wickets of Fleming and Astle in both the innings. Tendulkar then pursuaded him to play for Mumbai in the Ranji season, a move which didn't really go that well with the Gujarat Cricket Association. For the next couple of seasons, Munaf continued to keep the selectors interested with some good performances here and there. He was regularly selected to play for the A teams, went to Australia for a training stint and regularly kept making it into the probables list of every other probables-camp, but he just couldn't do enough (that bit extra) to break it into the national squad.

    At the start of the 2005-06 season, Munaf shifted allegiance to Maharastra along with skipper Bahutule, a move that was heavily criticized in the Mumbai circuit. Maharastra did not have a great season, but if there was one thing (only thing) that Darren Holder and Chandrakant Pandit got right this season, it was managing to get the best out of Munaf. He bowled with a lot of heart this season and ended up with 34 wickets at 19.70 apiece. [Wickets breakdown - 4/104 and 0/20 against Bengal, 3/70 and 0/16 against Gujarat, 3/88 against Delhi, 4/77 and 2/60 against Tamil Nadu, 3/37 against Karnataka, 6/50 and 0/27 against Railways, 5/79 and 4/42 against Mumbai] The 9 wicket haul against Mumbai was easily the best but should also have been the most satisfying one, given what happened at the start of the season.

    After the Pakistan tour, it was clear that the team management was looking to include a real fast bowler to its pace attack and it was very clear that the slot had to go to someone between Munaf and VRV. VRV Singh did enough to impress the selectors and Chappell during the Challenger series last year and they were really keen on testing him out first. Munaf probably would have guessed it and probably knew that he was second in line. But the way he ran through the English lineup in both the innings at Baroda will linger in the minds of the selectors for a long time to come. Figures of 5/59 and 5/32 (including the wickets of Flintoff and Strauss in both the innings) against the Ashes winners will go a long way in helping his career. When he ultimately makes it big (would be a real shame if he doesn't) a few years from now, he would look back at this game as the one that made his career, the one where Munaf Musa Patel transformed from being "just the bloke from Bharuch who can bowl fast" to "the bloke from Bharuch who can be a real match-winner". [Image Courtesy: PTI]

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    For the cricket starved..

    Friday, February 24, 2006
    The next time there is no cricket action and you start feeling hungry for cricket, try one of these.



    [Featured cakes from Ahmedabad.com, Stiggy's, The Cake Store, Caribury and Switz India]

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    Wristy elegance

    This one is for all fans of Md. Azharuddin. It is a clip featuring the 5 consecutive boundaries that he hit off Klusener (his debut test) at Kolkata in late 96. All the boundaries were hit between mid-on and mid-wicket - third one being the stunningest of all - flick of the wrist and boom.

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    Like Gambhir..

    Courtesy: Srinath's latest Column (Rediff)
    Former captain Sourav Ganguly must sort out his standing with the Indian team. The news of Ganguly being dropped is hitting the headlines too often. It does not do any good to his cricket as well to Indian cricket.

    A senior player like him should meet the selectors and few senior cricketers to get a good picture on his utility to the side. He cannot be treated like Gautam Gambhir, who could be dropped disdainfully and picked at the same time.


    Dunno about being treated like Gambhir, but Sourav can take a leaf out of the fellow southpaw's book and make his way back into the team by scoring big runs. It wouldn't have been easy for Gambhir either for being dropped from a test series after sitting out on the bench for the entire duration of the previous test series. But he took it in his stride, did not shy away from his day job, walked back into the middle this morning at Baroda and showed how mentally strong he is. His century today should go a long way in boosting the youngster's confidence. If not for anything, it would make Wasim Jaffer concentrate just a bit more at the middle in Nagpur. Jaffer would know that there is a talented bloke breathing down his neck and that he should make the most of the opportunities that come his way.

    On the other side of the country, Ganguly decided to opt out of tomorrow's East Vs South Deodhar trophy game. Well, sitting out of these games doesn't really help his cause. Does it? He might be feeling a bit low on confidence, but shouldn't he be working towards regaining his self-belief by battling it in the ground as opposed to sitting at home and sulking. Is he tired? Has he given up? I would like to think that the answer to those questions is a big NO. He still has some cricket left in him and it would be a shame if he gives up without trying. If ever Ganguly doubted the merits of bringing in an youngster instead of him and wondered what is it that these youngsters (like Gambhir) of today have that he lacks - the answer is simple, attitude - miles and miles of never-give-up-come-what-may attitude.

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    Anwar Ali Khan's night of glory

    Thursday, February 23, 2006
    Pujara, Rohit, Mayank, Das and Jadeja wouldn't really enjoy watching this clip. But the rest of you can.

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    Can Piyush do this to Strauss?

    Piyush Chawla might not get to play any game at all. But say he does get a shot at the English openers, wouldn't it be wonderful if he could rip one like this one from Shane?

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    Opening options

    After the selection of the team, More revealed that the names of Venugopala Rao, Cheteshwar Pujara and Aakash Chopra were discussed for the batting lineup. I understand Rao (inspite of his recent less than spectacular performances for Andhra) being discussed for the middle order slot. But I find the discussion of the other two names quite amusing. They are both openers and I would like to believe that they were being considered for the opening slot. Agreed that the team management is very keen on having regular openers for the upcoming test series. With Sehwag declaring himself fit, there was only one opening slot remaining. Jaffer and Gambhir were the main contenders. If the selectors were looking for names beyond these two, they should have probably considered Dheeraj Jadhav, Shikar Dhawan and Robin Uthappa (in that order, hmm on second thoughts not necessarily in that order).

    Aakash Chopra has not been in the best of form this season (his form with writing columns has been great though) and is clearly struggling for runs. He did well while he was with the senior side and lost his place just because he was not being able to convert good starts into great scores. But during his time off the team, he hasn't really done much of note to change that perception. I liked the look of Pujara in the under-19 world cup semi-final against England when he scored that unbeaten 129 and he sure does look like a great prospect. But didn't Dhawan make similar scores in the last world cup? Pujara played 3 games for Saurashtra this season and scored a 145 against Goa. I just think he needs to do a bit more than that before he moves up the pecking order - ahead of Jadhav, Dhawan and Uthappa. It would seem even more outrageous if the selectors were considering Pujara for a middle order slot. Had Pujara been picked as a middle order bat, Ganguly would have given up cricket and left for the Himalayas to find the meaning of life.

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    Umpiring in domestic games

    Makarand Waingankar (whose son Kshemal put on an impressive bowling performace for CCI against England in the opening tour game last week) makes some valid points in the latest edition of The Sportstar on the quality of domestic umpiring.
    Talking to the umpires in India, one gets the impression that they are not inclined to invite controversy as it might jeopardise their chances of getting more postings. This is a valid point. Let the committee assessing the umpires be made up of neutral umpires. If we can get a foreigner to coach the Indian team and also get the support staff from abroad, why not have three neutral (i.e. international) umpires in the Umpires' Assessment Panel?

    Inefficient umpiring is one of the main reasons for the poor standard of Indian cricket. At times, the interpretation of the laws of the game is so inconsistent that one wonders how such umpires get postings in the first place. No wonder then, that shrewd cricketers take full advantage of incompetent umpiring.

    Captains and coaches of teams have been complaining for the past five years that veteran UP Ranji player Gyanendra Pandey has consistently managed to avoid fielding, and in the finals of the Ranji Trophy this year his substitute took a brilliant catch to dismiss Laxmiratan Shukla when Bengal needed 14 runs for the vital first innings lead. That cost Bengal the Ranji Trophy.

    Penalising players for misbehaviour is not a permanent solution to problems. Get rid of incompetent umpires; have a proper assessment system, only then will we get to watch good quality cricket in India.


    Can't help laughing at the Pandey bit. It is a matter of worry that India has not had a single decent umpire after Venkatraghavan's retirement. It is also a matter of concern that the average Indian fan prefers having neutral umpires on both ends during the ODIs at home (The fans just don't trust the judgement skills of the current lot).

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    The Vinoo - Pankaj partnership.. revisited

    Gulu Ezekiel revisits the 50 year old record first-wicket partnership (that came real close to being broken in the recent Lahore Test).
    The stand crossed 300 at lunch the next day and now Mankad had overtaken his partner. The world record of Hutton and Washbrook was passed with ease and by the time the 400-run mark had been reached Mankad had scored his double ton.

    Around this time Umrigar sent a note for the batsmen to go for their shots. Thinking a declaration was imminent, Roy hit out, only to be bowled by off spinner Matt Poore for 173 with the total reading 413. But the Indians batted on, much to Roy's irritation as he felt he had been deprived of a double century.

    Why do you think Umrigar sent that note? He was bored, perhaps.

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    No Sourav, No Gambhir, No Zaheer, No Agarkar

    Team: Wasim Jaffer (Mumbai), Virender Sehwag (Delhi), Rahul Dravid (capt - Karnataka) Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai), VVS Laxman (Hyderabad), Mohammad Kaif (UP), Suresh Raina (UP), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk - Jharkand), Irfan Pathan (Baroda), Piyush Chawla (UP), Harbhajan Singh (Punjab), Anil Kumble (Karnataka), Sreesanth (Kerala), Rudra Pratap Singh (UP), VRV Singh (Punjab)

    Good day for UP cricket - Four of their favourite sons have made it into the Indian test team.

    Openers: Sehwag, Jaffer
    If Gambhir hadn't played those ODI games in Pakistan, he would probably be still in the team. It would have been interesting if Jaffer had played for CCI in the opening tour game against England and failed in both the innings. Would the selectors still have selected him? Jaffer opted out of that game due to personal reasons (guess "real") and with the team management deciding to have a regular opener to partner Sehwag in the Nagpur test, his selection is a pretty straight-forward pick. In today's game at Baroda, he looked in much better control than Gambhir in their opening stand and looked set for a ton before getting his leg caught infront off the last delivery of the day. Personally, I think the selectors got this one dead right - Jaffer is the best in-form opener in the country and he really deserves a comeback. Not much to say about the selection of his opening partner. Sehwag is fit and so he plays. Sehwag loves scoring big in the first innings of the first test of any series and hopefully the Nagpur test wouldn't be any different.

    Middle Order:
    Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kaif, Raina
    Irrespective of the merits and demerits of dropping Sourav, I just think it is a very bold decision (some might call it misplaced bravado). It is the selectors way of saying - "We don't need you anymore. You have served your country well and we thank you for that. Good luck for the Deodhar Trophy game against South Zone on the 25th". With Yuvraj not in contention for the Nagpur test, Sourav would have fancied his chances of making it to the first test XI. I don't think he expected to be dropped this time. He did reasonably well in the limited chances he got in Pakistan, but the selectors probably think that any youngster in his place would have been able to dish out those 30s in the final test. May be the selectors wanted to avoid a scenario where Ganguly hits a century in the first test - Yuvi comes back into the team for the second test - forcing Jaffer to be dropped and Dravid to be the opener again. Whatever be the thinking behind the decision, I know it is going to be really hard for Sourav's fans to digest this and Kolkata is bound to erupt in flames again. But it would be great if Sourav would take this into his stride and concentrates on the domestic games for a little while. I still think he has some cricket left (especially in the ODI variety) and he should seriously get back to doing what he does best instead of sulking and letting all and sundry know what a grave injustice this has been to him. His non-inclusion means that either Kaif or Raina would get to play in the Nagpur test (unless they decide to go in with 5 bowlers). Kaif would probably be the one to be selected, but I would love to see Raina get tested. Chappell loves to have a core set of players who can play both the tests and ODI (the larger the core, the better the team) and Raina seems to fit into that core. When he first came on the international scene, he looked like a good ODI player. But he hasn't done really badly in the longer variety this Ranji season - 620 runs in 6 games at an average of 68.88. (Jadeja, Muzumdar and Badrinath did better than him in terms of aggregate - but the first two are past their prime years and Badri will probably get his chances later).

    Wicket-keeper:
    Dhoni
    No-brainer. It would be a great sin doubting his inclusion.

    Seamers:
    Pathan, Sreesanth, RP Singh, VRV Singh
    That is a very very young pace attack (Sreesanth at 23 is the oldest). Given the performances of Agarkar and Zaheer in the Pakistan series, the changes don't really come as a surprise. Irfan is now undoubtedly the nation's pace spearhead and the kid has it in him to bear the burden and lead the attack. RP Singh did well (including a MOM performace) in the tests and his retention was expected. Sreesanth bowled with good pace and enthusiasm in the ODIs and the fact that he wasn't selected to play against England in Baroda today gave away the selectors intention. The fourth slot is interesting. Munaf Patel (with 34 wickets at 19.70 this season) and SS Paul (with 36 wickets at 25.38) were easily the pick of the bowlers today at Baroda against England, while VRV Singh (who missed quite a bit of the season owing to an injury) got tonked around by Kevin Pieterson. But VRV seems to have done enough last year to be in the selectors' good books. In a way, it is a good thing that the selectors are not basing their decisions on just one game (one innings), but rather looking at the potential and commitment of the individual. In all likelihood, VRV would be warming the benches in the test series, but sharing the dressing room should be a good enough experience for the youngster for now.

    Spinners: Bhajji, Kumble, Piyush
    Picking Chawla now is easily the best selection that the selection committee has made in a very long time. Piyush Chawla, the kid from Aligarh Moradabad (Thanks Alok for pointing it out) is ready for the big league - no doubts there. What if he is just 17? The best people to guide him towards a bright future are in that Indian dressing room and that is where he should be. He would definitely learn a lot more and a lot faster being with the Indian team than playing the Deodhar Trophy. (Maninder, Siva and Hirwani lost their way after making their debut at a very young age - I know that, but that doesn't really mean everyone who debuted at that age would turn up that way. There is a huge difference between the support staff then and the support staff now). I'm very excited about his inclusion and it would be really interesting to see if India would go in with three spinners into the Nagpur test.

    Selectors, take a bow - that is one job done really well..

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    Bangla tigers in the giant killing act.. again

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006
    Bangladesh registered their first ever victory against SriLanka today. Aftab Ahmed who hit that winning 6 against Australia at Cardiff in June last year was the star performer today picking up 1/24 in 6 and scoring a match-winning 32 off 21 in the death overs.


    Buoyed by the performance of their under-19 team in recent times, the senior side is slowly but surely getting accustomed to being giant-killers on a consistent basis. They are in the same group (Trinidad & Tobago group) as SriLanka and India in next year's world cup and I just hope they wouldn't get their act together (the way they did it today) in one of those matches against their opponents from across the border. The Bangla fans are a passionate and loyal lot and it is good to see their team giving them something to cheer now and then. [Pic Courtesy: AFP]

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    U19 world cup final - Indian innings notes

    Sunday, February 19, 2006
    India bowled out Pakistan in just 41.1 overs and so their batsmen were invited in to bat for 20 mins before dinner. Playing out those little periods before dinner seems to be a clear recipe for disaster in this tournament. England tasted it in the semi-final and it was India's turn this time.

    The first delivery of the innings was just about short and just outside off, Dhiman played the cut onto his stumps and with that the procession began. Rohit Sharma came in next and played out the remaining deliveries in the testing first over (including a good straight drive past the bowler for a boundary). Anwar Ali then bowled one of the most amazing overs in international cricket, seen in recent times - N, W, N1, N, dot, W, dot, W. It was a 5 ball over (thanks to a rare umpiring mistake) which had 3 no balls and 3 wickets - each delivery swinging more appreciably than the other. Pujara was Anwar's first victim, beaten by the swing and caught infront (may be marginally outside off, but his luck had to run out at some point in the tournament and today was that day). Rohit Sharma then played one of the stupidest leaves you could see to another of those appreciably swinging deliveries, only to have the furniture behind him get disturbed. Mayank walked in next, defended the first ball and then tried to play an expansive drive down the wrong line off the next, only to miss it completely and get bowled.

    At the other end, Jamshed produced the ball of the innings, you may call that a "wasim akram special", a pacy inswinger that moved just enough to beat the left-handed Indian captain, whose wretched form continued (8/5). If this wasn't enough, Anwar picked up the wicket of Bengal's Debabrata Das in the next over (appealed for both lbw and c&b - was given c&b) and reduced India to a pathetic score of 9/6 at the dinner break.

    After the break, Jadeja fell gloving a bouncer to lone slip fielder. Piyush and Pinal then played some good intelligent cricket and stitched together a meaningful partnership. Both of them came into the tourney with the confidence of a good individual debut Ranji season (Piyush helped Uttar Pradesh win the cup and Pinal scored a double ton for Baroda). As they inched their way past 50, the fielding started to wilt and the pressure began to show on the fielders. Each misfield was followed by some nasty glares and a mouthful of expletives from the captain. Pinal was dropped at first slip, but he couldn't cash in on the reprieve and fell trying to fend a snorter off Akhtar.After Pinal fell with the score at 62, the tail folded meekly. Akhtar Ayub cleaned up the tail and Pakistan won by 38 runs (a fairly large margin given the total that they put up). Piyush was left stranded with a well compiled 25.

    In the last world cup, India were on a roll until they ran into Pakistan in the semi-finals. This time around they were again the best team in the tournament except for those 20 minutes before dinner. Hopefully, the next time they wouldnt have to meet Pakistan at all in the semi-finals and finals.

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    U19 world cup final - Pakistan innings notes..

    Pakistan won the toss and given the batting conditions under the lights, electing to bat was a no-brainer. India had Mohnish Parmar, the off-spinner as their super-sub, so obviously they wanted to bat as well. YoMahesh and Gaurav Dhiman (that came as a surprise given what Abu did in the semi-final) started the proceedings for India. Pakistan was off to a mini flyer (24/0 in 3 overs) and the first bowling change (Abu replacing Dhiman) came in as early as in the fourth over. Shukla resorted to spin in the fifth over and brought on the left-arm spin of Ravinder Jadeja. Jadeja stuck immediately sending back Nasir and Ibrahim in his first over (25/2).

    Shukla might not have done well with the bat in this tournament but he sure has captained well. He kept ringing in changes and each change paid dividends. YoMahesh was brought back into the attack and he sent back Ali Khan in the 10th over (3/39). After that it was a Piyush show as the young leggie completely mesmerized the Pakistan batsmen. He dismissed both the heroes of the semi-final, Ali Asad and Riaz Kail with two perfect googlies, the second one more perfect than the first (49/5).

    Mohnish was subbed-in in the 21st over for Ahmed, who had bowled decently till then. The change worked and the Muralitharan clone drew Sarfaraz, the Pakistan skipper out of his crease with a doosra and Pinal Shah did the rest (78/6). Rohit Sharma then joined the wicket-taking act by sending back Rameez, the top-scorer (93/7). The tail enders took the total past 100 before Piyush decided he had enough and polished off the tail (109 all out). Chawla ended up with figures of 4 for 8 off 8.1 overs, the best figures in under-19 world cup finals (until Anwar broke it later in the game). Jadeja didn't do badly either and he finished with 3/16 in his 8.

    All in all, a very good disciplined bowling performance backed by some shrewd captaincy and sharp fielding. At that stage, little did they know what Anwar and Co. had in store for them.

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    Pakistan, the U19 champions .. again

    In my post just after the dinner break, I said that unless Prasad served the remaining batsmen some magic potion, Pakistan would win the game in a canter. Well, Piyush Chawla attempted to do a Harry Potter and pull off the inevitable, but none of the others could play a Ron or a Hermione. Pinal Shah, the wicket-keeper (who hit a 217* against Saurashtra, opening for Baroda earlier this year in the Ranji Trophy) flattered a bit to deceive in the end. Once he was out, Piyush failed to shield No.10 and No.11 and Akhtar finished off the tail in style. India was clearly the best all-round team in the tournament and played some really good cricket except for that 20 minute period before dinner in the final. And those 20 minutes made all the difference in the end.

    It is just amazing how Pakistan keeps producing these fast bowlers. No one gave them a chance after being bundled out for 109, but the best bowling side in the tournament had other ideas.

    I'll have a couple of posts on both the innings a bit later in the day. Office (yeah, I know it is a sunday and it sucks - but that stuff pays my bills) beckons for now.

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    Rayudu's 177 and Irfan at 3

    During the dinner break (under-19 world cup final), Sky sports aired the footage of this 2002 under-19 game between India and England at Taunton. This is the match where Ambati Rayudu came to the fore with a scintillating 177* as India pulled off an incredible victory with a wicket to spare. His innings was off just 114 balls with 16 boundary hits and one over the boundary. Wickets were falling all around him and the composure and confidence he showed while handling the situation was absolutely superb. You see an innings like this and wonder why he hasn't fulfilled his promise. He is still just 20 and has time on his side, but he isn't really setting the stage on fire playing for Andhra now. A couple of more seasons like the one that he had this year and he might go the Amol Muzumdar way. He certainly seemed much better than that in the Taunton game.

    Another noticeable thing in that match was Irfan at No.3, batting just the way he does today. 23 off 18 with some good clean lofted straight hits. He went for runs with the ball, gave away 52 off 6 overs. Guess, it is a matter of grabbing the right opportunity at the right time. Pathan got it right in the next few years, while Rayudu drifted away.

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    Stunning stuff

    After bowling out Pakistan for just 109 in 41.1 overs, the Indian batsmen had to bat out for 10 minutes before dinner (stupid rule) . In 3.2 overs during that period, India lost 6 wickets for 9 runs against some devastating swing bowling from the two Pakistan opening bowlers, Jamshed and Anwar. Absolutely stunning stuff.
    Look at Anwar's spell: N, W, N1, N, dot, W, dot, W, N, dot, W - thatz 7 legal deliveries, 4 no balls, 1 run off the bat and 4 top-order wickets. At the other end, Jamshed (who looks very bit the next Wasim Akram) bowled 11 dot balls, gave away a four and more importantly picked up the key wickets of the dangerous Dhiman (off the first ball of the innings) and skipper Shukla (with a real peach of an inswinger that would have made Akram real proud).

    Honestly, I have never seen anything like this before. 9-6 in 3.3 overs looks like a score straight out of one of those under-11 gully games in the neighborhood. Unless Venkatesh Prasad serves the remaining batsmen some magic potion for dinner, Pakistan look to win this game in a canter. At this rate the innings might fold up within 5 overs.

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    Sreesanth's wicket-dance and dekh le..

    Saturday, February 18, 2006
    [Image Courtesy: AFP]

    From Yahoo India
    Sreesanth is also known locally as a good break dancer—he recently won a national-level break dance contest here—and is a painter and singer of some talent as well.

    Well, I knew he could dance but I had never seen him do it before. After catching Imran Farhat off his own bowling, Sreesanth couldn't help easing himself into some sort of a dance. Was that Jacksonesque? I don't really know. But is it just me or did it look more like something which Mumait Khan did quite well in dekh le (Munnabhai MBBS).

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    CCI - Casual Challengers of India (make it very casual)

    Friday, February 17, 2006
    England plays its first tour game this saturday at Mumbai's Brabourne stadium. The opposition is a motley bunch of "has beens", "could have beens", "can be" and "will never be"s. The reason cited for selecting these second and third stringers is that the first stringers are busy with the Ranji ODI matches. But that is not entirely true. Most of the teams have completed their league engagements - Central Zone and South Zone (reason why Robin Uthappa makes it to the team) have finished their league matches and Mumbai from the West Zone is also done with its commitments. I dont really think it is a ploy to give the English side some poor practice ahead of a tough tour. It just seems to be a result of some poor planning, the selectors have missed out on a real opportunity to test some deserving talented youngsters.

    The 16 member squad: Nilesh Kulkarni (captain - Mumbai), Robin Uthappa (Karnataka), Vinit Indulkar (Mumbai), Sahil Kukreja (Mumbai), Amol Muzumdar (Mumbai), Hrishikesh Shende (Maharashtra), Wilkin Mota (Mumbai), Aniket Redkar (Mumbai), Rajesh Varma (Mumbai), Kshemal Waingankar (Mumbai), Hiken Shah (Mumbai), Vinayak Samant (Mumbai), Hitshu Bachani (Mumbai), Abid Nabi (Jammu and Kashmir), Munish Ansari (who is he and where is he from?), Swapnil Hazare (Mumbai).

    From the looks of it, it seems like the selctors first made a list of all young Mumbai second and third stringers, did not think they would last a day against the Poms, so decided the team needs an experienced captain - brought in the "semi-retired" Nilesh Kulkarni, then decided it needs some more experience in the middle order - so brought in "the could have been a great prospect yesterday" Amol Muzumdar and the "old (33)" wicket-keeper Vinayak Samant, then decided to add some southern flavour - so brought in the talented Robin Uthappa and finally thought they should add some raw talent from the north - so went all the way north and pencilled in J&K's Abid Nabi.

    Except for Robin Uthappa, Abid Nabi and to some extent Vinit Indulkar, I wouldn't really care much about the performances of the others. Muzumdar might see this as an opportunity to make some runs against quality opposition, but at 32 he has as good a chance at donning the Indian colors as me becoming an over-night millionaire.

    The second tour game is on the 23rd against a much better team (Board XI). Unless the Poms specifically asked for increasing levels of toughness in the their tour games, the selection of this CCI team is a joke. There have been instances in the past tours where India was deliberately made to play some very ordinary opposition in the initial tour games. But that practice doesn't really serve any purpose, does it?

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    Sobers' 6 6ers

    Thursday, February 16, 2006
    I have seen this clip umpteen times, but there is something about those strokes that makes you watch it again and again. [Related earlier post] I just can't help feel sorry for Nash.

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    Future Trivia - Name the Indian who had the distinction of being named "full substitute" the maximum number of times..

    With the ICC deciding to scrap the super-sub rule, the Karachi ODI will be the last game in which India fields a super-sub. Ever since the inception of this rule, India has had to play 20 games (The Karachi game would be the 21st). Have a look at the substitutes used in these games - Venu Rao, Raina, Karthik, Venu Rao, Harbhajan, Karthik, Sreesanth, Raina, Raina, Jai P Yadav, Raina, Raina, Gambhir, Gambhir, Gambhir, gambhir, Raina, Powar, Zaheer, and Zaheer. So, the answer to the question in the title of the post would be the rookie lefthander from UP, Suresh Raina.

    Did the super-sub really help India's cause in any of these games? Not really. Except for a couple of games against Sri Lanka, the one in which Murali Karthik picked up 3/48 and the other in which Raina played a neat match-winning cameo of 39* in a pressure situation, the super-sub has really not been of much use for India.

    So, who do you think would have the distinction of being named the last super-sub?

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    "Shave karni padegi"

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006
    Courtesy: Indian Express
    It helps being Virender Sehwag’s cousin; Mayank Tehlan knows the power of television. Ask him if he’s ready for the semi-final against England tomorrow and he says, running his fingers over the 5 o’clock shadow, ‘‘Shave karni padegi.’’

    Mayank was ready, alright - Clean-shaven, glasses on, collar and sleeves up. So were all his team-mates. The semi-final was the first game in the tournament that was being telecast live and the boys were more than eager to make an impression on the screen. Everytime the camera zoomed in on the dressing room, they would frantically start waving their hands.
    Prasad then says that the team had just watched the famous NatWest final at Lord’s, 2002, to get into the mood to face England. Much to get inspired by — including the captain taking off his shirt on the balcony!

    Well, they were definitely a couple who were sitting in the dressing room with their shirts off. But that was more to do with the humidity rather than an attempt to emulate Ganguly.

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    U19 World Cup, First Semi Final - Indian bowling report

    England bowled 37 overs of spin and as a result they finished their 50 over quota with about half an hour to spare before dinner. As a result of their good work, they were harshly punished by being asked to bat out for 20 minutes before the break. Their top half was blown away in 6 overs and they were left reeling at 17/5 before dinner. The Indian opening bowlers seemed a yard or two quicker than their English counterparts (bowling consistently in the late 130s) and completely devastated the English top-order. After dinner, the procession continued as the batsmen struggled to pierce the in-field. Piyush Chawla and Mohnish Parmar (BipinBhai) are not exactly in the same league as Shane Warne and Muralitharan, but the English batsmen made them look virtually unplayable. Except for White, none of the batsmen could register
    double figures and they finally folded up for a paltry 58.

    Abu Nechim Ahmed is more in the Agarkar mould, nice easy runup and a quick arm action during the delivery stride. He picked up his second 4-for of the tournament (4/25 against Scotland) and ended up with impressive figures of 4/14 off 6 overs. He plays for Assam in the Ranji Trophy and definitely looks a good prospect. The nipping delivery which ended Varun Chopra's stay at the wicket was a treat to watch.

    Tamil Nadu's VijayKumar YoMahesh was the pick of the bowlers. He ended up with 2/14 off 6 (two wickets fewer than his opening partner) and bowled at a pretty good pace. He has a beautiful side-on action and seems an even better prospect than Abu. The commentators were completely in awe with the Indian opening bowlers and they kept comparing the duo with the likes of McGrath (a bit too much just yet, I guess).

    Dhiman came in as the first change bowler. He used to regularly open the bowling in the last world cup. This year he has been pretty flexible. He opened the attack in the quarter-finals and did not bowl at all in an earlier game. Today he bowled 3 overs with the sole intention of bouncing the batsmen out. His sole wicket came when Mullaney tried to pull a short delivery and skied it to mid-on. His bouncers are well directed, but they dont really come at a good pace. If he can concentrate on his bowling a bit more, he could be a very good all-rounder in the near future.

    Piyush's class became evident to everyone as soon as he came onto bowl. The lower order batsmen were clueless to his googlies and leg-breaks. He did go for a few runs when he floated up a few and White went after him. But this kid is definitely a bit too advanced for this league - something like asking Tendulkar to turn up for the under-19 side when he was 19 (may be the analogy was a bit off the mark, but you know what I mean).

    Mohnish Parmar Bipinbhai bowled 7 deliveries without conceding a run and picked up 2 wickets. It is easy to notice that this guy has modelled himself on Muralitharan and it is easy to note that the moment he let the doosra out to rip, the commentators and other officials were checking out the super slow-motion replays. He does flex his arm a bit when he bowls the doosra, no doubts there. (These super slow motion replays are just too good, aren't they?). I would like to think that the likes of Prasad and other coaches would make sure that the flex is within the accepted 15 degrees limit. I don't think he has any abnormality in his arm like Murali, so he is bound to be scrutinised at every level from now on. Hope he sorts out his action now rather than later. A flex is a flex and as long as there is some doubt in the officials' mind, questions are bound to be asked. He is young, still 17 and hopefully will last as long as Murali in the game.

    The left arm orthodox spinner, Jadeja did not get to bowl. The bowlers might not get it this easy in the finals, but they certainly are a very formidable attack.

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    U19 World Cup, First Semi Final: Indian batting report

    The Indian innings was very well paced. At the end of the first 15 overs they were 77 for the loss of Dhiman's wicket. In the next 20 overs, Pujara and Sharma added 100 runs without taking any risks (177/1 in 35). India lost both Sharma and skipper Shukla in the 37th over, stuttered a bit between the 35th and 45th over and yet managed to score 51 runs during that period (228/3 in 45). The last 5 overs yielded 64 runs as Tehlan, Jadeja and Pujara slogged their way happily to an imposing score of 292. The last over produced 25 runs (wide+4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 6) with Pujara improvising in style after reaching his hundred.

    Gaurav Dhiman (scores coming into the game - 90, DNB, 10 and 74) has strong shoulders and a great sense of timing. Like most slam-bang sub-continent openers, he doesn't really believe too much in footwork, but backs his power to the hilt. After a quiet 3 overs which yielded just 5 runs, he hit 18 off Waters' second over (4, 4, 4, 2, 4, dot). Moeen Ali, the English skipper was forced to resort to spin very early (the left arm spinner, James was subbed in as early as in the 10th over). Dhiman continued his aggressive ways against the slower bowlers, played one shot too many and was out caught at mid-on trying to sweep (72/1).

    Mumbai's Rohit Sharma, the other in-form batsman (scores coming into the game - 10*, 4, 78 and 50) was the next man in. He played a neat knock sans any risks and made 59 with 4 fours in addition to a lofted six over mid-wicket to reach his half-century. He looked good for more before he committed suicide by running for a second run without looking for his partner's response. By the time he realized that Pujara was not interested, it was a tad too late for him to get back to his crease (184/2). He was later injured on the field as he landed on his shoulder while diving to stop a ball. Hope it isn't too serious to keep him away from the final.

    The skipper Ravikant Shukla walked in next. He has been woefully out of form (with scores of DNB, 45, 1, 3 and 3)in this tournament and the stage was well set for him to get into some form. He lasted 3 balls. Picked a single off the first, a two off the second and holed out to the fielder at long on off the next. For some reason, he hesitated a long time before deciding to walk off to the dressing room. He needs a good knock in the final to feel good about himself when he lifts that trophy aloft (provided India goes onto win the final).

    With the loss of 2 quick wickets, Mayank Tehlan (Viru's cousin) and Pujara took some time getting the momentum back in India's favour. Tehlan then started improvising with all sorts of shots from the book and also from way out of the book (there were a couple from the Marillier's school of batting). He got bowled while trying to force the pace in the 47th over (243/4).

    Ravinder Jadeja from Jamnagar (no relation to Ajay?) got to play just eight deliveries but he managed to hit 3 lusty blows to the mid-wicket boundary and ended up with an unbeaten 14.

    Man of the Match, Cheteswar Pujara is definitely up there in the "career progress to be followed" list. He had scores of 66*, 47*, 10 and 97 coming into this game. With his knock today, he has an aggregate of 349 runs with an average of 174.5. He is now the clear front-runner for the "Man of the tournament" award. He started very slowly, did not get over-awed by Dhiman's crude hitting at the other end (during the awards ceremony, he gave Dhiman the credit for taking pressure off him), played second fiddle to Rohit during the crucial second wicket stand and then after reaching his century, tore into the hapless attack (his last 20 came off just 5 balls). He did get a life when he had just 1 run to his name and he made the most of that reprieve. Pujara made his first class debut this season for Saurashtra (which won the Ranji plate group title and managed to get into the bigger league for next season) in the Ranji Trophy and scored 145 in only his second game. He would be tested against better opposition in the next season, but he sure does look like someone with a good temperament and a wide range of shots.

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    U19 World Cup - India in finals

    In the last under-19 world cup, India was on a roll until they ran into Pakistan in the semi-final, the eventual winners. One bad game and they found themselves out of the tournament. This time around there was no letting down of the gaurd. They simply crushed the opposition. When I say crushed, it is not one of those "put it under the foot and stamp it hard - type of crushes", rather it is the "put it and under the road-roller and squeeze it down into the earth - type of crush". First the top-order batsmen put on an imposing total of 292 on the board and then the bowlers never really allowed the English batsmen to get a breather and bundled them out for 58. In Prasad's words, this was really a "ruthless" performance.

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    Grind it out..

    Mark RamPrakash, Alec Stewart, Andrew Caddick and Mark Butcher discusss tactics to do well in India - putting a price on your wicket and batting for longer periods seems to be the first lesson that English batsmen need to learn after their performance in Pakistan.

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    When St.Valentine's day wasn't really that happy a day..

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006
    For Hannan Sarkar, Mohammad Ashraful and Ehsanul Haq, February 14th 2003 wasn't really that happy and memorable a day. This was the day when Chaminda Vaas dismissed all three of them with the first three deliveries of the game. Vaas went onto pick Sanwar Hossain off the fifth ball of that eventful over. If you are a Sri Lankan fan, sit back and enjoy the video. If you are a Bangladeshi fan, what can I say? Hope for better days ahead (and take heart from the way the under-19 team has performed this year).

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    Happy Valentine's Day

    Easily one of the most watched Indian Cricket Video clips in recent times - Well, today is a special day.. if you are looking for romance in the air (rather on a cricket blog), watch it one more time.

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    Sons of Illustrious fathers

    Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson have compiled a Cricinfo XI with players who couldn't be bracketed in the same league as their legendary fathers (/grandfathers).

    The XI - WG Grace Jr, Richard Hutton, Eric Bedser, Rohan Gavaskar, Shoaib Mohammad, Liam Botham, Mali Richards, Chris Cowdrey, Bobby Parks, Ron Headley and John Bradman.

    I wish the kids in the images below (Ibtisam Ul Haq and Arjun Tendulkar) would never make it to this (under-achievers) XI, but would reach the same dizzying heights as their fathers.




    On a sidenote - Noticed the left-right combos? Arjun Tendulkar, Ibtisam-Ul-Haq, Mali Richards and Rohan Gavaskar (sons of legendary right-handed batsmen) are all left-handed batsmen. [Pic Courtesy: Ibtisam (KM Chaudhary) and Arjun (Jewella Miranda)]

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    Lahore ODI - "jeetega bhai jeetega india jeetega"

    Monday, February 13, 2006
    The picture says it all..

    [Pic Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle]

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    Saqlain goes Dublin

    The real inventor of the "doosra", Pakistan's forgotten off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (formerly of Surrey) has joined Ireland as their new overseas professional. If not for anything, Saqlain could atleast pass on some tips to the Irish about playing against Pakistan - Ireland is slotted in the same group (the "Jamaica" group) as Pakistan in next year's world cup.

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    11 consecutive successful run chases (and the Dhoni factor)

    After the match in Bulawayo against NZ where Shane Bond decimated the top order (and reduced India to 44/8), India has not lost a single run-chase in eleven tries. Since that doomed day in late August, they have had to chase on 11 occasions and they have come trumps on all occasions. These are their winning (chasing) scores during this period - 279/4, 255/6, 123/2, 303/4, 262/6, 197/3, 245/5, 171/4, 224/5, 266/3 and 292/5.

    The interesting thing about these wins is that they never lost more than 6 wickets during the run chase. Now have a look at the Dhoni factor in these games. His scores are - 37*(off 26), 67*(off 63), DNB, 183*(off 145), 45*(off 43), DNB, 80(off 73), DNB, 12(26), DNB and 72*(off 46). That is an aggregate of 496 runs in 7 innings with a whopping average of 248 (dismissed only twice - he failed only once when he scored 12 against SA; his other dismissal on 80 was a result of his failed attempt to finish the game off with a six). Except for that one failure, each one of those remaining knocks was a match-winner. These stats just go on to show how good a finisher he has become for India. Dhoni is here to stay and I guess so are his locks (now that the Pak Prez has also joined the Dhoni Hairstyle Fan club).

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    Ruthless Prasad

    Sunday, February 12, 2006
    After winning their first four games rather convincingly (without any sweat), the Indian teenagers are now the clear favourites to win the World Cup. They play England now in the first Semi-Final on Wednesday. But their Coach Venkatesh Prasad doesn't seem to be too content with their performance so far. Here are some of his qoutes on being ruthless.
    "We are talking about being a lot more ruthless. Against the West Indies we got the first five or six wickets and then relaxed so there were runs for their tail.

    "What we are saying is why give the opposition a chance. We do not want even the thought of the coming back into the match to cross the opposition's minds.

    "When we are on song we must finish sides off, it is as simple as that,"

    Good for him. Wonder how he would have performed if he had been atleast half this ruthless during his playing days..

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    Sri gives Sree the thumbs up

    Srinath on Sreesanth..
    Sreesanth, who struggled in the previous game, came out with flying colours at Rawalpindi. He mainly shaped the ball out, used the short-pitched delivery effectively and in the end bowled some good slower ones to bring in variety. His bowling speed, averaging 136 kmph, keeps the batsmen in two minds. He could be an asset only if he adds accuracy to his bowling. Apart from his bowling, what impressed me most was his attitude. For someone who was ill and down the previous day, he played the game with verve. It's an irony in cricket that often when a player is coming out of a niggling injury or a brief illness, he puts up a performance which is above expectations.

    Sreesanth could learn quite a few lessons from these two outings. He must understand the significance of being preferred over more experienced colleagues like Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan. Opening the bowling for the country straightaway is a rare but great opportunity in one's career. Only the bowlers who have missed out on it or messed up when the opportunity came would realise it.

    Sreesanth is being used as the opening bowler because the team management sees him as an attacking bowler - someone who might go for runs, but would be able to pick up a wicket or two with the new ball. The team needs experienced bowlers to keep the middle overs tight and Ajit and Zaheer fit in perfectly as the first and second change bowlers.

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    Ranji 2005-06 - Pacers dominate the wicket takers list

    Thursday, February 09, 2006
    RR Powar (Mum - 42 wkts at 22.66)
    P Kumar (UP - 41 wkts at 23.97)
    SS Lahiri (Ben - 39 wkts at 28.87)
    SM Maniar (Sau - 38 wkts at 17.84)
    SK Trivedi (Guj - 37 wkts at 15.94)
    SS Paul (Ben - 36 wkts at 25.38)
    P Chawla (UP - 35 wkts at 24.17)
    MM Patel (Mah - 34 wkts at 19.70)
    J Sharma (Har - 34 wkts at 22.79)
    KS Sahabuddin (And - 32 wkts at 18.59)
    C Nanda (Del - 30 wkts at 24.33)
    AW Zaidi (UP - 30 wkts at 26.33)
    SR Singh (Vid - 29 wkts at 12.48)
    S Gill (Raj - 28 wkts at 17.32)
    Gagandeep Singh (Pun - 28 wkts at 18.07)
    DS Mohanty (Ori - 27 wkts at 13.00)
    A Katti (Ass - 26 wkts at 19.76)

    The list is largely dominated by the fast bowlers. You can deduce multiple things from this - pitches are more seamer-friendly, no more dust-bowls, the art of spin in the country is on a sharp decline, Indian batsmen play spin better than pace and that there is a reason why there is no scorpio-spinster (forgive the terminology) contest.

    Of the 17 listed, only 5 are spinners - Powar (off spin, age-27), Lahiri (off spin, age-24), Chawla (leg spin, age-17), Nanda (left arm orthodox, age-20) and Katti (left arm orthodox, age-33). Katti (formerly of Karnataka) plays for Assam in the plate group and given his age, we can conveniently ignore (rather harshly) his feats.

    Off-spinners: I have never really been a fan of Ramesh Powar's bowling. I have always believed that he is a better batsman than a bowler. To his credit, he has always managed to be amongst the wickets and this season, he has ended up being the top wicket taker in the league. So, if the selectors pick him as Harbhajan's like-to-like replacement, his detractors shouldn't really be complaining. He has performed well enough over the past few years to deserve a chance in the big league. Hopefully he'll get a game or two in the ODIs against Pakistan. Saurasish Lahiri plays for Bengal and he should come next to Powar in the off-spinners reserve list. Even without any East Zone politics, he should be able to get a chance sooner or later - he has been on the fringes for a while now. Not long ago, Sarandeep Singh used to be the first amongst the off-spin reserves. He had a very forgettable season and was even dropped from the Delhi team.

    Leg Spinners - Piyush is the only wrist spinner in the list. He had a very good debut season and he is still very young. After helping UP win the Ranji trophy, he is currently playing the lead role in India's under-19 world cup campaign. There is every possibility that he might get to don the senior colors this year. Haryana's Amit Mishra, who has been picked to play for the Board XI against England is not in the list.

    Left arm spinners - Delhi's 20 year old Chetanya Nanda is the sole left arm orthodox spinner in the list. He is the only bowler in the list who took 30+ wickets and did not have more than one 5-for. At the moment, the selectors seem to think that Hyderabad's Pragyan Ojha (who is not in this list) is a better bet than Nanda. But given the sudden dearth of left-arm spin-bowling options in the country, his progress would be closely monitored.

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    Emulating Sachin - a family thing..

    This article in Express India throws some insight on the inspirational short film that A Prasanna (Team India under-19 computer analyst) uses to motivate his teenaged wards. The movie is a juxtaposed collection of video clips of international cricket stars in action and the clips of the youngsters in the team who are trying to emulate them with music from hit numbers as the background score.

    Some of the comparisons: Piyush Chawla with Shane Warne, Left-handed batsman Ravikant Shukla with Lara; hardhitting batsman Mayank Tehlan with Sachin, all-rounder and sixer sepcialist Gaurav Dhiman with Andrew Flintoff. But swing bowler Abu Nechim Ahmed has the person toughest to emulate: coach Venkatesh Prasad. And phsyio Muthu too isn’t left out as his visuals are merged with that of John Gloster.

    Noticed who is being compared to Sachin? That would be Delhi's young Mayank Tehlan. He made his Ranji debut this season and scored a scintillating 176 on debut against Maharashtra. But the interesting thing about this kid is that he hails from Najafgarh and is Virender Sehwag's cousin. Now that does explain why he is being compared to Sachin, doesn't it? - it is a family thing.

    [Pic Courtesy : Express India]

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    Dhiman and his Bond Connection

    Gaurav Dhiman used to open the bowling for India in the 2004 edition of the under-19 world cup. Mentored by Frank Tyson and Paras Mhambrey, he showed great promise as someone who could prodigiously swing the ball and bend his back when needed. But somewhere down the line his priorities shifted and he is now more of a batsman than a bowler. In this year's world cup, he is opening the batting (Shikar Dhawan and Robin Uthappa were the opening batsmen in 2004). He no longer opens the bowling and comes into bowl only if there is a real need for a change. His aggressive top-order batting came to the fore in last year's Afro Asia cup when he scored three big hundreds in real quick time. In the opening game against Namibia in the current World Cup he made a 70 ball 90. He wasn't sent in to open against Scotland as the team management decided to give batting practice to the other batsmen.

    Express India caught up with him at the Taj Samudra and managed to get some interesting sound bytes. Check this bit about his Bond connection.

    Last year, when the Kiwi fast bowler was returning from injury and preparing for the tri-series involving India and Zimbabwe he ran into Dhiman at an invitational tournament in Australia.

    ‘‘I was touring with Karnataka under-19 team and he was playing for a club. I flicked him for a six and there were other such hits around the ground. The match ended with Bond telling me, ‘See you in the seniors side at Zimbabwe’,’’ says Dhiman.

    I just wish he concentrates on his bowling more. I don't think he can power his way into the senior squad just by scoring big runs in the under-19 world cup (Shikar did that in 2004 - where is he now?). The only way he can get into the top rungs sooner is if he can be a quality all-rounder. The kid is talented and I wish the likes of Venkatesh Prasad (the current under-19 coach) would guide him properly and get the best out of him.

    [Pic Courtesy: K. Bhagya Prakash (The Hindu) - more than 2 years old]

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    Where did Dheeraj Karthik and Dinesh Jadhav come from?

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006
    Ok.. I'll stop being a prick. It is just that Cricinfo got the first names of these two mixed up and I just can't help pointing it out. The Board XI squad for the tour opener against England has been announced.

    Board XI squad: Venugopal Rao (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, S. Badrinath, Dheeraj Dinesh Karthik, Dinesh Dheeraj Jadhav, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ramesh Powar, SS Paul, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, VRV Singh.

    3 Openers: Jaffer, Gambhir and Jadhav - Jaffer and Gambhir will get to play in all likelihood. Jadhav used to be the first choice reserve not long ago. But given the team management's love for Gambhir and Jaffer's imperious form this season, Jadhav might have to wait for his turn for a while longer. Dravid should not be opening against England and even he himself realizes that now. So whoever makes an impression in this game will walk into bat with Sehwag in the first test. Jadhav might get to play as a middle-order bat in this game, but that wouldn't help his cause.

    3 Middle order batsmen: Rao, Raina, Badrinath - Rao did not have a spectacular Ranji season but I guess he did not do badly in the limited opportunities that he received in the ODIs that he played. The selectors do seem him as a long term prospect (in both forms of the game) and it is good to see him being backed. I'm not sure about Raina yet as a test player. The kid has immense talent, but it would be a while before he gets picked for the test squad. 25 year old Subramaniam Badrinath has been playing consistently well for Tamil Nadu since making his first class debut in the 2000-01 season. He has a very good temperament (just like Rao) and should be looking forward to grab this opportunity. If Jadhav doesn't get picked, these three should play in the starting XI.

    1 Wicket Keeper: Karthik - Dhoni is here to stay and this game shouldn't really make any serious changes to Karthik's fortunes. Scoring a ton would probably help him get picked as the second wicket keeper for India's next overseas tour.

    3 Spinners: Ojha (left arm orthodox), Mishra (leg spin) and Powar (off spin) - I would like to see Ojha and Mishra play in this game. We do know what Powar can do and cannot do. I honestly don't think that Powar is test match material, he is just someone who might do well in ODIs. I would have picked Chawla (who is currently playing in the under-19 world cup) over Mishra. [The final of the under-19 world cup is on 19th Feb and this game against England is on the 23rd]. The selectors probably want to have one more look at Mishra before moving on. Young Ojha has been highly talked about and should be giving Murali Karthik a run for his money sooner or later.

    4 Pacers: Paul, Sreesanth, Patel and VRV - I expect Sreesanth, Munaf and VRV to play in this game. They are supposedly the fastest bowlers in the country and it should be interesting to see how they would fare against quality opposition.

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    Damned if I do.. damned if I don't

    Monday, February 06, 2006
    Courtesy: Cricinfo
    Pakistan Vs England - 2nd Test at Faisalabad, Nov 2005
    95.1 Harmison to Inzamam-ul-Haq, no run, driven back to bowler, Harmison picked up and hit the stumps direct, shut for runout, tv called, after many replay, Umpires gave the decision in favour of the England team as Inzamam back-foot was in the air when ball hit the stumps, soft dismissal!

    Pakistan Vs India - 1st ODI at Peshawar, Feb 2006
    43.2 Sreesanth to Inzamam-ul-Haq, no run, OUT - good length delivery, driven down to mid-off, Inzi is way down the track, Raina moving in picks it up and tries to run him out at the striker's end but Inzi defends the throw with his bat and he is given out obstructing the field!

    Inzi's reaction after the Peshawar game - "I can't understand the rule, because in Faisalabad I left the ball and was out and this time I hit the ball and was out."

    As per the law, Inzi was not out in Faisalabad and per the same law he was out in Peshawar. Simon Taufel got it wrong once and he is too good an umpire to get it wrong the second time. But poor Inzi.. He looked like one real confused soul when he walked back after being told by the umpires that he was out.

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    Sachin Sourav bright stars.. say hoi oh hoi..

    Sunday, February 05, 2006
    Ever listened to a song that kept you constantly hooked and made you sing it on and on without realizing that you had the lyrics all wrong. Well, here is one example..

    This one is from the "Paatshaala - Be a Rebel" song from Rang De Basanti (Watched it last week - easily the best movie of the year so far)

    Amar Akbar Antony
    Ram Rahim Abdullah
    Searching for a bright star
    Say hoi oh hoi


    For some reason, the third line got registered as "Sachin Sourav bright stars" in my brain when I first listened to it and I kept singing the same until my wife showed me the correct lyrics this afternoon. Apparently she knew about it all along and was just having fun listening to me croon about my favourite stars..

    One of them is not playing tonight in Peshawar and am still searching for the other real bright star who has been missing for a while now. Can the real Mr. SRT show up tonight?

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    Dream start.. but a not so dream ending

    Narendra Deepchand Hirwani has announced his retirement from first class cricket. In a career that spanned almost 23 years, he would be best remembered for those 16 wickets of his that he took in his debut test against the West Indies in Chennai.

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    Slotting your best batsman

    It has always been an accepted practice to slot the most dependable (technically correct) batsman in the test team at No.3 and the best (run-machine) batsman in the team at No.4. (Australia and Ponting are a notable exception - but that is Australia, they don't play by the rules) The idea behind this is to have the No.3 thwart the bowlers by playing according to the situation (depending on whether it is 0/1 or 150/1) and the No.4 to play his natural game (irrespective of the situation). The No.4's wicket is the one that the opposing bowlers are looking forward to the most and the longer you make them wait for it, the deeper the dent you make on their morale.

    Dravid and Tendulkar have been occupying those respective slots more often than not in the past few years because they were the Mr.Dependable and Mr.Best of Indian cricket. Tendulkar's indifferent form over the past year (coupled with his inexplicable determination to play like Mr.Dependable - serious confusion over his role there) has now made Dravid the best batsman in the team. Dravid's wicket is now the most prized one and his dismissal is the one that has the most adverse effect on the morale of the players in the dressing room. Well, Dravid obviously can't bat at both the slots, but he should don atleast one of the two roles. By opening the innings, he is letting the opposition have an opportunity to win the morale-points very early. I don't really believe in the concept of having only specialist openers occupying slots 1 and 2, but I do believe that your best batsman and your most dependable batsman should never walk into open. I would really like to have Dravid return to No.3 (or even No.4) in the series against England.

    In the case of ODIs, the case is different. You should always have your best in-form ODI batsman bat at the top. This is the guy who can get the maximum runs in the maximum overs possible. SRT used to be that guy for a long time before Sehwag came along. Off late Sehwag hasn't been in the best of ODI form (He was dropped down the order against the South Africans). On form, you would have to pick Yuvraj Singh to open (especially on sub-continent batting paradises). But given how good a finisher he is, I doubt if the team management would risk him. Dravid has said that SRT and Sehwag would open and he would probably stick to his words. If I were to pick the batting order it would be Yuvi, SRT, Sehwag, RSD, Kaif, Dhoni, Pathan, Agarkar, Zaheer, Karthik (given that Bhajji is not fully fit) and Sreesanth with Suresh Raina as the super-sub.

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