Monday, February 28, 2011


The title has made it obvious what this is about. I was confused for a moment when Billy Bowden signaled Ian Bell not out on that ball off Yuvraj Singh. I thought that Billy must have made a mistake and will raise his crooked finger soon... because Bell was already walking off. Then he called Bell back and the Indian fielders surrounded him to ask whether it was something they didn't know about or whether his head was not in his place! It turned out to be the latter...

I attribute that one moment as the reason why England were able to tie the game that was India's for the taking. Andrew Strauss batted like a dream... but a chase such as that is possible only with partnerships. And Ian Bell was his partner in what could have been a match-clinching partnership, which shouldn't have been so long but for Billy Bowden.

The 2.5 metre rule of UDRS is as ridiculous as any rule I have come across. And I don't get it why the law makers did not see how absurd it is when they framed it. Do they not run simulations to check whether the rule has any bad effects? In this case, the 2.5 metre rule only has the wrong effects. Here's why...

If that rule is implemented the way it was implemented today, there is no point in asking for reviewing a leg before decision by a fielding captain when someone like Kevin Pietersen is batting. Because even if the ball pitches on middle (RED), impact is on middle (RED) and goes on to strike the middle of middle (RED), the decision will always have to be not out because the umpire's original decision was not out as Pietersen plays his game a long way in front of the stumps.

In short, the moment a batsman comes more than 2.5 metres from the stumps, the UDRS becomes redundant... because no matter how plumb it looks, the ground umpire's original Not Out call will stand. In a way, insertion of this clause of 2.5 metre in the UDRS rule seems to have changed the law of Leg Before Wicket itself. UDRS was introduced to assist with LBW decisions, not to change the law of LBW!

From what I understand, this 2.5 metre guideline has been inserted because the makers of this technology believe that if the ball has to travel more than 2.5 metres after impact, its ball projection accuracy reduces. Fair point. They have claimed that their technology is not perfect and I have no problem with that!

But they say that the accuracy reduces... it does not say that accuracy goes down to zero. In such a case as was played out today, where the ball was striking half way up between the middle and off... even if we consider that the path projection may not have been completely accurate, it seemed obvious that the ball would still have hit the stumps.

It might have been on the off stump or on the middle stump... it might have been a little higher or a little lower... but there was no way on earth that that particular ball would have done anything but hit the stumps had Ian Bell not existed. In such scenarios, it pains me to see that the umpires (both ground umpire and the third umpire) do not make use of their common sense and grey cells to make the decision. This one was a very daft piece of decision-making on display today.

The purpose of UDRS is to implement a technology that assists the umpires... and not replaces them! If the 2.5 metre guideline is going to be a decisive rule, then as I said earlier, for a batsman like Kevin Pietersen, UDRS becomes redundant. However, had the 2.5 metre guideline been used as a suggestive rule, then not only would Ian Bell have been dismissed and the result of this match possibly different, but the UDRS would also have has a lot more credibility. It would certainly need some now!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Pakistan manged to pull off a win against Sri Lanka in a Group A match played out at Colombo. Filled with moments of brilliance and utter madness, this match lived up to its pre-match hype of being a "big game".

Shahid Afridi got 4 wickets for Pakistan and deservedly got the Man of the Match award for his performance. He is also now the current leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 9 wickets at the end of the first week of the World Cup. But this blog post is not about Shahid Afridi.

Shoaib Akhtar. His career has been a bit like this match, except that there have been a lot of controversies as well. He has been brilliant at times... and completely and inexplicably mad at other times. His career has seen more ups and downs that you'd normally associate with even a span as long as his in the international cricket fraternity.

I was never a fan of Shoaib Akhtar. I did enjoy watching him play because he was a performer... sometimes bad and sometimes good! But never been a fan of his, and I don't think I ever will be. There's something about all pace bowlers and leg spinners that's attracted me always... and Shoaib's bowling has just been one of that!

But his performance against Sri Lanka was something else. If there is a word I could pick to describe what I felt about his performance against Sri Lanka, it was RESPECT. A mellowed version of his past self, Shoaib Akhtar 2.0 has been as impressive as I have ever seen him. He does not come in sprinting during his run up, bowl a 100 mph yorker that uproots 2 stumps, and then go off for wild celebrations allowing his teammates to chase him. No, he is a changed man now... and by the looks of it, changed for the better!

With growing age and increasing maturity, men start realising their weaknesses and limitations. Some men cannot cope up with this realisation and wither away, while some men face them and alter their game accordingly.

Since India's tour of England 2007, this has been the aspect of Sachin Tendulkar that has been the most pleasing to watch. He bats more within himself, seems more human, and yet reaches inhuman heights. On the other end of the spectrum has been Ricky Ponting. He was unable to come to terms with the fact that he was (for some time, at least) having troubles with his pull shots and hook shots... yet continued playing them and falling to them. It was sad to see him in that phase. However, on his last Test tour of India in October 2010, it was pleasing to see the application and the fight he showed against his biggest perceived weakness... facing quality spin bowling. There were two knocks, where both the times he scored 77, that I have immense respect for. That is what you want to see from a legendary fighter!

And the kind of performances that he has put up in recent times is what you want to see from a bowler like Shoaib Akhtar. Sweating profusely, walking with a slight limp, and yet giving his heart and soul into his role for the team! He bowled with intelligence that only comes with experience... and did not lose patience when he did not have wickets to show for his efforts in the first spell.

It is no wonder that the captain showed faith in him when Sri Lanka's best batsmen, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, were batting together. Not for long, said Shoaib, and sent Jayawardene back with a wonderful length ball that jagged back in to hit the top of middle. Just when you wondered that he is looking too tired to be able to continue this spell, he would come back again... and never let the batsmen off the hook. Like the Pakistani batsmen had shown respect to Muralitharan earlier in the day, the Sri Lankan batsmen had no choice but to show respect to the bowling of Shoaib Akhtar.

Not for the output, but for its sheer quality and execution, this one was a performance for which I would truly and honestly remark, "Take a bow!"


Cricinfo's Fantasy Cricket game is really driving me nuts. For three days in a row now, I have had less than average days... which means my ranking has fallen from a best of 988 to a worst of 6355. But this is not what is driving me nuts... it's the occasions when I end up being just just just short of bonus points for my team.

After the Australia v. New Zealand game at Nagpur, I was quietly satisfied. Even though I did not have the Man of the Match performer Mitchell Johnson in my team, I had had a good performance by my team's captain Shane Watson, a decent outing for Brett Lee and another okay outing for Michael Clarke.

In fact, in the case of Michael Clarke, I had been very lucky. During Australia's chase of New Zealand's paltry target, Clarke had taken a very go-slow approach and ended up with a Strike Rate of 64.86. In the Fantasy Cricket Scoring system, a Strike Rate of less than 75 is penalised with -15 points. But this penalty is applicable only when the batsman has scored a minimum of 25 runs.

Luckily for me, Clarke was 24* when White scored the winning single on the last ball of the 34th over. Had White played out the over, Clarke would have had to score the winning runs off the newer ball in the next over... and instead of 24 points, I would have earned only 10 points. So much for scoring more runs!

But I did not know that the luck I had in that game would be wiped out by the time the Sri Lanka v. Pakistan game at Colombo came about. There was an entire sequence of bad luck cases that took away crucial and valuable points that I could have earned in this game. Have a look:

TM Dilshan (Captain) - 41 runs of 55 balls at a SR of 74.54 {i.e. (41 - 10 - 15) X 2 = 16 X 2 = 32 points}. Had he batted 1 ball less OR scored 1 run more, his SR would have been above 75, and I would have had 62 points from him.

Kumar Sangakkara - 49 runs from 61 balls with 1 six (i.e. 49 -10 + 6 = 55 points). Had he scored just 1 more runs, I would have has a bonus of 15 points for his fifty. So here I lost another 16 points... 15 for the bonus and 1 for the run.

Nuwan Kulasekara - 24 runs from 14 balls with 1 six at a SR of 171.42 (i.e. 24 + 6 = 30 points). This is the worst case. Had he scored just 1 more, he would have had 25 runs and been eligible for Strike Rate bonus. With 1 more run, his SR would have been 178.57, and I would have had a 50-point bonus for Strike Rate above 175. That means I lost out on another 51 potential points here.

So in effect, by the smallest of margins like 1 run or 1 ball, I have lost almost 100 points in the Sri Lanka v. Pakistan game. With these 100 points, I might well have been placed within the 5000th rank. This is so very frustrating. I just hope that over the next week of the tournament, more of my players win Man of the Match Awards (preferably captains) so that I can gain some ground on those (like Soulberry and Sehwagology) who have surged ahead of me. Beware friends, I'll bounce back!

P.S. As on 1st March, after the Sri Lanka v. Kenya game, I have overtaken Soulberry and am not far behind Sehwagology... not only am I in top-5000 overall now, but I am in top-600!)

Friday, February 25, 2011


Imran Tahir made a dream international debut for South Africa by picking up 4 West Indian wickets as his team made a winning start to their World Cup 2011 campaign.

I happened to land up on Imran Tahir's profile page on Cricinfo by mistakenly clicking on his name instead of Darren Bravo's on the list of "Popular Searches". But when I did see the number of major teams that he has played for, "Nomad" is the first word that crept up in my mind. Have a look for yourself:


Following the sad news of the earthquake that rocked Christchurch a couple of days back, the Black Caps will be keen to put one across their Trans - Tasman neighbours and three-time defending champions Australia. A win here may not heal the wounded back home in New Zealand, but it will certainly bring a smile back to their faces. Even if it is a momentary spark of joy for the people affected, for the Kiwi cricketers, I am sure it is worth fighting for!

If more incentive was needed, and these incentives would apply to Australian side too, then there is a Cricket World Cup going on... and a win here will help the team be in a very comfortable position in the race to qualify for the Quarter Finals. Add to it, the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy shall also be decided in this match, since these two teams are not scheduled to compete in another ODI match for the remaining year (unless of course they are to meet again in the Semi Finals or the Finals).

(For the record, this will be the first time that the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy will be contested on a neutral territory.)

The match tomorrow will be played at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium (Jamtha), Nagpur. The previous match here, contested between England and the Netherlands, was a close fought one and saw almost 600 runs being scored. The centurion and Man of the Match in that game, Ryan ten Doeschate of the Netherlands, said that the pace of the wicket was a little slow, but batting was a lot easier once he got used to it. Early consolidation is the key on this wicket while batting.

Considering that New Zealand have already played a warm up match on this ground, it should be slightly easier for them to adjust to the conditions. Having said that, one would be foolish to write the Australians off. They come into the game having a 30-game unbeaten run in World Cup cricket and a comfortable win over the Zimbabweans. While New Zealand's win over Kenya was a lot more thumping, the downside is that it has left their batsmen short of batting practice coming into a match where they will face a pace - charged attack.

Nagpur has seen a bit of unseasonal wet weather of late. There are some chances of the match being rain-affected and played under a cloud cover. If this is so, the pace bowlers on both the sides might get a bit of help. Since it is a day game and will have an early morning 9:30 am start, the side bowling first can expect more help than the other side.

Though the teams might want to stick to their winning combinations, I wonder if Australia might consider using Doug Bollinger in their line up, if the conditions are indeed helpful for the seamers. Johnson and Tait were good against Zimbabwe, but it cannot be denied that both of them are all-or-nothing bowlers. Since both of them had a good outing against Zimbabwe, the law of averages would suggest that one (or even both) of them are due one of their erratic days any time now. Using Bollinger for one of them might not be a bad option. Ponting has also suggested that he will need to use Tait with care so that he lasts through the tournament.

Apart from this, Lee bowled with great control and skill in his practice games as well as against Zimbabwe, and Jason Krejza has shown aggression by flighting the ball and inviting front-foot drives from the batsmen.

For New Zealand, Bennett and Southee had a wonderful first game, while Oram also chipped in with 3 wickets (denying Southee a chance to go for a hat-trick). The interesting bit was that Nathan McCullum's off spin was employed with the new ball. It would be interesting to see if Vettori continues with this tactic. And talking of Vettori in ODIs, he is a master craftsman, and I am sure the Australian batsmen will look to see him off and attack the other bowlers in the game.

The Australian batting looks a lot more settled with Watson, Ponting and Clarke all having a good hit against Zimbabwe. While Guptill has been good for the Kiwis, the others are slightly untested and the likes of Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder might need to step up big time to see of the Aussies. The Batting Powerplay strategies shall be interesting to watch, since Australia is the team that once again looks stronger in the power-hitting department with the likes of Cameron White, David Hussey and Steve Smith. For all their skills, Franklin, Styris and Vettori at the corresponding batting positions of 5, 6 and 7 just do not inspire as much confidence.

Here are a few numbers that indicate that Australia are the favourites going into this match... but with the emotions that Christchurch will generate and an additional spice in the form of Chappell-Hadlee Trophy also involved, numbers will count for little when the 22 men take the field for their national anthems tomorrow.

It will be hard for Nagpur to provide another entertaining match after the England - Netherlands affair. However, the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy has a history of producing high-scoring encounters, with New Zealand having successfully chased down scores in excess of 330 thrice in the past. Since this one will be played on another batting beauty, I expect no less.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


This is coming a little late, but it had to come. With one match, where he scored 119 runs and grabbed 2 wickets against England, Ryan ten Doeschate (popularly called "Tendo" by his teammates) has become a very popular name in a lot of places, including but not restricted to England and India. His performance at Nagpur was the highest score made in ODIs by a player from an Associate team against a Test-playing nation... but more importantly, his performance was a retort to ICC's decision of reducing the number of participants in the next World Cup to 10 teams.

There has been quite an uproar over ICC's decision to discontinue with the practice of inviting the associate and affiliate members to play at One Day International Cricket's biggest event - the ICC Cricket World Cup. In the midst of this uproar, there have also been people who support this decision by the ICC.

Ryan ten Doeschate's performance was a gentle reminder to all of them and the ICC to reconsider their opinions and this decision. Netherlands' and Ireland's performances over the few chances that they have had at the highest level indicates that they are a cut above the rest of the playing field amongst the ICC's associate and affiliate members. Had ICC been a little more proactive in Kenya after 2003, they might also have been a part of this group. If ICC decides to be a little more proactive in Afghanistan, they might become a part of this group in the near future.

I'll do another blog post about this decision by the ICC... but now, I have to talk about Ryan ten Doeschate. A few numbers first for those who are unaware:

Even if one were to say that he's played only 4 ODIs against Test-playing nations, the response shall be that he still manages to average 54 with the bat and 38.67 with the ball. Plus, his numbers in Twenty20s (both Internationals and otherwise), List A matches and more importantly, First Class cricket are also extremely impressive.

His century against England at Nagpur was as calm and composed an innings as you are ever likely to see by any classy batsman while setting up a competitive total for his team to defend. Despite cramping during the latter stages of his innings, he still came on to bowl in order to play his part in defending the total of 292. That Netherlands could not win does not at all indicate that Ryan ten Doeschate did not deserve to be in the winning side.

What endeared me to him the most was his reply when asked whether his century might prompt his native country, South Africa, to recruit him for the next World Cup. "No, I don't think so. I don't think like that. I know this might just be my last World Cup considering next edition will have 10 teams. But I have been playing county cricket (Essex) where I have played with lot of top cricketers. In a few months time, I would be playing in the IPL which will be another big stage." (Source)

He is obviously not interested in playing for an international team other than the Netherlands... for whom he qualified because of his lineage. He was born in South Africa and learnt the intricacies of plying his trade in England with Essex. So I think I might be fair in assuming that playing for Netherlands holds a different value to him... something that I am amazed no one from the media has bothered to ask him about.

In an age where players has switched their commitments at the international level, he comes across as a breath of fresh air. In fact, had Netherlands still possessed the services of their erstwhile pacer Dirk Nannes, they might even have pulled off an upset against England. Not to be... as Dirk Nannes was seen playing for Victoria against New South Wales in Australia just about half a day after Netherlands had lost a close match.

I hope that he and his team do manage to sustain a similar level of performance over the rest of this World Cup... and he keeps giving us, his new fans, more reasons to flaunt his new nickname "Ryan ten Dulkar" all over Twitter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Might once again get away without punishment
It is all over the news that Ricky Ponting reportedly smashed the glass of the LCD TV in the Australian team's dressing room after watching the replay of his run out dismissal during their first World Cup 2011 game against Zimbabwe on February 21, 2011 at Ahmedabad.

We all know that this is not the first time that Ponting has been involved in an act that is not worthy of a sportsman, let alone the captain of the three-time defending champions! His most recent tryst with ICC's Code of Conduct was when he was involved in a heated argument with Aleem Dar during the Ashes 2010-11 after the third umpire upheld the ground umpire's decision to rule Kevin Pietersen not out. He was fined 40% of his match fees back then... a punishment too light, in my opinion.

But the media reports suggest that Ponting might well get away with his glass-breaking act this time. Reports state that Ponting apologised for this incident and claimed that it was an accident and not an intentional act of smashing the glass on the TV set. The Australian media manager has also claimed that the glass has not been shattered, but just a corner of the screen has suffered a blackout due to unintentional impact with Ponting's box, which flew up to the screen as he threw it into his kit bag.

Whatever the case may be, the possibility that Ricky Ponting will get away with his apology is a depressing news to hear. I have never been a fan of Ricky Ponting's behaviour on the cricket field... and even though this act came in the dressing room, it was a direct result of what happened in the field.

I will be very surprised if eventually, Ponting escapes with no punishment for his act. Ayaz Menon tweeted that while ICC may be able to frame codes to regulate the players' conduct on the field, there isn't much that can be done for what happens in the change rooms. But he is wrong here.

Level 1 Point 1.2 offence in the ICC Code of Conduct is defined as "Abuse of cricket equipment or clothing, ground equipment or fixtures and fittings."

Isn't the television in the dressing room a part of the ground equipments? Matthew Hayden had been charged with this offence and fined accordingly when he had broken a piece of glass in his team's dressing room after his dismissal during the 5th Ashes Test at Sydney in January 2003. Why isn't Ponting being charged with a similar offence?

At the risk of sounding like a frustrated Asian ranting out against the Aussies, I have to pose a question for the readers to ponder - had Sreesanth broken the glass of the LCD TV in the dressing room after his bad spell of bowling against Bangladesh and then apologised, would he have been let off?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I have been hearing a lot of criticism from various quarters regarding how ICC has scheduled the matches during the 10th Cricket World Cup, currently being played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I have compiled below a list of the things that I found absurd in the schedule of this event:


The first match of the World Cup, held on a Saturday, was a good one - Bangladesh v India. The two co-hosts facing each other, with a bit of history with regard to their previous World Cup encounter, at a place where people love cricket, was bound to be a blockbuster opening.

What bemuses me is that the ICC had no intention of sustaining this blockbuster opening over the entire weekend. Sunday saw two matches... and both were potentially one-sided affairs, as they indeed turned out to be. The one remaining co-host (Sri Lanka) should have played on Sunday, and they did. But was Canada the best opponent for them? I wonder why they did not schedule Pakistan or New Zealand as their opponents on the opening Sunday.

Imagine this... Saturday: Bangladesh v India (in Bangladesh); Sunday: Sri Lanka v Pakistan (in Sri Lanka), and Australia v New Zealand (in India).

All three hosting nations would have had a match to host on the opening weekend. All the four sub-continental teams would have opened their campaign over the opening weekend. The defending champions would also have opened their campaign over the opening weekend against an opponent with a bit of a history. Wouldn't this have been a much better prospect than the other two matches that we saw on Sunday!


February 25, 2011 is a Friday, which is a weekday in the sub-continent (unlike Dubai, which is where ICC's headquarters are located... they have Friday - Saturday as a weekend). ICC seem to have forgotten that Friday is a weekday and scheduled 2 matches (1 Day and 1 D/N) on that day.

It would still have been alright had it not been followed by this - the next 2 days (Saturday and Sunday, which is a weekend) host just 1 match each. As if this were not foolish enough, on Monday (February 28, 2011), we shall again see 2 matches (1 Day and 1 D/N) being played.

Can someone from the ICC please explain to me the logic behind allocating 2 matches on a Friday and on a Monday, whereas leaving the weekend in the middle to host just 1 match each? This is totally insane!


On March 6, 2011, India is scheduled to play against Ireland at Bangalore. On the same day, not too far away, South Africa will play against England at Chennai. Now South Africa v England is one of the better neutral clashes of the tournament, that has the potential to generate good attendance and gate revenues.

However, if the ICC is going to schedule such good matches on the day where the people in the host city will be more interested in watching their own country's match (even if it is against Ireland), then there aren't going to be a lot of revenues around. If the attendance is not good for this clash, ICC should not blame the Chennai crowd... but point the finger back at themselves.


Whenever there are two matches scheduled on a particular day, ICC has taken care to ensure that one of them is a Day match and the other is a Day / Night Match. But I wonder why ICC could not take care to schedule such Day Matches on weekends... so that there is the best possible chance to see a good crowd attendance.

Feb 26, Mar 5 and Mar 12 are Saturdays and Feb 27 is a Sunday... these 4 days have just 1 match each scheduled to be played. Whereas Feb 25 (Wed), Feb 28 (Mon), Mar 3 (Thu), Mar 4 (Fri), Mar 11 (Fri), Mar 14 (Mon) and Mar 18 (Fri) are all weekdays that have 2 matches each scheduled to be played.

Does ICC really expect any kind of crowd attendance for a neutral matches to be held during day time on a weekday? I wonder if they can themselves find any sense in this!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


The 10th Cricket World Cup has kicked off... We have had India beating Bangladesh in a one-sided affair and then New Zealand gobble up Kenya in an even more one-sided affair. I'm sure that the currently ongoing Sri Lanka v Canada game will also end up being just as one-sided, despite the fact that Canadians have bowled pretty tidily in the first 9 overs.

Tomorrow, Australia play Zimbabwe at Motera, Ahmedabad. At first sight, it looks to be another one-sided unimportant game on the itinerary... and it might well be just that! But if you are a passionate Indian cricket fan wanting to see India win this World Cup, support Zimbabwe with all your might! This is the most important game for India's World Cup chances!

Let me explain. Zimbabwe beat Australia in their opening match of the 1983 World Cup... it was June 9, 1983. Just 16 days later, India had won that World Cup. Fast forward now... 24 years later, Zimbabwe beat Australia again in the inaugural World Twenty20 Championships in 2007 (September 12th) by 5 wickets to kick off their campaigns. Again, just 12 days later, India had won that World Championship!

Now in 2011, both teams will again be kicking off their campaigns against each other on February 21st. If Zimbabwe can beat Australia tomorrow, we don't have to worry at all about India's chances. Come April 2, Team India will be smiling at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

However, if Australia get the better of Zimbabwe, then Indian team will have to defy history to win this World Cup. History states that India has never won a World Cup in any form of the game where Australia have not been beaten by Zimbabwe. Can we do it this time?


Finally, the ghosts of 2007 have been buried!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Yes, even Google has been bitten by the bug!


Eng 273 all out in 49.4 overs, Pak 206 all out in 46.1 overs - Eng win by 67 runs

Before I let flow my thoughts regarding this game, I must point out an interesting piece of coincident that I have observed. In both of England's warm-up matches (first against Canada and now against Pakistan), England batted first and were bowled out in 49.4 overs. If that is not enough, England won both these matches by bowling out the opposition in 46.1 overs, with Stuart Broad picking up 5 wickets!

Now to the cricket... Pakistan rested their skipper Shahid Afridi and important all-rounder Abdul Razzaq for this game. Misbah-ul-Haq captained Pakistan in this match, where he won the toss and chose to field first.

Andrew Strauss failed yet again, but his new opening partner Kevin Pietersen scored a half-century. This fifty, and starts for Bell and Bopara, will definitely delight English fans... but what they must have enjoyed the most must have been the 73-ball 65 run knock by Paul Collingwood, as England posted 273 before getting bowled out. Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz bagged 3 wickets apiece whereas Shoaib Akhtar proved to be expensive in his spell of 10 overs, grabbing 1 (Strauss) for 62.

Pakistan's reply began on a sedate note as Stuart Broad bowled with a lot of fire, and blew away their top order. He bagged the wickets of Akmal brothers and Hafeez as Pakistan slumped to 34 - 3 in the 10th over, and later came back to bag the wickets of Younis Khan and Wahab Riaz to complete 10 wickets in the two warm-up games.

In between Broad's bursts, Pakistan must have been glad to see Younis Khan strike some sort of a form in his 80-run knock on a slow wicket. He had promising partnerships with Ahmed Shehzad (batting at No. 6) and Misbah-ul-Haq (batting at No. 7), but England were never really sweating for the defence of their target. But that will not worry Pakistan too much, since they were playing without Afridi and Razzaq.

If Stuart Broad took another 5-wicket haul, the performance to delight a lot of English fans came from, once again, Paul Collingwood... who managed 3 for 48 in his 10 overs of gentle medium pace to add to his batting effort for the day. This all-round performance against a decent opposition was just what Collingwood needed before the start of England's World Cup campaign.

After their 6-1 drubbing in Australia, England suddenly look a different unit now with the addition of Stuart Broad, the soon-to-join new-father Graeme Swann, Pietersen's move to the top and today's performance of Paul Collingwood!

I had opined yesterday that Kevin Pietersen's move to the top might just backfire against a lesser opposition. While that prediction was based on the assumption that Paul Collingwood's prolonged bad form will continue further, now it suddenly looks like a stupid prediction to make. But I somehow still want to stick by it because one innings from Paul Collingwood is not enough to convince me that he'll play this way the entire tournament.

But with this one practice game, England have made sure that their World Cup campaign shall become a lot more interesting to follow than I was earlier expecting!

Friday, February 18, 2011


It's time to wipe those smiles off!
Virender Sehwag has already called it. The rest of the Indian team must be quietly admitting it. The opening match for India in their World Cup 2011 campaign against Bangladesh is no ordinary match... it is a 'revenge' match.

There was a time when such 'revenge' matches existed during the World Cup itself. During the 1983 and 1987 World Cups, each team played the others in their group twice. So if you were upset the first time round, you could seek revenge in the next match. In fact, in 1983, on the very first day of the World Cup campaign (June 9, 1983), West Indies and Australia were upset by India and Zimbabwe respectively.

But a week later, West Indies had their revenge on India on June 15... and Australia had their revenge on Zimbabwe on June 16. Eventually, this West Indian victory was lost in time because India managed to stun the defending champions in the finals at Lord's on June 25, 1983. It was a revenge for the revenge match!

Now at Mirpur, almost 28 years after that stunning victory, India seek to begin another World Cup campaign on a victorious note... against the hosts Bangladesh. While Bangladesh may be quietly confident of pulling off another win over their more-fancied neighbours to make in 2 out of 2 in World Cups, the Indians will be in no mood to let it happen.

A lot of members of the current Indian line up were also a part of that bitter defeat in their opening game of the previous World Cup... a defeat that threw their World Cup campaign completely off track! The other members, who were not a part of that team, must have certainly seen that match or followed it in some way or the other. All of them must have definitely felt the pain of that loss... either as players or as supporters!

The pain of a supporter is something I felt to a great degree. I was watching that match in a hostel... with a crowd of what must have been another 50 people. And what had started as a raucous day came to a very meek and silent end! I can still remember the people holding on to shreds of hope despite India being bundled out for a below-200 score. I can still remember the prayers that started getting louder and more desperate as Tamim Iqbal got Bangladesh off to a flying start. I can still remember those profanities that were being shouted at both the batsmen and the bowlers after every hit that reached the fence in the second innings.

Oh man, it was a heartbreak! There was anger in the eyes of whoever you met for a week after that loss and the loss later to Sri Lanka. Over time, in these intervening four years, that anger has subsided. Indian team won the Test Series in England, World Twenty20 Championship, the CB Series in Australia... then followed an unbeaten run in Test series' played at home and other wins as well like the Asia Cup and the Compaq Cup. There was also the rise to the World No. 1 in Tests and now, coming to the World Cup as genuine title contenders, the memories of that defeat against Bangladesh have subsided to a great extent.

But the feeling of hurt and humiliation that rose as a result of that loss always remained hidden at the back of everyone's heads. Now that the time has come to begin another World Cup campaign with a match against Bangladesh, the Indian team is expected to do nothing short of annihilate their neighbours. The expectations are huge and the pressure is enormous... but not without reason. The performances of the Indian team during these last 4 years have given the people a reason to expect... and a victory over Bangladesh in the opening encounter will be the beginning!

Sehwag termed Bangladesh as an "ordinary Test side" a little over a year ago... and now, he has termed this match as a "revenge match". I now hope that he does all he can as a part of his effort in this revenge (for more reasons than one - you see, he is also the captain of my Cricinfo Fantasy League team)! Come on now boys, ATTACK!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


A combustible move... might just backfire!
England tried out Kevin Pietersen as an opener with Andrew Strauss in their first practice game against Canada yesterday. They have confirmed that they will be resorting to this opening pair for the World Cup (unless it proves to be disastrous failure, I assume)!

It is interesting that England, after having tried out about a dozen openers over the past few months in ODI cricket, have finally turned to their biggest impact cricketer to partner the their skipper at the top.

What are the merits of this move?

1. It is said that in Limited Overs cricket, your best batsman should get to face the maximum number of overs. Kevin Pietersen is arguably England's best batsman in ODIs. The move to the top will give him maximum possible time to build his innings and cause the biggest impact.

2. As an opener, Pietersen will start off by facing the faster bowlers initially (unless some captain decides to go the Martin Crowe-way). This means that he won't have to face spin (especially, left arm spin) as soon as he comes in to bat. Not that he is bad at facing spin, but he is definitely much better against the pacers.

Now, what are the demerits?

1. First and foremost, this move suggests that the England think-tank is almost bare of ideas now. I don't want to use the phrase "panic-mode" with Andy Flower, but this move does show a bit of desperation in their decision-making processes now.

2. With Pietersen as an opener, the English middle order wears a pretty flimsy look now. There is no Morgan and Collingwood is out of form. After Trott coming in at the fall of first wicket and Bell after him, the English batting does not inspire much confidence. Prior did score a fifty in the warm up game, but I wouldn't bank on him to get the team out of trouble in case of a top-order collapse.

This move will certainly make anyone following England in the World Cup a lot more interested. And Pietersen is such a colourful character that there will be a lot of ammunition, one way or the other, after every match! If I were to make a prediction, I must say that this move is potentially combustible... and might well backfire big time against one of the smaller opponents.


Eng 243 all out in 49.4 overs, Can 227 all out in 46.1 overs - Eng win by 16 runs

This was a close shave for England. There was a huge surprise (or rather, a shock) in store right at the start of the match... as Kevin Pietersen came out partnering Andrew Strauss at the top. That they have had to send Pietersen opening and will continue to do so in the tournament should worry England. That they stumbled to a sub-250 score against minnows should worry them even more. Trott and Prior scored 50s to bring some respectability to the total as medium pacers Chohan and Baidwan grabbed 3 wickets each for Canada.

England started their bowling innings destructively as Canada was 28 - 5 in the 8th over. What should have ended there and then turned out to be an exciting run chase as Canada finished just 16 runs short of the English total, bowled out with 23 balls to spare. A 71-ball 93 from Rizwan Cheema, ably supported by Chohan with a 44 (looks like a good all round cricketer, this one!) were the two major contributions in this brilliant chase. And Canada might even have pulled it off had it not been for a 5-wicket haul from Stuart Broad... who took 3 in his initial burst and came back later to grab 2 and clean up the tail.

If the warmup games are a sign of things to come, I'll definitely be watching the games involving the four minnows very closely. They have definitely shown a lot of promise!

Ind 360 - 5 in 50 overs, NZ 243 all out in 43.1 overs - Ind win by 117 runs

The game began with just one thing on everyone's mind... to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat in coloured clothing, and watch him bat for long! While he did not bat too long, he did not look to bad either in his short stint. He got out attempting a shot, which I am sure he would never have attempted had this been an official match, and not a warm up.

The Indian batters needed just this kind of a warm up game to feel good about themselves. It is a pity that Yuvraj did not get a chance to stroke himself into some sort of a form, when four batters (Gambhir, Kohli, Dhoni and Raina) got 50+ scores, the captain eventually making a 64-ball 108*.

The Kiwis have bowling troubles, and they have batting troubles too! Even though Guptill, McCullum and Ryder all got starts, no one could play a long innings and get some kind of a batting practice. As far as Indian bowling is concerned, here is the key stat: Spinners 28-0-119-7; Pacers 15.1-0-112-2, not to mention the fact that both those wickets were of tailenders!

India desperately needs to find a solution to the pace bowling woes... or decide firmly to use spin bowling to cover up for the pace bowling woes! It may be a risky ploy once the knock out stage arrives, but they have 6 matches before that to get everything in order.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Zim 244 - 8 in 50 overs, Ire 245 - 6 in 49.3 overs - Ire win by 4 wickets

Ireland had put up a tremendous fight while chasing New Zealand's 300+ score in their first warm up match. This time, they went one better... they chased down Zimbabwe's score with 3 balls to spare.

Ireland got on top early (Zim was 12 - 3 in 8th over)... but Zimbabwe fought 
back first with Taibu's 45 and then with Chigumbura's 103* in just 81 balls. Irish skipper Trent Johnston bowled a superb first spell of 5-2-9-2. While batting, Ireland had partnership stands of 40s for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wicket. But the 5th wicket stand of 99 between Andre Botha (79) and Kevin O'Brien (62*) was the decisive stand for the match. As they say, a set batsman should see the team through till the end in a run chase... and Kevin O'Brien did that by guiding Ireland to a win with 3 balls to spare. They have issued a warning bell for their Group B opponents!

en 263 - 5 in 50 overs, Neth 264 - 8 in 49.1 overs - Neth win by 2 wickets

Kenya batted quite well... with their young 20-year old opener Seren Waters making an unbeaten 126. Rakep Patel scored a 59-ball 64 at the end in a 129-run stand with Waters to see Kenya to a formidable total. But they did not know that the ICC Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year Ryan ten Doeschate had something special in store.

ten Doeschate had done his bit with the ball (10-0-47-2)... but decided to do more. He came in at 87 for to in the 16th over, when the Dutch were starting to lose their early momentum (they had raced to 67 for 0 in 10 overs). Soon with Steve Tikolo running amok, Netherlands slumped to 130 for 7 in 30 overs. Tikolo's gentle off-spin had almost sealed the game then. But the Dutch still had Ryan ten Doeschate at the crease.

In a display that would have pleased even the King-Rescuer VVS Laxman, ten Doeschate upped his scoring rate and though he lost his steady partner Buurman for 29 after an 82 run stand, he remained till the end with an unbeaten 92-ball 98 (3 fours, 4 sixes) to see his team through. The No. 10 Mudassar Bukhari played a small cameo of 20* (15 balls, 2 fours, 1 six) that proved crucial in the end, because when he came in, his side still needed 53 runs of 34 balls. But the man of the moment was definitely Ryan ten Doeschate. Fantasy Team players... are you reading this?

 217 all out in 47.1 overs, SA 218 - 3 in 44.2 overs - SA win by 7 wickets

Don't be fooled by that 218 for 3 from South Africa. Two of those three (Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla) retired themselves after a 100+ opening stand so that the other batters could have some batting practice. The third wicket, that of Faf du Plessis, was a run out!

Australia got off to a miserable start. Their best form batsman, Shane Watson, was out for a 4th ball duck... lbw to Dale Steyn. Brad Haddin (who did not play the 1st warm up against India) got run out for a duck in the 4th over... Australia was 6 for 2. A 122-run stand between captain Ricky Ponting (55) and vice captain Michael Clarke (79) followed. That would prove to be the only substantial contribution from the Aussie bats for the day... and if I may dare to call it so, their saving grace!

Dale Steyn was the top bowler with 3 wickets for South Africa. In what was a surprise to me, Robin Peterson also managed 3 wickets though he was a tad expensive at over 5.50 an over. Australia really need to brush up their spin-tackling skills!

Smith (65) and Amla (60) put on 131 runs and then retired in that order within 3 overs of each other. Faf Du Plessis was sent at No. 3 to get a bit of practice, but was run out for 12 with South Africa on 157! JP Duminy used this time in the middle to stroke a 47* on his favourite Indian ground at Bangalore. South Africa eased home to a very comfortable win at the end.

WARNING NOTE: Do not count Australia out. They entered the 2007 World Cup in a 5-match losing streak. They won every game in that tournament.

 281 all out in 50 overs, SL 282 - 6 in 47.3 overs - SL win by 4 wickets

West Indies put up a very decent batting performance to post a competitive 281. But they would know that the score should have been a lot bigger. Chris Gayle provided a fiery start with a 38-ball 58, and Darren Bravo's 54 was a perfect foil. However, they was no one to play a big knock and no substantial contributions from the middle order and the lower middle order, where the highest score was 39 by Sarwan. Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath (3 wickets each) were impressive for Sri Lanka with the ball.

Sri Lanka's chase was built on the back of three main contributors... their three of the four most important batsmen! A ballistic 50-ball 62 from Dilshan followed by calculating knocks of 71 and 55 respectively from Sangakkara and Samaraweera. Despite a minor flutter at the end, where they lost 3 wickets for 28 runs, they reached the target comfortably. Sulieman Benn, with his 3 wickets, was the only West Indian bowler to have numbers worth noticing.

Pak 285 - 9 in 50 overs, Ban 196 all out in 41.4 overs - Pak win by 89 runs

Even though Pakistan put up a very formidable total, it was built on the back of just one big partnership - 152 runs for the 4th wicket between opener Ahmed Shehzad (103) and Misbah-ul-Haq (100). The rest of the batting did not fire as Rubel Hossain and the irrepressible captain Shakib Al Hasan picked 3 wickets each.

 the star Bangladeshi opener Tamim Iqbal fell for a golden duck on the first ball of the innings, their chase was all but over. Imrul Kayes and Junaid Siddique got 39 and 38 respectively, but no one could do more than that. Kayes plays a perfect foil for Tamim when Tamim clicks... but Bangladesh really need to find a solution for Kayes' slow batting when Tamim does not fire. It can have an effect of completely stalling the progress of their innings. For Pakistan, the evergreen Abdul Razzaq picked 3 wickets (including Tamim), while Mohammed Hafeez and Abdur Rehman chipped in with 2 each.

Monday, February 14, 2011


There was just one warm up match for the World Cup today... and it was a high profile one! The hosts India were taking on four-time defending champions Australia. A good sized crowd had materialised even before the toss, which was won by Dhoni.

First Innings

The first thing that hit you on watching this innings was that Lee is looking good, sharp and dangerous. He was a threat from the very first ball, when he got a very good shape into Gautam Gambhir. However, despite what all the other reports might suggest, the rest of the Australian pace attack seemed off colour to me. Too many wides on either side of the stumps was a very uncharacteristic element of their performance today (this statement does not apply to Mitchell Johnson)!

India would be and should be worried by the tendency of the batsmen to play too many casual strokes sometimes. Kohli, Dhoni and Raina were the guilty ones today. Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina continued to look rusty and jaded. They need to find some inspiration somewhere to lift themselves... because the top-order may not be able to perform 3 matches in a row from the Quarter finals onwards!

It was interesting to watch Jason Krejza bowl. He was way too short a lot of times... but it still looked that he had flighted it up nicely. His height helps him with a good attacking ball trajectory, and also allows more revolutions on the ball before it bounces. The resultant spin was evident by its display today. It was sharp and it was refreshing to watch an Australian spinner do it.

He was a little expensive today though! And that will be Australia's biggest problem. Ponting has too many attacking options - Lee, Johnson, Bollinger, Tait (did not play today) and Krejza. He will need to get a good few overs out of Hastings, Watson and Hussey to bring stability to the attack, because three of his attacking bowlers (Johson, Tait and Krejza) have a tendency to be expensive sometimes (two of them erratic too)!

Since 2 of these 3 are bound to feature in the XI, Ponting will need someone who can do a holding job with the ball. Hastings showed he can do it and we all know Watson can do it. But the interesting question for me is: can Ponting afford to and will he dare to play Mitch and Tait together in the XI?

Second Innings

Though it became a Ponting and Chawla show later on, the second innings for me was all about Shane Watson and how different he is from the rest of his team! Watson was super confident and in imperious touch today. He never looked hurried, let alone troubled! And the pace at which he was getting his boundaries, I immediately started thinking way ahead of him as a contender for the Player of the Tournament award.

Sreesanth looked very good today and he will need to maintain this rhythm for a month and a half more for India to have a strong chance of winning the World Cup. Munaf and Nehra were pathetic to the point that Dhoni might now seriously consider playing 2 spinners and 2 pacers in his attack. There was one fielding effort (or rather, the lack of it) where Nehra did not bend enough to stop a drive that convinced me that the time has come to drop him for at least a couple of games.

All the spinners were good, but I am still not convinced about Chawla's place in the XI. This pitch was supportive, and he bowled well. When pitches are flatter and not supportive, will he be as good or even half as good? I have my doubts! And to be fair, Ashwin bowled just as well as Chawla in my opinion, without having anything significant to show for it.

Australia should be concerned by another batting collapse... something that has become fairly regular in their cricket now. Their middle order situation is even worse than that of India's, and that's saying something!


Both teams are strong enough, despite the shortcomings, to reach the semis. Ian Chappell reckons they will meet each other at that stage... and if they do, expect it to be another cracker like this one!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


So the countdown to the start of Cricket World Cup 2011 is on its last stretch... less than a week to go now. The warm up matches have begun, and on the first day, we had 5 of them. Here are a few random thoughts on those matches:

WI 253 - 8 in 50 overs, Ken 192 all out in 45.3 overs - WI win by 61 runs

Ramnaresh Sarwan scored a 125-ball 123 to guide West Indies to a 250+ score, aided by Dwayne Bravo's 56-ball 54 towards the end of their innings. While West Indies will be delighted with Sarwan and Bravo, they need to be wary of the fact that their top order misfired once again. 65 for 4 in the 20th over against Kenya is not a good score... and it was surprising to see that they did not send Kieron Pollard for a hit. He could have done with some practice ahead of the main tournament. But the biggest surprise was that Chris Gayle did not figure in the 12-man team that took part in the warm-up game.

As for Kenya, the veterans Thomas Odoyo and Steve Tikolo were good with the ball. While batting, Collins Obuya made a composed half-century and had he gotten a little more support after his 70-run second wicket stand with Seren Waters, Kenya could have made a serious push towards the target. Though Roach and Russell combined well with the ball, they could not get breakthroughs with the new ball. Kenya has shown promise on the land where they first rose to prominence way back in 1996!

SL 351 - 5 in 50 overs, Neth 195 all out in 47.3 overs - SL win by 156 runs

It was a typical Sri Lankan performance against a minnow, especially on the home ground. The Dutch were soundly thrashed, first by the Sri Lankan batting unit where everyone got starts and then by the bowling performances of Fernando, Perera and Herath. Sri Lanka, however, should be concerned by the fact that none of their batsmen could score a big hundred in batting friendly home conditions, with a run-a-ball 78 from TM Dilshan being their highest score.

Though Tom De Grooth and Bas Zuiderent showed a bit of a fight, Netherlands were never expected to, nor did they, get anywhere close to the target. The only thing that they did well was playing Ajantha Mendis, who had figures of 1 for 40 in 8 overs, that 1 wicket being the 9th to fall... not the figures you'd normally associate with a mystery bowler against a minnow on his home conditions.

Can 112 all out in 37.3 overs, Ban 113 - 1 in 19.2 overs - Ban win by 9 wickets

Bangladesh put in a thoroughly efficient performance to dismantle Canada completely... so efficient it was that they may now be regretting the fact that their batters did not really get a good hit in match conditions before the World Cup. Though Razzaq went wicketless, the other spinners led by skipper Shakib Al Hasan grabbed 6 wickets in a good bowling performance. Except for the skipper Ashish Bagai, no Canadian could muster a solid performance.

While chasing, Tamim Iqbal got the hosts to a flyer... and the match was over within a few blinks. 7 fours and 3 sixes in a 50-ball 69 meant that other than the openers, no one else got any decent batting practice. This was a new Bangladesh side... way different from the one that lost to Canada by 60 runs in the group stages of 2003 World Cup! They have come a long way!

NZ 311 - 6 in 50 overs, Ire 279 all out in 48.2 overs - NZ win by 32 runs

New Zealand must have had a comfortable win in the end, but all credit must go to Ireland for the fight that they put in into their chase. The Kiwis relied on a 134-ball 130 from Martin Guptill and then cameos from Ryder, Taylor, Franklin and Styris to set up a good total... the perfect example of how a batting unit should function! If the Kiwis can manage it against tougher oppositions, they could be well on their way to another good World Cup performance.

While they didn't find much cheer while bowling, the Irish chase was well built. A brilliant and fast opening stand, followed by more good top-order partnerships kept them in the hunt for quite a while. Unfortunately for them, their middle order and lower middle order could not keep up with the challende and they folded in the 49th over. While Porterfield, Stirling, Joyce, Niall O'Brien and Johnston did well with the bat, the bowling performer of the day was the wily Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori... 4 for 42 in 10 overs, and good support from Kyle Mills. The Kiwis should be overall happy with this performance, especially given the run of performances they have had of late!

Zim 152 all out in 41.5 overs, SA 153 - 2 in 23.3 overs - SA win by 8 wickets

Though Zimbabwe was dismissed for 153 only, it was as unlike a South African bowling performance as you are ever likely to see. I say this because 6 of the wickets were picked by spinners, though Morne Morkel was extremely brilliant and threatening in his 6 overs, 3 for 16. Imran Tahir got a game and got 3 wickets... which makes it interesting to see whether he'll make the cut for the first XI above Johan Botha and Robin Peterson.

Taylor's 40 was the only bright spot for Zimbabwe during the whole day... where they were later carted around by Amla, Smith and Kallis. That Kallis hit 3 sixes during his unbeaten 39-ball 49 should tell you something about his injury status! However, like Bangladesh, even South African batsmen (except these 3) missed a golden chance to get some batting practice under their belt!

Friday, February 11, 2011


I wonder how exactly do the organisers plan to sell the tickets for New Zealand v Canada and New Zealand v Sri Lanka games at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai at such obnoxiously high prices!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


The verdict from the panel that heard the case of ICC against three Pakistan cricketers (Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir) is due to be out soon. It will, almost definitely, be a landmark verdict... and though the entire world is absolutely convinced about the guilt of the trio involved, there are still some who advocate lesser punishments as compared to the life bans on most people's minds.

I did a bit of my own thinking on this. People who advocate life bans and other stringent punishments do so with all the good intentions of seeing cricket free of all these dirty businesses. Like them, even I want to live in a world where cricket (and every other sport) is played for the pride of winning... and not on the whims of a director behind the scenes. The sole director in any sport should be the spirit of competition between the competitors. And I am sure everyone wants to see it that way (except for the bookies)!

However, I have been, for quite some time, a little unsure about what would be the ideal punishment for those found guilty of all this muck. Does a life ban serve the purpose? Or if not the life ban, then what is the alternative?

Firstly, I would like my readers to think to themselves... what is the purpose of a life ban? Most believe that a life ban will deter anyone else in the future from attempting such shady deals and that it will help cleanse our sport.

But then is that the sole purpose for which we are punishing these cricketers? Once again, lets introspect and ask ourselves, if this is the purpose of a life ban, then what is the purpose of the punishment that will be given to them? Is it just about cleaning our sport or is it something more?

The way I look at it, a punishment is meted out not only to set an example to the rest of the society, but also to help the individual who is subject to such punishment to get better as a result of it. When a criminal is jailed for a crime that he / she has committed, it is with an intention to see him / her come out of it a better individual. A punishment must deter not only the rest of the society, but also that very individual who is being punished, from committing such an offence again.

Take notice of the word 'again' above. I lay stress on it because where one says again, it implies another chance. The individual subject to the punishment should be given a chance to prove to the world that the punishment has served its purpose... and that there has been improvement... that he's come out a different person compared to the one who had been jailed! Isn't that how an ideal society should work?

If the sole purpose of giving a punishment were to deter the others in the society who may have similar motives, then isn't our system a little flawed? Aren't we running a system intent on making scapegoats out of miscreants rather than making better individuals out of flawed ones?

When politicians play their mud-slinging antics every time something is wrong and try to make a scapegoat out of their opposition, we chastise them for their acts. Aren't we doing something similar? "Be the change that you want to see in the world!" This is one of the most famous Gandhian principles. I think it applies very aptly in this case.

Coming to the case of the Pakistani trio, I believe that they must be given a chance. Giving a chance does not imply no punishment at all. Of course they must be punished... and stringently at that! But at the end of the tunnel, they should be allowed to see a small ray of light.

Punish them hard, but also allow them a chance, that somewhere down the line, they might be able to come back to the game and prove to the world that they are improved men. Punish them hard, so much so that if and when they avail their second chance, they shall not even think of trodding on the wrong path again. But at the end of the day, give them a chance!

People may ask that how can one say for certain that they will change for the better with any punishment. But then, are there any certainties in life? How can a traffic cop be certain that you will never cross the speed limits again or that you will never park your vehicle wrongly again after he has fined you? Or to ask a more relevant question, how can you be sure that handing out life bans to the trio will not deter anyone else from trying this again?

For all you know, life bans might have quite a reverse impact as well. The wrong kind of cricketers might well think to themselves that once we are caught, our game will be over... so why not make as much moolah as we can while we are still in the game! That would be a spur to these kinds of shady activities... not a setback!

Eventually, whatever may be the verdict at Doha is almost certainly going to be challenged, one way or the other. There will certainly be an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), and the men up there will have the final word.

A final word in the lives of these three cricketers... a final word for the future of our sport!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


There are rumours that Praveen Kumar may not recover in time for the World Cup. It was reported in the Times of India that Praveen will be flying to the UK for further treatment.

I can already see Sreesanth waiting in eager anticipation of the diagnosis. But from the team point-of-view, it will be a major setback to India. Praveen Kumar can swing the ball with good control when it is new, but the most impressive thing that I find in him is that pressure does not get on to him. It almost seems to me that he is impervious to it. If the batsmen attack him, he gets back to his mark with just a shrug of his shoulders.

Sreesanth is also a swing bowler and can get wickets with the new ball, but he does not offer good control. He may vary from exceptional to horrible! Sreesanth's career economy rate is 6.01 as compared to a 5.07 for Praveen Kumar. That will be India's biggest loss if Praveen were to be ruled out.

India may then well have to employ the services of Munaf Patel in the XI, who offers an even better career economy rate of 4.78, but is a liability on the field and no good with the bat. "No good with the bat" is the point I was going to come to next.

Praveen is a very handy character with the bat. He almost carried India to win in that Hyderabad ODI where Sachin scored that 175. He batted very well in that series. It was because he got run out that Australia were able to seal the game! He has opened in First Class cricket for Uttar Pradesh and his batting is clearly a cut above Munaf's and Sreesanth's.

The reason why I am placing so much of importance of Praveen's batting is that India may well be fielding a 6 batsman - 5 bowler combination sometime during this World Cup (even though I am dead against it). Nothing else explains Piyush Chawla's inclusion in the 15! If India does play 5 bowlers, Praveen Kumar's and Harbhajan Singh's batting becomes very crucial at No. 7 and No. 8, because both of them are way better with the bat than Piyush Chawla, especially when it is time to go for the big hits. I have already mentioned it earlier on this blog that I don't think Chawla has it in him to be able to attack the faster bowlers in front of the wicket. The best he can do is guide the ball behind the wickets, but if he doesn't find the gaps, it will just result in singles.

Harbhajan and Praveen, on the other hand, can hit even the faster bowlers in front of the wicket on the up. Even Zaheer Khan can do that better than Piyush Chawla, which is why it is very important for India to beef up the lower order batting if indeed the 5-bowler strategy is going to be used.

I just hope that Praveen Kumar recovers well in time for the World Cup... he definitely is an essential cog in India's cricket team.


I don't know how many of you believe in numerology and how many of you consider the number 13 unlucky. If you do, then I must let you know that there are a total of 13 cricket grounds across the sub-continent that are scheduled to host the World Cup matches.

1. Mirpur (Dhaka), Bangladesh - Shere Bangla National Stadium
2. Chittagong, Bangladesh - Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium
3. Ahmedabad, India - Sardar Patel Stadium (Motera)
4. Bangalore, India - M. Chinnaswamy Stadium
5. Chennai, India - MA Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk)
6. Kolkata, India - Eden Gardens
7. Mohali, India - PCA Stadium
8. Mumbai, India - Wankhede Stadium
9. Nagpur, India - VCA Stadium (Jamtha)
10. New Delhi, India - Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium
11. Colombo, Sri Lanka - R. Premadasa Stadium
12. Hambantota, Sri Lanka - Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium
13. Pallekele (Kandy), Sri Lanka - Pallekele International Cricket Stadium

If you believe that 13 is unlucky, then be prepared to see Eden Gardens lose its right to host the remaining matches as well in a few days' time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This is quite a weird co-incident... but thanks to this, it has come to my notice. India has been in four World Cup semifinals and New Zealand in five World Cup semifinals. India has never reached the semifinals when New Zealand have managed to do so, and New Zealand have never reached when India have managed the same.

The above table also shows that these two teams have been following an alternate routine in respect of World Cup semifinals appearances since 1987. Since New Zealand did reach the semifinals last time in 2007, so now we know whose turn it is this year!


The BCCI has recommended that the India v. England World Cup match scheduled for February 27 be shifted to Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium after ICC disbarred the Eden Gardens, Kolkata from hosting it. And needless to say, ICC has accepted BCCI's recommendation and now ICC's official website shows the venue of this match as Bangalore.

But the question to be asked here is why Bangalore?

There were a total of 8 venues in India hosting matches in the original itinerary. Out of these eight, 5 had been given 1 India match and 3 non-India matches each. These 5 are New Delhi (Ferozeshah Kotla), Kolkata (Eden Gardens), Bangalore (Chinnaswamy), Chennai (M Chidambaram) and Nagpur (VCA Jamtha).

The other 3 venues had been awarded 2 non-India matches and 1 Knock Out match each. These three venues are Ahmedabad (Sardar Patel - Quarterfinal), Mohali (PCA - Semifinal) and Mumbai (Wankhede - Finals).

This was a logical allocation rule to follow between the top-8 Test centers of India. So now that Eden Gardens' India match is out of the picture, why did Bangalore land this match? They already have their 1 India match on March 6 (India v. Ireland).

Logically, I would have thought that Ahmedabad, Mohali or Mumbai should have landed this match because they are hosting 1 match less as compared to the other venues and are not assured of hosting an India match. Before I'd heard that Bangalore might get that match, I was thinking on the lines of Mohali because it is one of India's finest cricket grounds and is not assured of hosting an India match because favourites or not, India have to reach the semifinals first to play at Mohali.

Whatsoever may be the reason, shifting this match to Bangalore has perplexed me a bit. It would be nice if BCCI were to come up with an explanation and a reasoning as to why was Bangalore recommended over other venues. But then, this is BCCI we are talking about! Maybe I am expecting too much!