Saturday, December 11, 2010

Warne would be ready to come back if made captain

More than the million dollars, it is Australia's captaincy which can pull spin legend Shane Warne out of retirement to rescue the team's floundering Ashes campaign, claims cricketer-turned-commentator Dean Jones. 

The 41-year-old Warne has been offered a million dollars to come out of retirement by a group of businessmen in Melbourne which has created a media frenzy around his possible return after Australia lost the second Ashes Test to be 0-1 down in the five-match series. 

The flamboyant leg-spinner has chosen to remain mum on the issue but Jones said Warne would definitely consider a comeback if he is handed the captaincy for the next two years. 

"Warnie, without doubt, no joke, could actually come back," Jones told '3AW' -- a radio station in Melbourne. 

"He's the Rolls-Royce. He can do anything he really wants in that regard. He just has to get himself fit. But I'll say this, categorically, because I want everyone to understand it, if Cricket Australia walked up to Shane Warne and said 'Would you come out of retirement and we'll give you the captaincy for two years?', I know for a fact he would take it. He would play," he added. 

Jones said all the talk about Warne being unprepared for the grind after three years of retirement means nothing as the legendary spinner remains a magician with the ball. 

"With bells on, he'd be running out of his house right now putting on his cricket shoes and putting on the runners to get himself fit," Jones said of the bowler who grabbed 708 Test wickets during his 15-year career. 

"He makes out that it's really, really difficult to bowl leg-spin and do all that type of stuff. 

"But really, he just walks in off three feet and bowls the ball. So it's not too hard. Let me tell you, he's the Rolls- Royce. He can do anything he really wants in that regard. He just has to get himself fit," he added.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sachin & Dhoni in Top Bracket - IPL 4

Around 62 Indian cricketers will be up for auction for the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the legendary Sachin Tendulkar in the top-bracket of cricketers valued at Rs 1.84 crore. 

However, Tendulkar and Dhoni are likely to be retained by their respective franchises -- Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. 

Former India captains Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid along with VVS Laxman are in the third bracket which has a base price of Rs 92 lakh. 

The cricketers who will command the highest base price of Rs 1.84 crore are Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. 

The second bracket is that of Rs 1.3 crore where Twenty20 specialist Yusuf Pathan finds a place alongside speedster Zaheer Khan and the talented Suresh Raina. 

Similarly stand-in ODI captain Gautam Gambhir, who didn't have a great IPL 2 and 3, has been priced in the third bracket at Rs 92 lakh along with the likes of Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and veterans such as Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman. 

The fourth bracket is of Rs 46 lakh which consists of domestic cricketers and the fringe India players who have represented the country since 2005. 

Bengal players Wriddhiman Saha, Manoj Tiwary, Ashok Dinda along with Saurashtra's Cheteshwar Pujara are some of the players in the fourth bracket. 

The fifth and final bracket is of Rs 23 lakh where there are India discards such as Manpreet Gony, Sudeep Tyagi, Sridharan Sriram to name a few. 

The five brackets of base price: 1st: Rs 1.84 crore; 2nd: Rs 1.3 crore; 3rd: Rs 92 lakh; 4th: Rs 46 lakh; 5th bracket: Rs 23 lakh 

List of Players up for auction 

Andhra: Yelakka Venugopal Rao; Assam: Sridharan Sriram Baroda: Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ambati Rayudu, Munaf Patel; 

Bengal: Sourav Ganguly, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda; 

Delhi: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma 

Gujarat: Parthiv Patel, Siddharth Trivedi Haryana: Joginder Sharma, Amit Mishra 

Hyderabad: VVS Laxman, T Suman, Pragyan Ojha 

Jharkhand: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Saurabh Tiwary 

Karnataka: Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Manish Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar, Robin Uthappa 

Kerala: S Sreesanth 

Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Wasim Jaffer, Abhishek Raut, Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Ramesh Powar 

Madhya Pradesh: Naman Ojha 

Punjab: Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Manpreet Gony, VRV Singh 

Railways: Murali Kartik Rajasthan: Pankaj Singh 

Saurahstra: Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara 

Tamil Nadu: Dinesh Karthik, S Badrinath, R Sathish, R Ashwin, M Vijay, L Balaji 

Uttar Pradesh: Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar, Sudeep Tyagi, Piyush Chawla, Rudra Pratap Singh 

Vidarbha: Umesh Yadav.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bhajji - Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh is one of India's all time great spin bowlers. Only Anil Kumble has taken more Test wickets for India amongst spinners, and only Kumble (66) and Chandrashekhar (66) have better Harbhajan's strike rate (68 deliveries). Bishan Singh Bedi took a wicket every 80 balls, Prasanna, a wicket every 76 balls. For Venkatraghavan the figure for 95 balls. 

Look beyond the famed quartet, and we find Vinoo Mankad taking a wicket every 91 balls, Subhash Gupte doing so once in 76 deliveries and Dilip Doshi doing it once every 82 balls. Only Kumble (2.6), Gupte (2.4) and Chandrashekhar (2.5) took more wickets per innings than Harbhajan has done - 2.3. Amongst finger-spinners no Indian spin bowler - not even the classical orthodox spinners, have done better than Harbhajan Singh. This, despite the fact that Harbhajan has faced far more professional batting line ups than any other Indian spin bowler except Kumble. Armies of computer technicians and simulated wickets dissect every quirk that a bowler has these days. This hurts spinners the most, for spinners rely on mystery and guile far more than the quick men.

And yet, Harbhajan is under fire these days. His performance has declined. Unlike in the days of Prasanna, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkatraghavan, Gupte, Mankad and Doshi, India are now the World's Number One Test team, and are expected to win. Harbhajan is measured against Warne and Muralitharan, not against an Indian spin quartet, that, good as it was, won less than Kumble and Harbhajan have done in the 2000s. Faced with a number of merciless wickets, Harbhajan Singh has suffered. His unorthodox style counts against him, especially in India, where the spin standard has been set by the famed-spin-quartet. Facts rarely come in the way of perceptions in these matters.

There's little doubt that he's a bowler of great class. His ability to hit the bat high up towards the splice regularly suggests that he's not easy to read and is constantly beating batsmen in the flight. On slow, dead wickets, batsmen can play the ball off the pitch quite easy, and it becomes harder for a finger spinner to get wickets. Wrist spinners can still make something happening because they spin the ball more and have a greater capacity to get it to hurry off the pitch. But finger spinners need a wicket with at least some life if they are to be successful. It's especially hard to be an attacking wrist spinner like Harbhajan Singh is, on dead wickets. The bowler is forced to vary flight and speed, giving batsmen scoring opportunities and making it harder for captains to set fields. It's much harder for a finger spinner to induce error on dead wickets than any other type of bowler.

Harbhajan's criticism of dead wickets is therefore well founded. But it is often received in bad taste. However right he may be on the merits, Harbhajan doesn't help himself by praising a wicket after the first two days when he takes 4/76 in 35 overs, and then complaining at the end of the game after he takes 1/117 over the last two. Having little or no support at the other end doesn't help. Pragyan Ojha is a steady bowler, but he's not in the same class as Harbhajan Singh. I think curators at Test Match grounds will do well to produce wickets which offer at least something for the bowlers.

I suspect that an extend stint away from Home will do Harbhajan a lot of good. He will look forward to South Africa, England and next December, Australia.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reputations, Expectations and Australia's impending Ashes success - Part 2

continuation of Yesterday article.....

If England's self-regard appears to be less than misplaced, it is only because Australia have looked alarmingly poor in the last 2 years or so. Since Stuart Clark and Brett Lee left the Test Match scene, Australia have not done as well as usual. This is even though, since their Ashes defeat in England they have beaten West Indies 2-0, Pakistan 3-0 and New Zealand 2-0. Their last two series results have been a 1-1 draw against Pakistan in England and a 0-2 defeat in England (which should have been 1-1, but for VVS Laxman and some amazing tactical choices from Ponting).

Yet, if you compare a bowling line up comprising of Bollinger, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Watson with one comprising of Anderson, Broad, Bresnan, Finn and Tremlett, Australia, in my view, have the edge, especially in Australia. Against the non-minnow Test playing nations, these bowlers have the following records:

Bollinger 49 wickets at 23.79 in 11 Tests
Siddle 60 wickets at 31.53 in 17 Tests
Hilfenhaus 48 wickets at 31.06 in 12 Tests
Johnson 166 wickets at 29.06 in 38 Tests
Watson 40 wickets at 27.25 in 21 Tests

Anderson 168 wickets at 32.88 in 48 Tests
Broad 91 wickets at 33.53 in 30 Tests
Bresnan 3 wickets at 32.33 in 2 Tests
Finn 13 wickets at 22.92 in 4 Tests
Tremlett 13 wickets at 29.69 in 4 Tests

There isn't much to choose between the two sides batting wise either. Australia have been using a makeshift batting combination - Katich and Watson, who have done well. These are followed by Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and North, a formidable combination. Haddin is a solid wicketkeeper, and Johnson is quite capable with the bat. England will field Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Morgan, Collingwood, followed by Prior and Broad. These are two evenly matched line ups. The most telling thing about these line ups is that if you asked the punditocracy in England and Australia, almost to a man, they would point to Marcus North as the weak link. Why? Is it because North averages 37.4 in Tests? This is low for a specialist batsman, especially one who plays for Australia. 

Yet, if you dig deeper into North's record, his batting average is low on account of having made only 77 runs in 8 innings against Pakistan. In all, in 32 innings, North has reached at least 50 9 times. Keep that figure in mind - 9 out of 32. He has also been dismissed for single digit scores 14 times. So Marcus North is a nervous starter who reaches 50 once every 3.6 innings against non-minnow Test teams.

What are the numbers for England's players?

Andrew Strauss: 36 out of 135, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.8 innings
Paul Collingwood: 29 out of 106, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.7 innings
Ian Bell: 29 out of 93, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.2 innings
Kevin Pietersen: 33 out of 110, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.3 innings.
Eoin Morgan: 1 out of 6
Alistair Cook: 33 out of 101, or 1 fifty plus score every 3.1 innings

Not very different from North's are they? Ironically, the two most criticized England batsmen are Ian Bell and Alistair Cook, and they both do better than the England captain, and England's Steve Waugh - Paul Collingwood.

What are the numbers for Australia's other batsmen?

Ricky Ponting: 71 out of 188, or 1 fifty plus score every 2.6 innings (over the last 10 years)
Michael Hussey: 31 out of 91 or 1 fifty plus score every 3 innings
Michael Clarke: 33 out of 100, or 1 fifty plus score every 3 innings
Shane Watson: 13 out of 37, or 1 fifty plus score in every 2.9 innings
Simon Katich: 33 out of 92, or 1 fifty plus score every 2.8 innings

The Australians are consistently better than the Englishmen.

Sachin Tendulkar is right though. Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann are the players to watch out for. Morgan is a promising player. The comparison between Morgan and North is an interesting one and I'll get to it in a minute. Swann could turn out to be the difference between the two sides. He has been called the best England off-spinner since Fred Titmus, and I think he's a complete orthodox spin bowler. But is he good enough to be the difference between the two sides and give England the decided edge? I doubt it.

Swann's impressive career record (113 wickets at 26.55), is built around tremendous success against Bangladesh (22 wickets at 27.9 in 4 Tests), Pakistan (22 wickets at 12.22 in 4 Tests) and West Indies (26 wickets at 22.15 in 5 Tests). Against Australia, India and South Africa, Swann's record is decidedly more modest (13 wickets at 40.5 against Australia, 8 wickets at 39.5 against India and 21 wickets at 31.4 against South Africa). Swann's record mirrors England performance almost perfectly. With his zany sunglasses and his swagger, he embodies England's Test team, and holds the key to the Ashes. He is the one plausible spinner playing in this Ashes series.

In conclusion, the 2010-11 Ashes series is decidedly a mid-table clash. It will decide whether or not Australia have declined sufficiently to be a solid mid-table team, just like England have been over the last couple of years. The formbook is being read, in my view, in two contradictory ways. As far as Australia are concerned, the reading is mostly negative, mainly because they are unlikely to match their 5-0 performance. As far as England are concerned, it is a narrative of excellence and ascendancy, mainly because they are unlikely to suffer the kind of humiliating defeats that have been the norm for them in Australia over the last 24 years. Hence, Eoin Morgan is England’s great hope, while Marcus North is Australia’s weak link.

The facts, as they ought to be read, tell a different story. Australia’s decline only makes this a plausible contest, instead of an easy romp for the hosts. But the hosts still start as favorites, as most hosts should in Test Cricket. Graeme Swann could change that, but I doubt that he will.

I favor Australia to regain the Ashes in 2010-11, at least as convincingly as England regained them in 2005 and 2009.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reputations, Expectations and Australia's impending Ashes success - Part 1

England are favored to win the Ashes by many observers, including Sachin Tendulkar. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. England last won the Ashes 2-1 in Australia in 1986-87 under the captaincy of Mike Gatting. That team had David Gower and Ian Botham, and the Australians of 1986-87 were probably the weakest Australian side of the 20th century. Yet, England only won a narrow 2-1 series victory.

Since then, England have toured Australia in 1990-91, 1994-95, 1998-99, 2002-03 and 2006-07. In these 5 series combined, they have not won a single Test match when the Ashes were still up for grabs. In 1990-91, they lost the Ashes in 13 playing days, in 1994-95 it took them 15 playing days to lose, in 1998-99 13, in 2002-03 11 and in 2006-07 they lost the Ashes in 15 days and went on to lose 5-0. It only took 15 days in 2006-07 because Australia didn't enforce the follow-on after taking a 445 run lead in the first innings in the first Test at Brisbane.

It is not excessively harsh to say that England's tours of Australia over the last 24 years have been unmitigated disasters. When it is said that England are favored to win the Ashes, this must be read in the context of these disastrous tours. If Australia were to win the Ashes 1-0 or 2-1, England should probably consider that to be a successful tour.

But there is another dynamic at work which might reveal why England will take great offense at my last statement. Since Michael Vaughan took over the England captaincy, England have projected a sense of superiority that every good team should aspire to. In the last 7 years, their most notable results have been a 2-1 win in South Africa in 2004-05 and two 2-1 Ashes wins in England. Apart from this, their performance has been decided modest against good teams, but quite dominating against the lower half of the ICC rankings - Pakistan, New Zealand and West Indies. What's more, England's performances have been in decline for some time now, even as their assessment of their own abilities reveals a lot of confidence. In the last 4 years (since their 5-0 Ashes thrashing), they have lost to South Africa and India in England, lost a Test match in New Zealand, and Test series in West Indies, Sri Lanka and India. But yes, they did win the Ashes in England last year, and they did draw a Test series in South Africa in 2009-10. 

Since their Ashes defeat in 2002-03, England have won 47 Test matches and lost 24. But if you look into the details of this 47-24 record, it includes a 12-1 record against West Indies, 8-0 against Bangladesh, 7-1 against New Zealand, 2-0 against Zimbabwe and 6-3 against Pakistan. That amounts to a 35-5 record against West Indies, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Pakistan in 49 Test Matches. Against Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka, their record is 4-7, 1-3, 6-6 and 1-3 respectively - a total of 12-19 in 50 Tests.

Since the start of the 2003 season (Vaughan took over when Hussein retired during the New Zealand series in the 2003 season in England), England record then, is as follows:

35-5 in 49 Tests against Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe
12-19 in 50 Tests against Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka

This leads me to question the basis of their current confidence - victories over a dysfunctional, inexperienced Pakistan side in England, preceded by victories against Bangladesh. They did achieve two good results against Australia and England before that, but they had Flintoff for the Australian series, and they could have easily lost the series in South Africa 3-1 had they lost 2 more wickets. This was despite the fact that Dale Steyn was an uncertain starter and came into the series without too much match practice following injury. On the same wickets on which Morne Morkel took 19 wickets at 21 and Steyn took 15 wickets at 24, England’s fast bowlers managed 13 wickets at 33 (Broad), 16 wickets at 34 (Anderson) and 8 wickets at 46 (Onions). In the batting, only 3 Englishmen made more than 250 runs in the series, while 5 South Africans achieved this. England also scored only 2 centuries in the series - one each from Bell and Cook. South Africa in contrast managed 5 - 2 each from Smith and Kallis and another from Amla.

to be continued....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

BCCI axes Rajasthan and Punjab for IPL 4

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has terminated the contracts of Rajasthan Royals and King's XI Punjab IPL teams. As a result of this the two teams will be barred from participating in the IPL 4 next year.

The Board has issued a notice to the Kochi franchise and given them more time to get their house in order and incorporate a company.

The decision was taken during the emergency meeting of the IPL Governing Council in Mumbai

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Royals' co-owner Raj Kundra said that it was a sad development and "the termination of the contract by BCCI is shocking."

He further said that there are heavy investments involved in the franchise and they will now fight a legal battle. 

It was unanimously decided that the Franchise agreements with K.P.H. Dream Cricket Pvt. Ltd. (King's XI Punjab) and Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt. Ltd. (Rajasthan Royals) will be terminated based on the Legal opinions obtained by BCCI in the matters.

"There are several irregularities and breach of terms and conditions of the (IPL) franchise agreement. All the three errant franchises need to get their houses in order before the next player auctions are held in November," BCCI President Shashank Manohar had said on September 29 after the Annual General Body Meeting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


BCCI President Shashank Manohar has summoned an emergency meeting of the IPL Governing Council on Sunday in Mumbai to discuss appropriate action against three IPL franchises - Kochi, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.

Kochi's deadline to submit paperwork with regard to its franchise expires on Friday. According to information from sources, both Kochi and Rajasthan - may be barred from participating in IPL 4.

The BCCI in recently held Annual General Meeting (AGM) had issued show-cause notices to the new Kochi IPL franchise and to the Shilpa-Shetty-co-owned Rajasthan Royals and Priety-Zinta-co-owned Kings XI Punjab IPL for alleged irregularities.

The new Kochi franchise had been told to incorporate a company as soon as possible as the bid had been given to individuals and no legal entity had been incorporated.

The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) had earlier in the month decided to initiate talks with owners of the Kochi IPL franchise on October 7 here to sort out various issues plaguing the controversy marred team. 

A consortium of owners, including Rendezvous Sports World had won the Kochi IPL franchise in March with a bid of Rs 1530 crore.

Controversy had dogged the new team following a spat between former Union minister of state for External affairs Shashi Tharoor and Former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi over the ownership of Rendezvous Sports world (RSW).

Sunanda Pushkar, now wife of Tharoor, had held 18 per cent free equity in the RSW and had returned it after the controversy broke out and Tharoor resigned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Indian 15 year old 'batsman' plunders 461

A 15-year old Indian schoolboy has entered the record books with a marathon innings in an inter-academy tournament conducted by the Vidharba Cricket Association. Ali Zoren Khan’s unbeaten 461 helped Nagpur Cricket Academy to a mammoth 1025 for 5 in 120 overs against the Reshimbag Cricket Club. Ali, who finished the first day on 364, knew there was a record to be broken when he returned to the crease on the second morning. He faced 308 balls for his runs, hitting 64 fours and 12 sixes before the declaration came. "I could have scored 500,” Ali said later about his innings, “but we had a plan to bat till lunch as we needed enough time to bowl them out twice. So no regrets.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spain vs France for Zidane Jr.

Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano recently said that "there will be a duel" between France and Spain over Zidane's 15-year-old son Enzo. Like two of his younger brothers, Enzo has been drooled over ever since he entered Real's youth system. A clip of him destroying kids on the pitch in 2007 has almost4.5 million views on YouTube. And Valdano is disturbingly eager to compare Enzo, an attacking midfielder who, at times, wears the number 10 (he wears 11 in the video above), to his legendary father.  

While France has naturally expressed interest in having Enzo continue to dazzle in his father's shadow in their national team setup, Spain U-16 coach Gines Melendez just announced his intention to call up Enzo in October.
Keeping with Valdano's duel analogy, Spain has a machine gun while France has a potato gun. The only thing working in France's favor here is that Enzo's father played for Les Bleus. Their federation is a mess and embarrassments of the last few months are hardly attractive to anyone, let alone a 15-year-old kid with a short memory. Meanwhile, Enzo lives in Spain, plays for one of Spain's biggest clubs (which also employs his father) and experienced the country winning both Euro 08 and the 2010 World Cup.
Of course, the kid is still just 15 years old. So all this dueling and drooling could only lead to disappointment. Or he could be the next Zidane. Well, he is the next Zidane, but you know what I mean. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Champions League 2010 Live - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Highveld Lions

 Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Highveld Lions

Looking back - 1986 Tied Test

The 1986 tied Test, it has been argued more than once, is one of the great forgotten Test Matches of all time. The short video in this post is about Umpire Vikram Raju's final decision, which brought the result about. It remains controversial to this day, but I tend to see this the Umpire's way. I think the Umpire was probably right in this instance, even though Maninder seemed to be absolutely sure about the inside edge and Allan Border at silly point suspected it. The grainy pictures are hard to decipher, but it seems to me that Greg Mathews bowled the quicker one and Maninder Singh was trapped plumb in front, his bat came down late on the ball. Whether it came down late enough to miss the ball, or whether it came down just fast enough for the ball to kiss the edge, we will never know. The only disinterested observer thought it missed the ball, and that is the best evidence that we have. While Allan Border suspected the inside edge, the other players around the bat didn't. Their appeal was as spontaneous as Maninder's show of the bat.

Close LBW decisions have a way of playing a part in close India-Australia Tests. With the series level and India chasing 155 for victory, Glenn McGrath bowled to Sameer Dighe with India at 7/147. Cricinfo has recorded that delivery as follows

37.5 McGrath to Dighe, no run, thrusts his pads in front, brushes the pads on its way to the keeper, loud appeal, turned down, looked very close.

It was very close indeed. I remember it like it was yesterday. Dighe was caught on the crease to one that McGrath got to swing in late from a fullish length. It may have hit Dighe a shave outside off stump, but I don't think there would have been too many complaints had that been given out. It made all the difference in my view.

The 1986 game was a rare Test Match where a side made two declarations, neither of which could be consider quixotic, and still came within one run of losing the game. I have a hard time accepting Kapil Dev's spouting of the conventional wisdom about the turning track. It was not a spiteful 5th day wicket, India made 347 runs on the last day there! Sunil Gavaskar, as usual, makes the telling point - that it was a game that India should have won easily, given that they were 251/3 and then 331/6 in the run chase, chasing 347. India used to bat deep in those days. But India's run chases in the 1980s, especially the ones which were reasonably close, were, almost without exception marked by bad judgment, usually including a terrible shot by Kapil Dev.

If you think about the tied Test of 1986, it becomes clear just how much time there is in a Test Match. Australia's first innings continued into the third day, while India scored at over 4 runs per over in that game. It's a stretch to argue that this tied Test was better than the 1960 tied Test. That game saw 40 wickets falling, and fortunes fluctuating over all five days. The West Indies were ascendant early with Gary Sobers' blistering century - he made 132 in less than 3 hours, an almost Sehwagian pace, only to be bested by Australia through Norman O'Neill's 181. Australia did their best to drive home the advantage, reducing the West Indies to 4/127 (effectively 4/54), before Frank Worrell and Joe Solomon steadied things and the lower order extended the lead to 232. Wes Hall then set about the Australians in their 4th innings run chase, reducing them to 5/57, which soon became 6/92 when Sonny Ramadhin dismissed Ken 'Slasher' Mackay. This was to be Ramadhin's penultimate Test wicket, he would breach Mackay's defense again at Melbourne.

At this point Australia were out of it, they needed 141 more to win with 4 wickets in hand. Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson added 134 of those in a 7th wicket stand. When Davidson was dismissed at 226, Australia needed 7 runs to win, with their last three wickets standing. Amazingly enough, Australia managed to lose those three wickets before they scored those 7 runs.

The two tied Tests were very different games. In the Chennai Test, the bat was dominant for the most part, and until India collapsed from 251/3 to 347/10, losing 7/94, the Test had seen 27 wickets falling for 1392 runs. It was a Test made by an aggressive declaration by Allan Border. It was aggressive because India had scored very quickly in their first innings, but it was justified because it was the last day, and India's first innings pace had been on account of Kapil Dev's whirlwind century (119 in 138 balls, this is still slower than Sehwag's usual effort these days). The Indian response was equally aggressive. The early pace was set by Sunil Gavaskar (92) and Krishnamachari Srikanth (39) and the later batsmen kept scoring reasonably quickly.

The Brisbane Test was a more even contest between bat and ball. There were periods when the bat was absolutely dominant, such as during the innings played by Sobers and O'Neill, and there were also periods when the ball was ascendant, through Davidson and Hall. Fittingly, that game ended with Joe Solomon scoring a direct hit from square leg, with just one stump to aim at.

I don't think greatness of Tests is marked by what happens at the fag ends of a Test Match. It is marked in my view by the way in which the viewers perception about the conditions is changed by the participants, often aided by an actual change in the playing conditions. Thus, when Sri Lanka are dismissed for 393 early on the second day of a Test, only to find themselves 50 runs behind 80 overs later, thats an astonishing Test Match. When two bowlers add close to 80 runs in a run chase and take their side within 5 runs of victory, thats a tremendous Test, because there again, the contest between bat and ball is defying the odds. For this to happen, sides need to first possess enough quality to actually take advantage of favorable conditions and find themselves in a position of strength. In great Test Match contests, this happens regularly. It makes individual greatness possible.

Tests can be tied or be won by a very small margin, and still be ordinary contests between bat and ball. I suggest that the tied Test of 1986, despite the controversy and despite the aggressive play from both camps, does not find itself in the ranks of the great Test Match contests because it was a fairly ordinary contest between bat and ball. As a contest between bat and bat, and bat and the clock, and man against man, and team against team, and man against the conditions, it was phenomenal. While these are important to cricket, there are not sufficient in my view. The only essential contest is the one between bat and ball. Close decisions may change the result in the end, but they account for only one decision out of 40, and their significance has been established even before they occur. It has been established through a spellbinding, fluctuating contest between bat and ball.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stars to shine at Dubai Super Sixes

Landmark Group unveiled eight star players for Dubai Super Sixes 2010 in Dubai on Wednesday. The corporate tournament is going to be staged at Dubai Sports City cricket ground from October 1 to 15.
Dubai is a happening place which attracts best in the world in every sphere of life. This corporate tournament comprising 48 teams will provide a chance to Dubai residents to experience a mixture of cricket and fun at one of the most modern venues in the world.
The team of legends, mostly from subcontinent include Wasim Akram, Moin Khan (Pakistan), Rohan Gavaskar, Venkatesh Prasad and Vinod Kambli (India), Lance Klusener (South Africa) and Aravinda de Silva and Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka). While announcing the players Atul Hedge, CEO of Ignite, a sports promotion company in India, said: “We are privileged to announce that fans and players in Dubai can rub shoulders with some of the top names in world of cricket.
“Every player wants to play with stars like Wasim and De Silva and the event provides an opportunity to the cricket lovers here to join the cricket gala at Dubai Sports City.”
Hedge added: “It might not touch the high standards of professionalism but we are focusing on passion and spirit of the game.
“It is going to be an annual affair in Dubai and the tournament will be expanded to Qatar and Malaysia in near future.” The event will be held under the auspices of the Dubai Cricket Council. The brand ambassador for the inaugural Dubai Super Sixes 2010 tournament is former Pakistan captain and all-rounder Wasim Akram.
Vipen Sethi, CEO, Landmark Group, said: “We are delighted to present the ‘Landmark Group team of Legends’ and provide the teams that clear the preliminary rounds, an opportunity to play alongside renowned cricketing legends. We are confident the presence of high-profile international players on our domestic turf will add to the tournament’s appeal and we are privileged to sponsor this event.
“The Dubai Super Sixes corporate cricketing tournament is in line with the Landmark Group’s initiatives to promote a healthy work-life balance and takes forward our objective to connect with Dubai’s wider corporate community.”
With prizes worth Dh100,000 to be given away, Dubai Super Sixes will see 48 corporate teams locked in a fierce contest for the top honours.
The last eight corporate teams to reach the quarter-finals will be assigned a cricket star from “The Landmark Group Team of Legends”, who will assist the team as mentor and player.
“We are excited that such an impressive line-up of cricketing legends have joined this six-a-side tournament in our first-ever attempt itself,” said Arshad Zaheer, Managing Director of Crayons Communications, organisers of the event. “The presence of these important personalities will make this tournament one of the most notable sports initiatives not only in the UAE but in all cricket-playing nations.”
As per the rules of this fast-paced game, each participating team should comprise of six players along with two substitutes. They will also be provided with five neutral fielders from a large pool of players. Playing under the supervision of neutral umpires, the format requires each side to play a limited five overs, which they have to complete in 30 minutes.
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