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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hitler and IPL

On March 21st the IPL auction results were announced and the Sahara group, one of the most familiar names for cricket fans thanks to its perennial sponsorship of Team India, won the Pune francise for $370m, while Rendezvous Sports, a group formed by 5 companies, won the Kochi franchise for $333m.

The auction shows just how powerful IPL has become in two years.  The Sahara group bid for Pune is $370m and is more than the entire amount netted by the BCCI in the auction of 8 teams during the start of IPL.  This means that the returns for the existing IPL team owners, assuming each of the teams is worth at least $300m now, are in excess of at least 200% .  (Mumbai was bought for $100m by Reliance and now must be worth more than twice that amount).  This shows just how much IPL has grown in a short time and how powerful it is.

All this is great for cricket (that is considering you are not anti-IPL or a Pakistani) and India, but many test loving people think that with IPL, test cricket is doomed.  And one of those people is none other than one of the most ruthless dictator the world has ever seen.  Yes, Hitler knows what cricket is and has even played the game himself.  Watch the funny video below showing Hitler's outrage when he learns that he has lost the bid for the Berlin franchisee in the IPL auction.

Note - Video via Cricket with Balls.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Devils' win Bangalore dare

Yesterday, Delhi Daredevils ended Royal Challenger's winning streak as they won by 17 runs in RCB's own backyard [SCORECARD].  Royal Challenger's had been undefeated at home till now, but sadly that is past tense now.  Delhi batting first got of to the most explosive start imaginable as David Warner hit 33 runs in just 14 balls.  Soon after that Bangalore pulled things back, but debutant Kedar Jadhav made sure that Delhi get a good score.  Royal Challengers were made to be quiet in the powerplay by some very tight bowling.  In the end in the pursuit of runs wickets tumbled and RCB slumped to their first defeat at home.

For the first time in this tournament RCB looked like a team that was losing and couldn't do anything.  It had dominated so far, but against Delhi nothing of that sort was seen.  Bangalore's bowling for the first tie was treated with utter disrespect and scorn and put huge pressures on the bowlers.  Warner and Jadhav flat batted sixes and only added to their misery.  Bangalore have a lot to learn and this is the perfect learning experience.

The batting was under pressure to chase the huge target and did their best to reach it.  The Delhi bowlers bowled very good lengths and made batting even more difficult leading to the downfall of many batsmen.  The biggest mistake was made by Robin Uthappa, when he played an reverse sweep when the situation called for a sensible shot.  Let's hope Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa make it to the T20 world cup squad today.  I would love to see Robin in action wearing blue again.  With Ross Taylor and Kevin Pietersen expected soon, the batting department will be bolstered.

The fielding was good as usual with 2 run outs being effected but Delhi overshadowed even in that department with De Villiers pulling of a stunner at the edge of the boundary ropes.

The result was disappointing for RCB but they'll take the positives out of it and jump straight back to their winning ways.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Royal Challengers Yet Again

It was all about Royal Challengers yet again yesterday as they floored an injured Chennai Super Kings team with a 36 run victory [SCORECARD].  Royal Challengers were put into bat and things got off slowly with Chennai picking wickets at regular intervals.  Kallis was dismissed for the first time in IPL 2010 and things looked drear until Robin Uthappa joined the party smashing 68* runs in just 38 balls.  Chennai started the chase badly losing a wicket the very first over and as the run rate climbed, the lions found themselves holing out in the deep, eventually coming 36 runs short.

For the first time after that first match, RCB batting looked vulnerable as the top order was shut tight by some wonderful stump to stump bowling by the CSK pacers and the magic of Muralitharan.  Kallis was castled for the first time in the IPL-3 by Balaji.  The Dravid-Muralitharan battle was an interesting one, with Dravid timing a crisp shot for four getting onto the backfoot, and the next ball the Sri Lankan wizard had him walking back to the dugout.  RCB looked like getting a modest score of about 140 runs, when Robin Uthappa launched himself getting 41 runs in the last two overs.  It was brilliant batting, slogging and innovative playing by Robin.  Who says you need a 'Mangoose' to hit a six?  Robin hit 6 'DLF maximums' in his amazing innings.  Lady luck was also with him as he was dropped twice.  Robin with a good showing in the IPL will look to reappear into the national selector's radar, and for a spot in the blue team once again.  Robin's game play is outstanding and the man nicknamed walking assassin has evolved into a much better player who just isn't a cruel slogger like the older Pathan.

The bowling was brilliant yet again with Praveen striking blood in the first over and Dale steyn scorching the turf with some serious pace.  Steyn was unlucky to go wicketless.  Anil Kumble was brilliant and bowled a miserly spell giving only 15 runs in his 4 overs while picking up a wicket.  Vinay Kumar was belted around the park but still managed to pick up 4 wickets.  The bowling looks in great form and I'd say is the best in this IPL season.

Fielding was brilliant as usual with all catches held and the run outs taken.  Dravid running out Hayden turned out to quite a turning point of the match.

George Bailey of Chennai played some very below ordinary cricket yesterday, but he stands out as a star because two amazing things he did on the field.  Bailey batting hit the ball straight to Steyn and ran, Steyn in turn had a throw at the stumps at the non-striker end but the ball bounced of Bailey's bat and went for a overthrow.  Bailey didn't take run and turned down his senior partner's wish to go for a run.  He showed amazing sportsmanship and moral principles so often not seen nowadays.  Another thing he did was when he nicked a Vinay Kumar delivery to Boucher and there was an instant appeal but umpire Tiffin was unmoved, but Bailey showed brilliant character yet again as he walked off.  The two incidents show the amount of respect Bailey has in for the game and just how highly he regards his actions.  People may question asking&nbspthat if it was World Cup final - one extra run to win, won't he then take the overthrow or if it was the last wicket with just a few runs to win, would he have walked?  Well I can't answer that and only Bailey can if such an occasion arises, but I can tell that a man who puts respect and morale before a win in any match will always be respected highly.  Winning cannot come at all costs and Bailey showed the world that chivalry isn't dead, yet.

Royal Challengers are on a roll with 4 consecutive wins, thanks to Robin's rocket.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mumbai fail the Royal Challenge

Mumbai Indians were handed their first defeat of the IPL 2010 as they slumped to a 7 wicket defeat to a rejuvenated Royal Challengers Bangalore team in their own backyard [SCORECARD].   The match was a  display of dominance by the Challengers as their bowling restricted Mumbai Indians to below par score of 151 runs for the loss of 9 wickets.  Mumbai Indians had a dramatic late order collapse as they went from 72 for 2 to 76 for 6 in the matter of few overs.  This is a huge task by the RCB bowlers considering that Mumbai have scored above 200 in their previous two matches and also have probably the biggest, and meanest batting line-up in the IPL.

Mumbai started weakly losing two wickets in the powerplay itself, one of them being the major wicket of Jayasuria.  Mumbai then steadied the ship and looked to crescendo slowly to fire at all cylinders with the likes of Pollard and Bravo, but all this was foiled by Vinay Kumar as he picked up three wickets in an over completely unsettling the balance of the game towards the visitors side.  Vinay Kumar's three scalps were the inform Rayadu, Tendulkar and Bravo.  Anil Kumble also bowled brilliantly and ended up with the figures 18 for 1 in his 4 overs.  The skipper even had a slip and a forward short leg during part of his bowling!  The local players in the MI team were subjected to a barrage of bumpers seen against the RR, while others such as Sachin, were kept quiet with stump to stump bowling.  The bowling plans were spot on and the execution even better.  There's no better feeling for a captain and a coach to see their hard worked plans being executed with success.   Ray Jennings and Anil Kumble will surely be happy men.

The RCB fielding is without doubt one of the best fielding sides in the IPL.  Young Manish Pandey and Virat Kohli showcased some brilliant ground fielding that even Jonty Rhodes would be proud of and Rahul Dravid pulled of an spectacular catch to send former ICL player Satish back.

The batting again had Kallis written all over it as he scored yet another undefeated half century.  Kallis has been undefeated so far in IPL 2010.  Manish Pandey showcased his talent as he continued his good run and scored 40 quick runs.  This young lad is destined for greatness and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a national call soon.  The only thing Pandey does wrong is that he manages to get himself out after getting a decent start and fails to convert it to anything big like his century yesteryear in South Africa.

Royal Challengers Bangalore are on top of the table and look like the most menacing team so far.  With momentum and form in their way, RCB will be looking to go one better than last year this time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A royal trashing

Bangalore Royal Challengers in front of a huge home ground gave their opponents, the Rajasthan Royals a royal thrashing as the RCB won the game by 10 wickets with 56 balls to spare [SCORECARD].  Having elected to field first RCB bowled out RR for a miserly 92 runs with Kumble and Praveen Kumar taking 3 wickets a piece.  Praveen Kumar's three wickets came in the form as a hat-trick.  After Kallis and Manish Pandey saw that the small target was achieved without any fuss as the match ended in just 4 balls after the 10th over.

RCB did all things right and Kumble and Jennings had their plans drawn to the smallest details.  Researching and finding your opponents weakness and making plans accordingly is one thing, but executing those plans in the field is completely another matter.  RCB did both perfectly.

RCB went into field first after winning the toss, as expected.  It is conventional idea to field first if batting is your strength and vice versa, and RCB stuck to that very plan.  The team came out quietly confident and started to implant the plans drawn for each batsmen.  There was plenty of short-pitched deliveries and these were well directed too.  Keeping a player like Yousuf Pathan is extremely difficult and RCB did just that.  There was plenty of change of pace, and variety in the line and lengths bowled by the RCB bowlers.  Dale Steyn looked an improved player and showed just why he is the world's number one bowler.  Kumble came back to his old self as he strangled the RR batting while chipping away at the wickets. But the best was Praveen Kumar's hat-trick.

Royal Challenger's fielding was spot on and is probably the best fielding side in the IPL after Mumbai Indians.  Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, and Van der Merwe are brilliant fielders, while Kumble, Dravid and Kallis are the safest hands you'll ever find.

The batting was brilliant yet again, and there's not much to say.  Manish Pandey has found his T20 touch and Kallis is determined to make all those who said that he is a test player eat their words.  Sadly there wasn't much competition between the two leggies - Warne and Kumble, but I'm not complaining.  All in all, RCB look like the perfect team and after Rajasthan's mauling yesterday, Mumbai Indian's better fear tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Robin - Jacques show

Royal Challengers Bangalore got their IPL campaign kick started with a win against  Punjab Kings XI team in front of a frenzy home crowd after the early hiccup a few days ago[SCORECARD].   Bangalore witnessed some heavy hitting as Punjab scored a mammoth total of 203 runs in their 20 overs thanks largely to Ravi Bopara and Bisla.  The Punjab openers started slowly giving caution but soon after Bisla got into the act, followed soon by Bopara.  The home team never having chased a target over 200 successfully found a herculean task at hand, but played some sensible and good cricket to climb the mountain with ease.  Kallis and Pandey started well, but it was Robin Uthappa who came in and steam rolled the Punjab kings with a murderous 51 of just 21 balls.  Kallis (89*) kept the ship steady at one end and contributed with the bat becoming the highest run scorer of the match and tournament.

The Challengers came onto the field with all the right strategies and spirit.  The home crowd atmosphere made them revel in the field and the Challengers looked good, until Bisla and Bopara got going at least.  Steyn bowled fast and furious and targeted Bisla's ribs, while Praveen Kumar got good amount of swing to encourage any pace bowler.  Bisla looked completely out of see in the first 15 odd minutes and survived many anxious moments, but after that he took toll and started punishing the bowlers.  The bowlers strayed in their lines but their biggest err was the the length I feel, even the Punjab bowlers did the same mistake.

Royal Challengers having been set a target of excess of 200 looked unperturbed and started positively with Pandey having a go at the bowlers.  As soon as Pandey's cameo came to an end, Robin Uthappa was sent up the order.  This was a brave and well thought out move by Kumble because Robin has been in woeful form this domestic season, but still he is one of the best aggressive players in India who can clear the boundary at will.  Robin did his captain's faith good as he scored the second fastest half century of the IPL.  Kallis on the other hand played his shots while at the same time letting Robin take the foreground.  The walking assassin came in with a bulldozer, bulldozed and left the kings hapless.  I asked Dillon Du Preez (Thanks to Aneesh Surender) "What Kallis and Robin had for lunch?" and he replied, "Both of them had some hot Indian food which seems to be working great, mate!"  The wonders of hot Indian food are never ending!  The match ended with some big shots from man of the match Kallis, and a Banglorean crowd going wild.

Bangalore had plenty to take from this match as their batting that let them down the previous match came good, and that they are back to winning ways with momentum on their side.  The bowling could have been better, but one can't say much when 400 runs are scored in less than 40 overs in a match.

All in all Bangalore got the perfect gift for Ugadi.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A disappointing start

Royal Challengers Bangalore started their IPL campaign with a disappointingly disastrous start as they handed Kolkata Knight Riders a seven wicket victory [SCORECARD].  Bangalore did everything wrong as they played some very ordinary cricket.  Bangalore lost wickets at the top and was reeling at 35 for 4 in just 7 overs.  Kallis and Dravid tried to steady the ship but Dravid departed to Mathews after a small partnership with Kallis.  In the end it was left to Kallis to get RCB to a respective total, and he gave RCB something to bowl at as they scored 135 runs in their 20 overs.  Kolkata came out screaming and looked like finishing he job early, with Tiwary and Hodge helping themselves to two fine half centuries.  In the end, KKR marched home in front of their home crowd with a resounding 7 wicket victory.

Royal Challenger's made many mistakes with their strategy.  The playing eleven was the expected and looked like a strong team, and the plan of going hard in the powerplay was all right and sane, but the batting order was debatable.  With Kallis opening, you'd expect a natural aggressor at the other end, who can take on the bowling like Manish Pandey or Robin Uthappa, but the Challengers opened with young Goswami, who is more of a stroke-maker than an aggressive slogger.  Virat Kohli, Eoin Morgan and Manish Pandey fell in the pursuit of quick runs.  I don't understand why Kohli, and Morgan were sent ahead of Dravid.  Dravid should have been sent at the fall of two quick wickets to stem the rot.  Dravid might not be a natural slogger but he has worked on his aggressive shots and can keep the scoreboard ticking while scoring that boundary every now and then, while at the same time rebuilding the innings.  That's what Ramprakash does so well for Surrey.  At the fall of Dravid, Kallis was Challenger's only hope and he played an innings of subsistence holding the entire RCB innings together.

The bowling was stronger for the Challengers than usual with Steyn in the squad, but rather than letting the world's number one bowler open, Kallis opened the bowling.  I understand the logic that as the wicket was slow, Steyn wouldn't have been so effective.  If that is the case, then why was he in the team?  If you picked him, you might as well bowl him upfront as your primary weapon.  The bowling was pretty good except in patches. Steyn and Kallis made the bowling look bad and this can be seen on the scorecards.  Kumble, Van der Merwe, and Praveen Kumar all went under seven an over.  Among the three they gave 62 runs in 12 overs while picking up three wickets.  I loved what Kumble did by having a slip and a short-leg in place for most part of his bowling.  This clearly showed that he wanted to be aggressive and sent a clear sign of that to the KKR camp.  I do feel he could have done better by bringing in more fielders to stop the singles, but KKR's onslaught in the powerplay probably made him think twice about that.

The match was good for RCB in a sense as it showed just what and how much work still must be done.  It also provides a glimpse into the strategies of the Challengers and team composition and gives plenty of insight for Kumble and coach Jennings to work with.  The Royal Challengers are a team that generally perform when their back is against a wall and the chips are down, and I'm sure that a single loss is not going to make the team lose heart.  Like captain Kumble said, "We will bounce back", and what better place to do it than in their own backyard.  Come tomorrow, Royal Challengers will take on Kings XI Punjab and show just why they are simply the best.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Legends of the Fall (The story of Pakistan and PCB)

The Pakistan Cricket Board has taken the most daring decision seen in cricket against many of it's star players.  The PCB has sacked, banned and fined heavily seven of it's top senior players.  Among the players to face the guillotine from PCB are former captains Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf - both of whom have been banned for life.  The other players to face the sword are Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan - who have been banned for a year while Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers (Umar and Kamran) are fined Rs. 2-3 million ($24,000-35,000).

The Pakistan Board has ended the careers of two of it's best batsman and looks menacingly down at the others.   The PCB committee of inquiry was set up after Pakistan's disastrous tour of Australia and now after the completion of the inquiry, the committee has decided to bring about the worst punishment it can, making it's cricketers as a living model for all those who cross the line.  The reasons of the punishment are several, some are known while others are only to be guessed, but one thing is certain that PCB wants to make an example of the cricketers so that in the future everyone will think twice before doing anything.

The decision by PCB is welcomed by me as a good decision.  But I also strongly oppose it because of the severity of the penalty imposed.  The penalties belted down on the cricketers are abominable.

Pakistan cricket is going through some very turbulent times and in the recent years, things have been going from bad to worse.  No team is willing to play in Pakistan, there has been numerous infightings within the team with numerous captains at the helm, making Pakistan a very sorry state for cricket affairs.  One thing that the Pakistan team has lacked is discipline and anyone with vague knowledge of Pakistan will tell you that.  Since 2007 Pakistan cricket has taken a nose dive with Akthar, Sami testing positive for drugs, disunity in the team with open schisms between Malik, Younus Khan and Yousuf, match-fixing allegations, and numerous other disharmonious activities both in the team and PCB alike.

I agree that something must be done to protect the cricket in Pakistan and ensure that it's players respect and honor the game and the responsibility of playing for Pakistan.  PCB has done the exact same thing I mentioned above in a sense, but has taken it to an extreme.  The Pakistan cricket board has been an organization that has been ridiculed and unable to function it's own house.  Added to the disharmony within the administration is the constant failure of their national team, and this has made the PCB which was like a struggling and wounded cobra suddenly bare it's fangs and bite with venom.  Younus, Yousuf, Malik and Afridi must face most of the wrath for the simple reason that they are or were captains of Pakistan.  A captain is responsible for the way his players conduct themselves, so the blame inevitably falls on the captains.  But what to do if the head itself is not strong and unmannerly?

I welcome the act of the action taken against the players by the PCB but condemn the very actions taken against them.  PCB has been very unprofessional like as it does not state the exact reasons for the penalties imposed on the players.  How can any punishment be handed down without proper reasons of wrong doing.  They have said that the punishments given was due to lack of performance and
indiscipline.  But surely one doesn't get banned for life for indiscipline or  lack of performance on the field.  I feel that PCB is at fault here.  You don't go and ban a batsman who has been playing for over a decade and the captain who led Pakistan to the T20 World Cup glory.  This is an act showing utter contempt on the players.

The players deserve to be punished but banning them is preposterous and just plain stupidity.  It is like whipping a small ten year old boy some good lashes for doing some simple and naughty act.  It's just not right what the PCB is handing down as punishments.  Due to this, what does the PCB gain?  They gain an image that they are doing some major cleanup job within the team, but what about the Board?  Aren't the selectors, team managers, support staff, coach and the board members equally responsible?  It is they who put a irresponsible leader at helm, and it is they who are called the 'think tank' and are responsible for the devising strategies for wins.  So even they failed, but they have been exempted from the blame thus far.

The PCB only gains to lose from this debacle.  Which youngster would even want to pursue a career in cricket now in Pakistan.  Hard work and talent will earn you a place in the team, but what is the guarantee?  How does one expect to make his living as a cricketer if his future is so uncertain?  These are some basic question that PCB must ask itself.

In just seven weeks, Pakistan will start a campaign to try and hold onto the title as 'Champions of T20', but I just wonder what kind of team Pakistan will set forth to defend their title.  Who will be leading the team then and what will be the morale and thinking of the team?  No one knows, but one thing is sure, it will never be the same.

Having said all this, nothing that happens in Pakistan will hardly be a surprise because anything can happen there.  And I definitely won't be surprised if all this was a bluff and was taken back by the board.  I conclude this article by quoting Ramiz Raja, "Our main problem was discipline, but barring players, I am not sure, it doesn't look nice to just end the international careers of such talented players. It is surprising, but at the end of the day, the PCB needed to make an example and took a step to clean up the lack of discipline in the team."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Separated at Birth?

The following pictures show some amazing similarities between cricket players and some famous personality.  Seeing the pictures one is left to wonder, whether the people in the pictures are twins separated at birth.

James Anderson and Timothy Olyphant
What is the connection betweem England's leading test bowler and the actor who was in 'Sex in the City'?

Shane Watson and Patrick Swayze
Shane Watson in Dirty Dancing?

Morne Morkel and Prince William
Did William leave South Africa and become English royalty?  Micheal Vaughan might have issues about this.

Picture courtesy - Cricinfo

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The South African Influx

Former English skipper Micheal Vaughan has lashed out yet again against the massive influx of South Africans into the English cricket scene.  Vaughan said, "It's very, very difficult to stop them (South African players). I would like to see, in an ideal world, 11 complete Englishmen in the team but I don't think that's ever going to be the case.", getting the entire cricketing fraternity debating.

I agree with Vaughan that England won't see a match where there will be 11 English players with cent percent English blood like Vaughan had playing, and I don't see a problem in this.  I do disagree however with Vaughan that this is a problem.

Vaughan sees this issue has a big tricky problem and went onto say, "It's a very tricky one. Someone like Kevin Pietersen made the decision very early to come over to England and he learnt a lot of his cricket here. [But] I do have a problem when the likes of Jonathan Trott, and [Craig] Kieswetter, who's played for the South African Under-19s. I think in Trott's case even played for the South African A team. Now that is where I have a problem, that we have almost got a 'ship-in' system of looking at talent, and a lot of them come over for the money."

In the current English team Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Craig Kieswetter, Matt Prior are all South African born cricketers.  Vaughan is alright with the names of Pietersen, Strauss and Prior because of the simple reason that they started their careers in England and not in South Africa.  While players such as Trott (whom he already had singled out in his autobiography - 'Time to Declare') and Kieswetter have made their career starts in South Africa, and not in England.  In my view, this is utter nonsense because Kevin Pietersen also started playing cricket in South Africa before moving over.  Pietersen played for Natal and then only did he move to England to seek better opportunities.  Strauss moved out when he was just five and Prior when he was eleven, so these two players had their entire cricket upbringing in England unlike Pietersen.  But the interesting part is that Vaughan is not upset with Pietersen playing, while even he is in the same group as Trott and Kieswetter.

The main influx of the South African cricketers into the English cricketing scene is because of the selection system in South Africa.  South Africa is a country that was torn by racial segregation and many turmoils.  Despite the new republic being formed under Nelson Mandela, issues like racism don't die overnight and the only way to prevent it is the quota system.  It is not the most appropriate, and most liked way, but it is a way of doing things in a country that is desperately trying to forget it's past racist history.    Since the selection policy is based on the quota system, many players like Pietersen and Trott don't make the cut, and find themselves in the 'uneventful and ugly' side of the quota system.  Pietersen spoke strongly against it and moved to England.  Another main reason is money.  South Africa may be developing their cricketing scene, but it is still nowhere near the English circuit.  Further more, these South African born players who often hold English passports (due to one of their parents or grandparents being English) find themselves easily in the English county scene as an English player rather than an overseas player.  This makes their selections more favorable and also they get to earn money.  For these South African born 'English' cricket players, England seems like the land of milk and honey as they get better exposure, financial gains and also opportunities.  So why wouldn't they want to come to England?

I understand Vaughan's dream of an English team filled with Englishmen.  I wouldn't like to see Monty Panesar playing for India just because his parents are from India.  It not only is unfairly good to him, but also unfair to an Indian born player wanting that spot in the playing 11. But in the end it is all legal and perfectly fair because both the players fought for the same place and the best one won.  The selectors will always try to choose the best players to field, and if Monty is among the 11 best players for India, then I have absolutely no problems in him representing India.

England is the home for thousands of immigrants and this is seen in their football and cricket teams.  I don't see why a big issue is being made into this.  The English national cricket team may not contain pure Anglo-Saxon blood, but it still contains a little bit of the Anglo-Saxon blood.  It's a multi-cultured team, but still very much an English team.  At the end of the day, the players all represent England and play wearing the emblem of the three lions on their shirts.  You want to see your 11 best players taking field and representing England.  Not your 11 best pure Englishmen.  As long as loyalties and interests of the multi-cultured players are with England and don't clash with other teams, I don't see the problem.  I really admire the way Kieswetter handled the issue when he said, "Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but for me it's about putting performances in on the park and helping England win."  

I don't really understand Vaughan's making this a big issue.  After it's still the English who play for England.

Chennai Super Kings - Preview

Hi Folks. I'm back again for a final time. This week we'll be previewing prospective league winners - The Chennai Super Kings. They (along with the Delhi Daredevils ) have been one of the more consistent sides of the IPL so far, having reached the Finals in Season 1 and the Semis in Season 2. They will therefore be hoping that they go one better and win the league this year.

The team is owned by the India Cements Group who are the monoploy in cement and other construction materials business in the southern part of India. The team is coached by the talismatic former Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming. And the team is captained by none other than the charismatic leader of the Indian National Team - M.S. Dhoni. In the auctions this year, they bought ICL return Justin Kemp and Thisera Perera , the new swinging sensation from Sri Lanka.

Let us now have a look at the Indian Players in this team : -

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain)
Suresh Raina
Anirudha Srikanth
Subramaniam Badrinath
Arun Karthik
Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan
Abhinav Mukund
Murali Vijay
Parthiv Patel
Hemang Badani
Shadab Jakati
Viraj Kabde
Suresh Kumar
Napolean Einstein
Joginder Sharma
Ravichandran Ashwin
Manpreet Gony
Lakshmipathy Balaji
Palani Amarnath
Sudeep Tyagi
Chandrasekar Ganapathy
Mohan Gandhi

This team is full of bubbling young cricketers who've shown a lot of promise. Raina , Badrinath and Balaji have been around at the national scene for quite a few years now. Same goes with Hemang Badani who is considered a Legend here. Tyagi , Gony and Ashwin are all relatively young but have done well enough to earn National Duty calls. M.S.D. - well , he's one cricketer who can single-handedly change a game. His captaincy also will be greatly tested here.

Moving on to the foreign players : -

Mathew Hayden
Michael Hussey
George Bailey
Andrew Flintoff
Jacob Oram
Albie Morkel
Justin Kemp
Thissara Perera
Mutthaih Muralitharan
Makhaya Ntini
Thilan Thushara

Half the players in this list are again proven match-winners. It will be a tough call for the team management as to who to pick and who to leave out. Haydos and Hussey are mostly automatic choices. Oram , Freddie and Morkel may share one spot depending on who is available. And last spot will be a toss up between Murali and Perera, with more possibility of Murali making it.

On the whole, this is a team which has bonded well and has shown to be having the capacity to reach the finals. the onus will now be on them to win the trophy. A lot will depend on how Dhoni innovates with his captaincy. Best of Luck guys !!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fanatic Fan Challenge - 2

The Royal Challengers Fanatic Fan Challenge - 2 in M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore was everything, you'd associate with Royal Challengers.  It was big, grand, glamorous, and had an atmosphere of achievers and challengers as 33 of the best bloggers, photographers, podcasters and videographers from the country competed against each other for the top honor of traveling with the RCB team for the next six weeks.

The event was pitted to start at 11 sharp, but as it is the case in India it was delayed, but once the event got underway, there was absolutely no turning back.  The event kick started with the Royal Challengers anthem played, and the host explaining the contestants what exactly they were to do.

The photographers and videographers were taken to the NCA (National Cricket Academy) ground, where the seven prospects shortlisted in the 'Future Challengers' campaign along with few other players were being auditioned as coach Ray Jennings and few other support staff inspected.  Their assignment was to cover the event.  Siddharth Mallya (Dr. Mallaya's son) soon joined the coach and together they had a look at the prospects.  While all this was going on the photographers and videographers moved in and surrounded the ground clicking and videotaping the action unfolding.  It was simply amazing!  During practice the new pink balls were used.  The sight was simply amazing as photographers, and videographers captured the scene behind their tripod stands or by simply crouching on the grass, while the players warmed up and had some fielding drills.

The bloggers were all taken to the press box, from where they had to write a blog and also edit the given article.  As the bloggers typed on their lap tops, a second division match was taking place at the stadium.

The podcasters were asked to create an audio podcast on one of the two topics they were provided with.

The contestants were given 75 minutes, to prepare their respective assignments.  After this followed a big lunch that was truly delicious.

Soon after the lunch, the interviews started.  The four judges were Anil Kumble, Ray Jennings, Sabit Bal and Siddharth Mallya.  Anil Kumble is the skipper of RCB and Ray Jennings is the coach.  Sambit Bal is an editor in Cricinfo.  They asked the contestants various questions testing their expertise on the subject, loyalties towards RCB and their passion.  The interviews were full of events with numerous happenings - both good and bad.  The contestants were of mixed feelings.  Some were calm while others were sweating a flood, as they waited in anticipation for their turns and the results.

After the interview round there was a brief game.  The game was a trivia, testing the fans their knowledge about RCB and also T20 cricket.  The first place winner was Aneesh Surendar, little did he know something bigger was in store for him.  The second place went to none other than the writer of this article.  

The time of the announcement of the results came, and the competitors, organizers, fans, and reporters broke into applause and cheering as the Captain of RCB followed by the coach, Sambit Bal, and the owner of RCB.  Kumble started the proceedings by giving a small speech about the fan club and then went to announce the Chief Photographer.  The Chief Photographer for 2010 is Ashish Parmar.  After this Mallaya announced the Cheif Podcaster - Radio Sandeep.  Sambit Bal gave away the blogging honors to Aneesh Surender and Sandeep M bagged the videographer honors from Ray Jennings.

The four winners get to travel with the team for the next 6 weeks and I'm sure they'll do a splendid job for Club RCB.

After the results were announced, a few photos were clicked and the fans started to mingle with the judges and talk to them and get their autographs.  As the event drew to a close, it was a time to catch up with friends and bid adieu.

I also bid adieu saying Go Challengers!  Best of luck in IPL 2010!
* To see more pictures click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An endangered species....

Genuine fast bowlers are a rare and endangered species and now after Shane Bond and Brett Lee's departure from the test arena, there is just one genuine fast bowler left in the entire world.  This makes them more endangered than the tigers of India.  1411 times more endangered than the Indian tigers!

Fast bowling is a unique art, that captures everyone's attention, but an art that only a handful know.  Fast bowlers have an legendary aura around them.  They make the best of batsmen dance, and can hurt the batsman badly, if he is not to careful.  They have pace and when I say pace I mean express speeds, and add to this consistency, bounce and the ability to swing the ball - you got yourself one hell of a fighting machine!

Fast bowlers are known to rip through batting lineups and the two teams that have dominated world cricket in their times had some of the fiercest fast bowlers of all times.  The West Indies had Micheal Holding, Curty Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Andy Roberts while the Australian's had the demon pace duo of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson.  The success of these teams was largely due to the contributions of the bowlers mentioned above.

In the 1990's there was Ambrose, Waqar Yonis, Walsh, Allan Donald, Ntini and the then young McGrath, but now with the retirement of the greats fast bowlers are even rarer.  Brett Lee, Dale Steyn, Ntini, Flintoff, Akthar and Malinga were the genuine speedsters of the 21st century.  Now after Bond and Lee's retirement, there's only Dale Steyn left in world cricket as a genuine pace bowler.  Ntini's declined as a fast bowler, and Akthar and Malinga fail to find themselves in their teams wearing white.   While Akthar still talks of his comeback, Malinga seems to have resigned to the fact that his fitness is not good for five days.   Flintoff has bid adieu after innumerable injuries.

Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards are left, but for Roach it's still early days and Edwards is still to find his way around.  Aamer is another fascinating talent, but even he is young and has already had his share of injuries.  Shaun Tait is a bowler who could consistently hit the 160 Km mark, but even he has announced that his body cannot take the torments of test cricket.  Dirk Nannes is another who has followed Tait's route and Australia are left with Mitchell Johnson as their only genuine speedster.  But he is still not all that super fast.

Why are fast bowlers so frighteningly rare?   The question has a very simple answer.  It's mainly because of the heavy workload of a fast bowler and the amount of strain it produces on the body.  Any coach will tell a young fast bowler that he will have his share of injuries and even after retirement, the effects of bowling will still ring aloud through the body.  Fast bowlers require not only plenty of mental stamina but also lots of physical stamina.  Fast bowling is physically demanding and after every spell, the bowler goes through pain.  Bowling at such high speeds takes toll on the body.  If a fast bowler's run-up to bowl is slowed down to 250-300 frames a second on cameras that Bio-mechanical people have, one can see just how unnatural a fast bowler's body is.  There is so much force that goes through the ankle.  Fast bowlers slam up to 20 times their body weight on to their front foot in delivery.  An average man weighs about 82 Kilograms, and the force experienced on his front foot alone is 1640 kilograms!  That is the front foot alone.  There is also wear and tear on the ankles, knees, back and the shoulders.  That is why it is so difficult to become a fast bowler.

A fast bowler must have a large pain threshold if he is to survive.  He must battle sore legs, muscle throbs and sprains and an ever aching lower back.  Even a young quick bowler of ten years will experience lower back pains.  And on top of all this, he'll have many injuries and muscle tears, and blood clots.  Making the life of a fast bowler just as much discomfortable as the batsman at the receiving end of his quicks.  It's living hell and often these problems go long after retirement.

The rarity of these genuinely quick bowlers is a worry.  The amount of matches has taken a toll and it's time for ICC to make a more understanding schedule.  I conclude by quoting Ian Chappell,  "Test cricket needs genuine pace bowlers to fully live up to its reputation of being the only thorough examination of a player. However, a youngster would be unwise to head down that career path if he doesn't possess a big heart, a capacity for hard work and a tolerance for pain."

Let's just hope that the fast bowling species doesn't become an extinct species.