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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Their (Overstepping) Shoes

I am already tired of reading of corrupt Pakistani cricketers. I am tired because I do not like seeing my second favourite XI impugned; I despair at wonderfully promising and entertaining sportsmen tarnished; and I hate seeing a game I love tainted by disrepute.

I am tired and I don't want to know. And so it would be so easy just to close my eyes and ears and mind and just say say yes, just ban all those dastardly Pakistanis and make it all go away, go away, go away ...

BUT ...

That is no way to live, is it?! That is simply not cricket. And it is not helping cricket either.

SO ...

Before making my mind up, should I not at least ask why those implicated in this sorry saga did what they allegedly did? Was it merely greed?

And this is where an article by Geoff Lawson, former Australian cricketer and former Pakistani coach, comes in with a chilling tale of not so much corruption as extortion and concerns rarely faced by a Westerner. He writes:

In my time as Pakistan coach, I gained some incredible insights into the workings of the country and the team, and I'll never forget the time the team captain called me up to his room on the eve of a match.
Earlier that day, a player who we had not selected for the game approached me, saying: ''I was told I would be playing tomorrow.'' My response was, ''Well no, you're not, you've obviously been given the wrong information.''
Then the skipper of the side called me late in the evening. I went to his room and he was standing there with a very sombre-looking selector.
This selector said: ''We must pick [the player who had earlier approached me], I have been told that if he is not in the team tomorrow, my daughter will be kidnapped and I will not see her again.''
At first we both laughed, but then we realised he was being serious. Our chairman then called the president, Pervez Musharraf, who in turn phoned the people behind the threats and said they had better reconsider or else. The next we heard the matter had been resolved.

Lawson also recounts of the ordeals the 16-year-old Amir would sometimes have to endure just to make it to practice sessions, as well as the financial and psychological family pressures Asif would face.

None of these things excuse cheating and corruption, of course. I would say, however, that it is the task and responsibility of the Pakistan Cricket Board to protect its players from at least extortion and other forms of blatant threats to the players themselves and their families. And if it is not, it should be. I would like to know: have the PCB had reason to; and if yes: have they?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The return of the ghost of match-fixing

The revelations made in the last 48 hours has sent shock waves throughout the cricketing world and has been without a shadow of doubt one of the darkest hours of the game.  Ever since the late 1990's cricket has always been under the cloud of suspicion of match-fixing.  Ever since that fateful day in 2000 when Hansie Cronje admitted that he was involved in match-fixing for a mere $10,000, all hell broke lose, and the game that was once called the gentleman's game came under heavy skepticism and disrepute.  Now after a decade of relative calm from the match-fixing beast, it has resurfaced yet again showing it's ugly head.  The same stigma has now caused the cricketing world into a state of shell shock and sadness.

The Pakistan team has come under a lot of criticism and has been in a distressed and turbulent state for quite some time now.  Ever since the terror attack in Pakistan, rebelling of senior players in the series in Australia, ball tampering and banning some senior players, Pakistan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.  But all those bar the terror attacks seems insignificant now considering what has happened in the last two days.

Match-fixing or rather spot-fixing as it is the case here, is the most vilest offense a player can commit.  He not only shames the uniform and the country he plays for, but most of all he let's down himself and this beautiful game.  The worst thing that a player can be accused of is match-fixing.  It not only questions a player's commitment and his ethics but also taints the game beyond repair.  This is a serious crime and simply cannot be pardoned.

I love what Iain O' Brien said about the people fixing.  He said, "To all those who think it's easy to deliberately bowl a no-ball or a wide. It's not. You've got to leave all you respect for yourself and this great game at the gate.", and that's exactly what the Pakistani players have done.  They have let themselves down and most of all forgot what the game means to them.

I was shocked when I saw the names that were published as part of this fixing scandal.  Just a few weeks ago, Salman Butt took over the helm from Afridi and Pakistan looked to be heading for some brighter days.  With a new captain and young stalwarts by the name of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, the team showed signs of a new Pakistani team and a beginning of a new era.  But now, just a few weeks since then, they have failed to live up to that huge promise of resurrecting from the debris and find themselves in a huge abyss.  Mohammad Amir, and Mohammad Asif were regarded as the best Pakistan new ball bowlers in the last decade in the few moments they played together, and were looked upon as the new generation of Waquar and Wasim.  But unfortunately all that talent is now a colossal waste.  Two youngsters, one making his mark and another making his comeback captured the world's imagination, but now the story unfortunately ends for them.  Amir a lad of just 17 is involved in this mess.  He was the next biggest thing in cricket and probably one of the finest players Pakistan has produced in the past decade or so.  He was gifted abudently and had the ability to make the ball adhere to his wish.  Such talent now goes rotting and it's time for Asif to face the music.  The youngest man to get 50 test wickets now faces his career being cut short and a life of shame.  Pity it must end for him like this.

I praised the PCB when it took steps to take action against the players who rebelled during the Australian tour.  Yunus Khan, and Yousuf were banned and a few others were given a lighter sentence.  This showed a failed administration trying to prove itself and do something, but within a month, the sentences delivered had been reversed and the players were back playing for the country.  This shows the very failed nature of administration in Pakistan.  Now the offense is a much bigger one and the punishment imposed also must be.

The ICC and the PCB must act clinically and stub out this weed instantly.  They must make an example of this situation.  All the players found guilty must never again touch the willow or bowl a ball.  They should be banned indefinitely and more so abide by the ban.  This should set the tone for any future player when approached by a bookie, and make him think twice of the consequences before making his decision.  It's not Pakistan cricket that is affected now.  It is the whole game, and if the game is to be preserved, then the strongest punishments available should be handed out.

The ghost of match-fixing has constantly hovered over Pakistan and it's time PCB finally owns up responsibility.  The failed administration is not good for cricket and is definitely not something that is needed at this moment. The dubious bureaucracy of the Paksitan Board cannot handle this sensitive matter but I am shocked to hear people wanting PCB dissolved or ratified.  Dissolving the board isn't going to solve any problems so I suppose the ideal thing for ICC to do is to have some stern words with PCB and warn of severe consequences if it doesn't get it's own house in order.  In a way, I would blame the PCB for the match-fixing scandal, as it's dysfunctional operation of cricket has failed to provide it's players a sense of comfort and stability.  Why else would they risk their career this money?  The board has always tended to cut out trouble at the stem and has showed an attitude of competence and inability when coming to address problems at the root level.  If a young player like Amir who has been having the time of his life with the ball, being able to throw away his entire career, for money and a quick fix-it solution, imagine the atmosphere he has been living in till now.  Drastic action must be taken and taken quickly.  This is why I feel that the tour should have been suspended amid these allegations.

The players are of course innocent until proven guilty, but at least the alleged fixers must be suspended momentarily till all charges are proven wrong.

Pakistan lacks leadership and a vision at the moment.  They lack a proper captain to guide the team and a board to stand by them and support them.  Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for the PCB to withdraw from test cricket for a couple of years like the Zimbabwean Cricket Board did.  This will for once show that something is being done.

All this spot-fixing has done is take the spotlight from cricket.  We just witnessed a fantastic fightback from England and some splendid bowling from the Pakistani bowlers, but who is talking about those things?  Every news channel is broadcasting about the shocking scandal and any conversation about cricket revolves around it.  Cricket is losing the spotlight and the off-field developments take centre stage.  This is why I would have liked to see the tour cancelled.  Who would want to see alleged cheaters play?  The game has just undergone irrepairable damage, and I'm sure that every match that Pakistan play hence forth will raise a few eyebrows.  The entire scandal has showed the world the shortcomings and failure of the ICC anti-corruption team, the PCB, and most of all the very ethics that govern that game.

The Chandrachud report from the 2000 match-fixing case states, “It will be a sad day, if the common men and women on whose support the game has occupied its pride of place believe that bookies and not the chosen eleven play the game".  I fear that day may fast arrive if this ghost is not exorcised immediately.

CLT20 2010 Preview - Warriors

Today it’s the Warriors from the home country – South Africa. They’ve entered this tournament as they are the reigning champions Standard Bank Pro20 2009/10. They’re a formidable unit who can surprise the favorites. The team is lead by Davy Jacobs, one of South Africa’s finest domestic players.
The team has as many as 6 National Team players in its ranks. And some of them like Mark Boucher are walking Encyclopedias who can adjust to game situations in a jiffy and win you blinders.

Makhaya Ntini leads the pace attack. He bowls with zest come what may and that one quality makes him stand out from the rest. The spin department too is good with the presence of Nicky Boje and Johan Botha.
Prince is a stable middle order batsman who can steady your ship in case of starting problems. Boucher as a floater is invaluable. The youngsters like Theron and Ingram lend balance to this team in form of youth and experience.

On the whole, only time will tell if this team is going to add to its cabinet or going to keep it bare !!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Price for Every Match?

By now I don't believe there is a single cricket tragic alive who does not know about British tabloid News of the World's breaking a story with allegations of match-fixing involving several key Pakistani players, including the Captain Salman Butt.

Living as I do in Australia, I slept when the news broke, so I woke up to a morning of Test cricket mayhem: batting collapses, a follow-on, rain, and corruption. Regarding the latter, my sentiments were aptly expressed by Australian sports commentator Robert Craddock: I was shocked but not surprised.

As the blog Random Musings points out, the allegations do not really involve match-fixing but rather spot-fixing, i.e., it is not the eventual, overall result that is fixed or manipulated but factors within the game such as no-balls, wides etc. Craddock has actually been saying for quite some time that this sort of betting is going on in cricket and has at least hinted that it has been going on in rather murky waters. On Foxsports this morning (Australian time) he was rather critical of ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit: set up with ₤14 million, it has so far, claimed Craddock, only managed to catch and penalise two players — a Kenyan Captain and a young West Indian — and for at least some of its members a game of golf is apparently a more attractive prospect than ascertaining a clean game of cricket.

So will this scandal have repercussions for cricket as a whole? I think that sadly it might. In general, I doubt it is good for any sport when results are questionable; Formula 1, for example, has probably lost some of its popularity due to doubts about whether all team member are 'allowed' to win races. It is less interesting to watch a sport pretending that every participant has a chance to win, but in reality they do not. (In cycling's Grand Tours, on the other hand, the 'rules' are a little bit different: there is a team leader and the team works to ascertain the overall win for that person. But everybody knows and understands this. And it also does not mean that a non-leader is not allowed to win an individual stage — as long as this does not jeopardize the leader's win of the entire race.) In the particular case of cricket, there is a wretched history of corruption: we all know of Hansie Cronje and Salim Malik, for instance. And it is because of this wretched history that we all know of the whispers of match-fixing being involved in the latest Sydney Test between Australia and Pakistan. And that is why it is so important that no hints of impropriety are allowed to taint the game.

It is sad to have the sport of cricket once again in the limelight for the very wrong reasons. It is particularly sad that these allegations come at a time when cricket, thanks in large part to the growing interest in Twenty20 and more hotly contested Test matches (and perhaps also to the disappearance of Australian dominance), seemed to be experience something of an upswing in both popularity and quality. I begun by talking about cricket tragics; I hope this is not the beginning of a cricket tragedy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Royal Challengers Bangalore

Today, we'll be previewing the Royal Challengers from Bangalore (Or Bengaluru - whichever you like ) - A team which did brilliantly well in the third edition of IPL and finished third.
They have a fantastic Captain in Anil Kumble – a man who inspires his men by showing the way to do things, leading from the front rather than to give orders. He’s got tones and tones of experience to go with and an able ally in Rahul Dravid for any advice. Apart from these two, the likes of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey have shown that they can take the best of attacks to the cleaners when in supreme form. Pandey’s century and Robin’s 27 DLF Maximums stay proof of this fact.

The bowling is more than settled. Praveen Kumar is one of the few Impact bowlers in this shortest version of the game and he can’t be counted out as he’s shown us time and again. Dale Steyn leading the attack could instill fear in amany a batsmen’s mind. And the utility pace of Vinay and Mithun will also lend support to the prime duo.

The foreign stars like Taylor, Kallis and White are all people I need not write about. More Devastating than the biggest nuclear bomb ever made, these guys can make a mockery of any bowler – Taylor and White infact are revered for these reasons !!

So, all in all, it’s a tough call. All teams playing are good. But, RCB inches ahead thanks to good reserve strength.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - South Australia Redbacks

The South Australian Team – Well, they’ve gate crashed this CLT20 party as they’re the runners-up in the KFC Big Bash T20 Tournament that is held for the domestic T20 teams in Australia. And their presence denied the Inaugural CLT20 champions New South Wales a go at defending their title. But, this team is not to be taken lightly – no team from Australia should ever be ! !

The team is filled with batsman who can bowl and bowlers who can bat. So, in event of a collapse, they can still be assured of a decent total in comparison with other teams. Also, 5 members of this aquad have been part of the National Squad as well. Ferguson and Manou have done well for Australia in ODIs and T20s. Dan Christian is yet another exciting prospect.
Peter George, a tall fast bowler on the lines of Glenn McGrath and their captain Michael Klinger, a prolific scorer may be their dark horses. The trump card for the team though s undoubtedly Shaun Tait. He’s been of magnanimous form ever sincee he came back from his sabbatical and will definitely be a course changer for the team in this shortest format. Only cause of concern would be his fitness levels.

If they do win the CLT20 this season, it would be a record of sorts – the second Aussie team to clinch this relatively new tournament. !!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Mumbai Indians

Today, I’ll be previewing the team that was favored to win the IPL this year – the Mumbai Indians. They qualified for the Champions League by virtue of being the runners-up of the IPL this season.
They weren’t expected to reach the finals when the IPL began. But, a few matches into the tournament, they were clearly the most dominant team. They made mockery of a few teams that they played against, registering convincing wins.

This is one big star studded team with as many as 11 players who’ve been part of the National Squads. The biggest plus for this team is its All-Rounders like Pollard, McLaren, Bravo and Duminy.
And Sachin Tendulkar – need I tell anything about him. ? He was top scorer in IPL this Season. He’s currently the leading scorer this year in tests and has scored a Double Century in his last ODI. Now, wouldn’t you be afraid if you were playing against him?

The batting looks settled with Sachin, Rayudu and Tiwary scoring consistently. Pollard with his big lusty hits towards the end along with bravo can be devastating. The bowling too is top class with the likes of Harbhajan, Zaheer and Malinga in the team.

And apart from all these factors, the added advantage would be that this team will be cheered heavily inspite of playing abroad thanks to the presence of SRT in its ranks. A totally efficient tem that has the fuel to go the mile. We’ll just have to wait and watch!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Guyana

Today, it is the turn of the Guyana team from the Caribbean Islands. They qualified for this tournament by virtue of being the Champions of the Domestic T20 tournament of the West Indian Islands.
Their win came as a surprise to many who were expecting Trinidad and Tobago, the winners from last time to retain their crown. But, as we’ve seen on numerous counts, T20 has proved that it is the most unpredictable format of cricket and can take a team from the brink of defeat to an inspiring one in a span of an over or two.
This team has as many as 4 national team players. The enigmatic Ramnaresh Sarwan is the skipper of this team and Narsingh Deonarine, Sewnarine Chattergoon and Travis Dowlin being the other members who’ve played at the highest level.

They also have other local stars like the spin trio of Cush, Bishoo and Crandon, who shared 26 wickets between them in 4 matches. Yet another instance of showing how big an impact the slow bowlers have on the fastest format of the game.
But, the man on whom all eyes will be is Jonathan Foo, the 19 year old player of Chinese origin who blasted Guyana to victory in the Domestic Final with a 17 ball 42 comprising of 4 fours and 3 sixes. Probably another Kieron Pollard in the making ? ?

Only time will tell !!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Big Issue with the Randiv no-ball...

In the last 48 hours or so a lot has been said of Suraj Randiv and how the Sri Lankan team robbed Virender Sehwag of a well deserved ton.

One might argue that this issue has been blown completely out of proportion and something that happened in the heat of the battle in the middle must be forgotten if not forgiven. This is generally the case, but I disagree on this one issue.

I say that this issue of denying Sehwag a ton is a big matter for the simple fact that it goes against the very spirit and fundamental values of the game. Every game has certain rules and regulations, and these can be bent slightly for one's advantage, but by bending and manipulating the rules, the very integrity and honour of the game is lost. Not only for the game but also for the perpetuator. Here no rules was bent, but the spirit of the game was definitely damaged, and damaged heavily.

Centuries are landmarks that are cherished by batsman and if the knock comes in a winning cause the more cherished it becomes. It is similar to a bowler picking up a five wicket haul. These are certain landmarks that are cherished by the players and these moments stand to live on long after their time. And by denying something so prized and memorable by small petty means is nothing but disgrace to the game. Cricket is called the gentleman's game and has high regard for fair play ethics and sportsmanship, but sadly this seems to be deteriorating day by day.

What Suraj Randiv did, angers me because it was completely out of selfish reasons with no valid reasons. He surely can't say it's an accident, because the last time I saw a spinner bowling a one foot no ball was almost never. It was clearly intentional. This is why I say this is a big issue. What pleasure is Randiv or the Sri Lankan team gaining from denying Sehwag a well deserved century? Absolutely none, whatsoever. Which brings me back to the question, then why do it, and rain on someone's parade?

To put things into perspective, what would have happened if India had denied Muthiah Muralitharan his 800th wicket in the first test at Galle? Last man out Ohja could have easily lobbed a catch of any other bowler than Murali, or even knocked his own wickets over during another bowler's over, thereby denying Muralitharan his historic landmark. India couldn't have won the match so they could have easily done the atrocious incident mentioned above. But fortunately that didn't happen. Had it happened, there would have been absolute back-lashing of the Indian team for denying the champion bowler a wicket and world wide criticism. Now just a few weeks after that with Sri Lanka placed in an impossible situation to win, do the unthinkable and deny a celebration. And surely they are coping the criticism of the world.

Sunil Gavaskar the great Indian opener had never scored an ODI century in his career until his penultimate match against New Zealand. The New Zealand bowlers respecting the genius and the legend of Gavaskar bowled him a loopy a delivery when he was in the nineties, so that he could reach his maiden ODI century easily. That was how cricket was played. A story by Jeffery Archer titled “The Century” in the book “A Quiver full of arrows” stresses on the very fundamental of the game being a gentleman's game being played in the right spirit.

Cricket is meant to be played hard and competitively, but at the same time, the spirit of the game shouldn't be damaged. This is where the Australians fell I feel, during their reign. They sledged on the field which is clearly not in the spirit of the game and got themselves the 'bad Australian' tag.

Stories are now circulating that it was Sangakara who planned the whole scheme. Whether this is true or not, I do not know. But I do hope it is in the negative, else the entire image of the team will be lost. As a captain, Sanagakara is supposed to set an open example to his players and also the thousands who follow the game. He has that duty and in accordance with law 1.4 and the preamble of the 'Laws of Cricket' (The captains are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game as well as within the Laws.) Sangakara should be the last man doing this.

There is also lot of talk about how the rules are faulted as only the no-ball is counted and not the six that followed it. Many are blaming the umpires, and the scorers, but I digress with them. Why blame the system and the laws that has worked so well for the last century and more. I find this strangely amusing that the law is being questioned when really the thing to be worried about is whether cricket nowadays upholds the spirit of fair play and the long traditions of being a gentleman's game.

Suraj Randiv at least came out in the open and tendered an open apology. An apology doesn't correct the mistake already done, but hopefully Randiv, and the world have learned a lesson not to be forgotten.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cricket - A Gentleman's Game ?

This is the question that is running through my minds after two indecent acts that have occurred over the past week or so...

The first incident was the one in England involving Stuart Broad and Haider, Pakistan's latest wicket-keeping find. Broad hurled a ball intentionally at Haider at such a great pace that the batsman got injured and is now doubtful for the next test. Anybody else would have picked up a two or three match Test/ODI suspension for sure, but, Broad being Broad was let off lightly. And what was all the more shocking was that people actually supported Broad saying that he was only being aggressive on the field and it was not deliberate.

The second one took place yesterday in the ODI between India and Sri Lanka. Sehwag, having blasted 29 of the required 36 runs , was on strike with 5 runs needed yet. The first ball was wide and the keeper didn't collect it resulting in 4 byes. This was followed by two dot balls and then, Randiv deliberately bowls a one foot one ball ! Shocking !!

This is not the first time it is done by Sri Lanka. They did the same sometime last year when Sachin was on some 90 odd... Malinga bowled 4 wides and finished the match. Also, Viru's six was not added to his score because the match was over before that. My question to the ICC and the umpires... Why not award those runs to the batsman !??! Its absolutely pointless !!

Monday, August 16, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Highveld Lions

Okay.. So we’re going to start of with some home flavor – the Lions from South Africa. They qualified for the Champions League T20 by virtue of being the Runner’s Up of the Standard Bank Pro20 Tournament , which is the official domestic T20 tournament in South Africa.

The Lions actually were the winners in the Inaugural Edition of this tournament in 2006-07 but their form hasn’t been the same ever since. Therefore , it came as a surprise to many in South African cricketing circles that they made it thus far this season. Hence, we need to remember that this team , though being branded underdogs , has done exceeding expectations and came thus far. They definitely cannot be counted out.

The team has a wonderful mixture and experience and youth which I believe is essential for any successful T20 team. They have 4 guys who’ve been part of the National Squad in different formats – Neil McKenzie , their captain Alviro Peterson , Thami Tsolekile , and the wily Zander de Bruyn.
The team also has local starts like Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Robert Frylinck who’ve done well in the domestic seasons and could prove to be match winners in their home conditions. Ethan O’Reilly, touted to be a real quick bowler is also a great asset to their bowling arsenal.

Anyone who’s been following the T20 circuit will surely know the importance of a guy like de Bruyn in the team. He’s every captain’s utility player . Alviro will be hoping that his team clicks as a unit and continues its miraculous run this season ! Here’s wishing them good luck !

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Previews are back - CLT20 this time

Hello Friends !! Feeling great to write for you all thro my friend Christopher Poshin David’s blog “ Poshin’s World ”. As some of you might remember, I did a series of previews before the third edition of IPL. And here I am again, just before the CLT20 is about to kick off !!
This year, Champions League T20 has been in the news for quite a lot of reasons like Lalit Modi’s removal from the helm, players switching loyalties or wondering which team to play for, and so on..... And, it willdefinitely be a big disappointment to cricket fanatics like me that they moved it to South Africa.
I’m not blaming South Africa, yes, it is a nice place to play cricket as we’ve found out time and again ( IPL 2 , Inaugural T20 WC ) .... But, what we ought to remember here is that Cricket while being played in INDIA is absolutely a different ball game !! And if the plan was to help Indian Economy too, the switch to SA now will effectively make that plan a farce.
Alright, what’s happened has happened and there’s absolutely no use of us pondering over it. Lets get back to the present and shift our focus towards previewing the teams that are going to battle it out this time round.
There are going to be a total of 10 teams competing ( down from he 12 last season thanks to the two English teams not taking part ) and they have been split into two groups of 5 teams each. I’ll be previewing them adhering to the schedule given below starting tomorrow.....
Lions 16th Aug
Guyana 19th Aug
Mumbai Indians 21st Aug
South Australia 24th Aug
Royal Challengers Bangalore 27th Aug
Warriors 29th Aug
Victoria Bushrangers 1st Sep
Wayamba 3rd Sep
Central District Stags 5th Sep
Chennai Super Kings 8th Sep
Do be back again to read the previews and give your feedback/comments/arguments/opinions.....
Deepak (aka) Quizzomaniac

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day, India!

(Pictures from first Independence Day celebrations in Delhi, 1947.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quality Or Quantity?

I was watching the Federer v Llodra match in Toronto the other night. Despite the difference in ranking of the two players (Federer is at present ranked as #3 in the world; Llodra currently at #35) it was a highly entertaining affair: aggressive shots; dashes to the net (I think Lllodra was officially at the net some 50 times; Federer, somewhat uncharacteristically, some 20); angles played and angles robbed; volleys and passing shots. Each point was sharp and short. It was a highly entertaining affair, but a relatively short one: two sets; 1 hours 19 minutes. Would Federer fans have enjoyed the match had it gone on for longer? I think not. Would Llodra fans? Well, apart from the fact that 'their' man did not win, I think not. In fact, I would go as far as saying that it was the most enjoyable, most riveting match of this year's Toronto tournament thus far.

You may ask what has this got to do with cricket?

Well, to a certain extent, it has to do with cricket pitches I think. Even more, it has to do with what people watching cricket want. And even more than that, it has to do what the cricket powers-that-be and the ground staff they direct think that people who watch cricket want.

At the moment, the cricket powers-that-be appear to believe that what we cricket tragics want to see are Test matches that go for the full 5 days and batsmen who are allowed to score boundaries and sixes every time they put bat to the ball. So they prefer pitches that allow batsmen to score freely and put put the ropes further and further into the field.

But do we?

Speaking for myself, I want Test matches that test bowlers and batsmen equally. I am very tired of Tests with flat,'batsmen-friendly' pitches where scoring is gratuitous. The ones where first innings scores touch the seven-hundred. The ones in which towards the end of Day 2, exhausted bowlers are totter up towards the pitch on what one imagines must be the bloody stumps that use to be their feet. The ones in which the rope/boundary is placed so far in on the field, that it seems only a slight exaggeration to say that any ball chipped past mid-on is a 6. I would prefer a result in most Test matches. I would prefer livelier pitches that produces exciting-to-watch batting (because the batsman, unless he selects and executes his shots both carefully and with skill might get out), as well as exciting-to-watch bowling and fielding (because they all feel they have a chance: the chance to create a chance; the chance to take a chance). I would prefer Test matches in which each innings is around the 90 overs of one day with each Xi all out; I would prefer Day 5 to be a sort of 'back-up' to force a result. A test (Test) of players, not the viewers' patience.

In short: longer is not necessarily better. Better is better. And the more exciting, the better — even if it is short. Short but sweet. Quality, not quantity. Whether in tennis or cricket.

Monday, August 9, 2010

ENG v PAK, Day 3: Spin, Grit, and Silliness

In his debut Test for Pakistan and on a King Pair — narrowly avoided by grace of the review system — Pakistan's new wicket keeper, Zulqarnain Haider, grittily rode both his luck and his skill to the highest score of the match so far: 88. Congratulations!

(Apparently, Haider intends to donate half of his Test match fees to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in memory of his mother, who died of the disease some years ago — which is a really nice gesture.)

Graeme Swann took six wickets, removing Imran Farhat with a delivery Andrew McGlashan of cricinfo claims 'has every right to be the finest of his career'. Congratulations to him too!

Another spinner also had a good day ... but with the bat: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal produced a half-ton and rather defiantly raised his arm in celebration. As so often happens, he then promptly got out — another Swann victim. Judging by cricinfo's stats, that is Ajmal's highest score by far: his previous one being 10. So congratulations are more than in order.

(Seriously though, when did Pakistani cricketers become unable to play spin? Cf Australia's tedious and normally innocuous part-timer Marcus North also getting six wickets against Pakistan.)

Not so many congratulations goes to Stuart Broad who has been charged with a level two offence under ICC's code of conduct for throwing the ball at Zulqarnain Haider in an 'inappropriate manner'. Commenting the match on television at the time of the incident, Nasser Hussain said (my transcript):

'He's an angry young man, Stuart Broad. He really is. He's had a review turned down and he's questioning the umpire … and then young Haider has played a decent forward defense … I mean, is there any need for that at all?! Absolutely no need for that. You can apologise as much as you want, but just don't do it! It's not needed. Ridiculous! […] Yeah, Bumble, I don't mind the aggression from Stuart Broad; it's part of his skill — his armoury — but certain things he does just winds me up: not to turn around and ask the umpire for a decision; just to throw the ball at a batsman on debut … Ridiculous!'

And Nasser Hussain is right. It was ridiculous. It was also quite, quite silly.

(Zulqarnain Hader can be found on twitter as @cricketer_pak ; Graeme Swann goes under the moniker @Swanny66 )

Sunday, August 8, 2010

India and Pakistan: the Cruel Difference

India and Pakistan: there's a very, very special difference.

India had a Very, Very Special second innings.

Pakistan had a very, very *ahem* 'special' first innings.

Test cricket is aptly named: it tests. It tests bowlers, batsmen, fielders, and captains' resilience and strategical thinking as well as execution alike. And it cruelly exposes deficiencies in any. Which is why we like it. Right?!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A chance to live your dream!

Royal Challengers Bangalore are giving an opportunity for cricket fans to live their dream by working with the team during the Airtel CLT20.  Three lucky fans will be selected after viewing their applications and in an interview.  This is the perfect opportunity for any blogger, photographer or podcaster to make it big and live the dream rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rahul Dravid and Dale Steyn!

So what are you waiting for?  Dust those writing pads, lenses and the microphones and apply at the Fanatic Fan Challenge-3!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sachin Tendulkar, the One They All Want to Be

On the cusp of India's Independence Day, Sachin Tendulkar became the most-capped Test cricketer ever, having now played in a record-breaking 169 Test matches. He was congratulated on the floor of the lower house, the Lok Sabha, by the Speaker herself.

It is hard to think of another sportsman as respected and almost revered as Sachin Tendulkar — Roger Federer, perhaps — not only by team mates and supporters of India's XI, but by opponents and cricket tragics all over the world. Apparently, on the wall of the restaurant that Tendulkar owns in Mumbai hangs a cricket jersey, signed by Andrew Symonds; it says: 'To Sachin, the player we all want to be'.

A little vignette: this Tuesday, on Fox Sports Australia's programme The Back Page, journalist Robert Craddock wore the very cap Sachin Tendulkar had worn in his very fist Test match for India. Craddock had bought in, if I remember correctly, 1998 for some US$300. When he heard about the purchase, for that outrageous amount of money, Tendulkar had approached Craddock and asked he if was really all right with paying that for his cap — and Craddock had to assure him that, yes, yes he was. It is that kind of concern and modesty that Tendulkar, almost alone among world-famous sportsmen, seems to have managed to somehow retain.

169. Luckily for us, he seems happy to continue to delight us.

(Sadly, I have not been able to get a screen shot of Craddock wearing his Sachin cap. The podcast of the programme can be downloaded here; it's the one from 3 Aug.)