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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Everything you need to know about the 2013 IPL Auction

It's that time of the year again when the IPL player auction takes place. This season it will be held in Chennai on February 3 when 101 players will go under the hammer as the 9 franchisees will bid for them and build their teams. Here's everything you need to know about the auction. And I mean everything!

The basic rules of the auction
  • Each franchisee has a salary cap on $12.5m for their 2013 squad.
  • The maximum squad strength can be 33 players, which includes a maximum of 11 overseas players.
  • Players not bought during the auction can be signed by the franchisees as replacements for injured payers.
Few points about the auction pool
  • No Pakistan players feature in the list of 101 players that will be auctioned
  • The list includes seven Indians (Sudeep Tyagi, Jaydev Unadkat, Pankaj Singh, RP Singh, Manpreet Gony , Abhishek Nayar, Wasim Jaffer)
  • The list also contains two Englishmen (Matt Prior, Ravi Bopara) and one Irish player (Kevin O'Brien)
  • Majority of the players in the auction pool are from Australia and South Africa with names from Sri Lanka and New Zealand also appearing.
  • Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting fetch the highest reserve price of $ 400,000.
  • West Indies T20 World Cup winning captain, Darren Sammy ($100,000) features in the auction for the first time.
Who are the hot buys of the auction?

One thing the past IPL auctions have thought us is that nothing is predictable. There really is no such thing as a hot buy, since the franchisees have their own visions for their teams and their own plans and sometimes you see players such as Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi who are known for their T20 skills overlooked as they were in previous editions. However one can relatively with some authority still classify certain players as hot picks and these are the players who I think will be the ones that will raise a few eyebrows and get people into a bidding frenzy.

  • Johan Botha (Reserve price $300,000): The South African all-rounder was released by Rajasthan Royals after a poor 2012 season but his all-round abilities are sure to be in big demand.
  • Michael Clarke ($400,000): Released by Pune, the Aussie skipper is another big draw, though his reserve price does raise some questions
  • Doug Bollinger ($200,000): He's been a star for Chennai and it was a surprise when he was released. Expect some very heavy bidding for the baby faced fats bowler.
  • Darren Sammy ($100,000): It might be his first auction, but he's sure to be on most of the want to buy lists.
  • Daniel Christian ($100,000): He hasn't had the best IPL experience, but his all-round abilities are surely in demand.
  • Dirk Nannes ($200,000): The ageing T20 specialist still is a force to be reckoned with.
  • RP Singh ($100,000): The Indian pacer hasn't been having the best of times the last two years, but his name his still on the top 5 wicket takers in the IPL and he's sure to catch a few eyes.
  • Abhishek Nayar ($100,000): The all-rounder was released after a dismal 2012 season, but after the out standing domestic season this year, he's bound to be a hot cake.
Watch out for...
  • Ricky Ponting ($400,000): It will be interesting to see if anyone picks up the aged Australian legend for the young men's game.
  • Martin Guptill ($100,000): He's probably New Zealand's second best batsman after Taylor and should be picked.
  • James Hopes ($100,000): He's played for 3 different IPL teams and might be playing in a 4th team this season.
  • Tino Best ($50,000): Who doesn't love this man? Not a popular pick, but keep an eye out for him.
  • Richard Levi ($50,000): After a blistering start to his career, he was immediately bagged by Mumbai but now that the smoke has settled, will anyone still go for this heavy hitter?
  • Ajantha Mendis ($50,000): Do IPL teams still think the mystery spinner is a mystery?
What to expect from the auction?
Expect the unexpected. Don't be surprised if the teams decided to overlook the obvious buy and go for some unknown player. Sometimes it is beyond comprehension and it probably is, but that's how these things work. Also don't expect the teams to go all out and bid for many players. They all would have set their eyes on a select few that will fill the holes they have in the team and it is this that the teams will be trying to fill. Plus remember they all have limit on the salary and also squad size.

How much money do the franchisees have for the auction?
Since all teams including the newly formed SunRisers Hyderabad have retained some players from their previous squads, they go into the auction with only limited spots available in the team and also with a limit on the caps. So much can each franchisee spend on the auction and how many can they buy?

SunRisers Hyderabad: 
Present cost of squad: $5.5m. Salary cap remaining: $7m
Present squad - Indian players: 14, Overseas players: 6

Chennai Super Kings: 
Present cost of squad: $9.3m, Salary cap remaining: $3.2m
Present squad - Indian players: 9, Overseas players: 6

Delhi Daredevils: 
Present cost of squad: $10.8m, Salary cap remaining: $1.7m
Present squad - Indian players: 11, Overseas players: 7

Kings XI Punjab: 
Present cost of squad: $5.3m, Salary cap remaining: $7.2m
Present squad - Indian players: 13, Overseas players: 6

Kolkata Knight Riders: 
Present cost of squad: $10.4m, Salary cap remaining: $2.1m
Present squad - Indian players: 12, Overseas players: 10

Mumbai Indians: 
Present cost of squad: $10.7m, Salary cap remaining: $1.8m
Present squad - Indian players: 20, Overseas players: 7

Pune Warriors India: 
Present cost of squad: $8.5m, Salary cap remaining: $4m
Present squad - Indian players: 18, Overseas players: 6

Rajasthan Royals: 
Present cost of squad: $4.1m, Salary cap remaining: $8.4m
Present squad - Indian players: 9, Overseas players: 4

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 
Present cost of squad: $9.7m, Salary cap remaining: $2.8m
Present squad - Indian players: 14, Overseas players 6

You can find the complete list of the players going under the hammer here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mumbai's 40th win, Che Pujara and BCCI

The jubilant Mumbai team led by Agarkar
Mumbai routed a hapless Saurashtra just before Tea on the third day of the Ranji Trophy finals to win their 40th title [SCORECARD]. The match was very much an one sided affair with not much left to say as the pure might and experience of the Mumbai team crushed the young Saurashtra team and it's a shame to have the most prestigious tournament in Indian domestic cricket end in such a mismatched way.

Saurashtra have been one of the best teams in the Ranji Trophy this season and that has been the reason that they have made it to the finals, but the young team lacking experience, just couldn't put it together when it all mattered. They were also seriously handicapped since Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja were both on International duty and hence had to miss the final. Pujara and Jadeja are without doubt the two best players in that Saurashtra team and the reason for the team being in the finals has been because of these two. It was disappointing to see them denied their two best players. Pujara was made to carry drinks at Dharamsala and the Indian team could have very well released him to play in the finals. It was the only logical thing to do, considering that this is the ultimate prize in Indian domestic cricket. Surely they could have found someone else to carry the drinks.

India could have even released Ravindra Jadeja, had they wanted. This might seem controversial as an international cap is any day bigger than a first class cap, but considering that India had already won the series, India could have done with some experimenting while the all-rounder turned up at Mumbai. It wouldn't be the first time for such an incident to have taken place.

Mumbai too were likewise denied the services of Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. Rahane's case is much like Pujara where he sat out the match on the bench carrying drinks and surely could have been better utilized in Mumbai, while Rohit Sharma did feature in the final XI. Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) had earlier written to the BCCI to release the players from international duty if they weren't in the playing XI, but the BCCI chose to ignore request.

Mumbai also missed their strike bowler in Zaheer Khan due to an injury. However with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar - who started turning up for Mumbai since his ODI retirement - and experience in seasoned campaigners in Agit Agarkar and Wasim Jaffer looked hardly like a depleted side. After all it was a Mumbai team and the team is synonymous with the word dominance in Ranji Trophy having won the 40 editions of the 79 held. Saurashtra however aren't a team blessed with such depth and it clearly showed!

It's understandable not to release Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja as they were actually part of the playing XI, but it's simply beyond comprehension not to release Pujara and Rahane from their towel and water bottle carrying duties. This is the the finals of the first-class tournament - the highest level in the Indian domestic circuit and to have such a mismatch and key players missing is surely a crime. BCCI's lack of any action whether it be postponing the finals by a couple days, or releasing the key players (which really is a simple thing to do) sadly shows just how much it really is interested in the finals. BCCI without doubt, would have loved to see a closely contested final, but I doubt if it was keen on making that happen. The message BCCI is sending out is that first class cricket is sadly not one that is high on their list. With the inception of the IPL, BCCI has been concerned about that and the money that it brings, and as much good the IPL has done for domestic cricket in India by bringing in plenty of money, there now exists a deep divide between it and other domestic tournaments.

This divide is something Wisden India's Senior Editior, Shamya Dasgupta calls a class divide and according to him the IPL has created a set of haves and have nots based on the 'disproportionate sums of money' and fame received by the T20 specialists in IPL in comparison to first class cricketers.
Take Debabrata Das, for instance. He has finally made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bengal this season. He had played domestic Twenty20s in the past, but was never considered good enough for the four-day format. But chances are that he is better known and richer than, say, Anustup Majumdar or Rohan Banerjee, both regulars with Bengal. The reason: Das has become a regular for Kolkata Knight Riders.  
And so, to return to the moneytalk, while Das now earns anything between Rs 10-20 lakh (1 lakh = 100,000 INR) for his place in the KKR ranks, what do Majumdar or Banerjee earn? For an entire season of cricket for Bengal (if they play all the matches) and, occasionally, for East Zone, they earn less than Rs 10 lakh.
Now of course there is a clear difference but such a difference is to be expected considering that IPL is a tournament with foreign stars, and more than cricket it is a grand gala with Bollywood actors, cheerleaders and dancers that celebrates the rise of modern India and the power it holds. Not much can compete with an event that tried to even push for its own window in the international calender either publicity wise or money wise. But now it's clear that nothing can. Not even the finals of India's most prestigious domestic tournament and staging that with quality seems to be of much interest to the BCCI and can compete with the amount of interest the board gives to its T20 league. Perhaps this is more than just a sad sign of the future that BCCI has in mind for Indian cricket.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dilshan's Dilscoop: Bravery or stupidity?

Dishan pulls out the Dilscoop!
Facing a bowler who hurls bullets at speeds of 140 kms is more than a scary task. Especially if that bowler is someone of Mitchell Starc's skill level and accuracy. But that doesn't matter when the batsman's name is Tillakaratne Dilshan and yesterday in the first T20 match against Australia [SCORECARD], he played the most outrageous shot you'll ever see played to a fast bowler.

I've never seen a batsman get on his knees to a ball that is coming at him at 144.4 Kmph and as easy as you'd like it play the ramp (or Dilscoop as it is known), sending the ball sailing over the keeper, and 20 rows after the boundary! It's a moment of pure genius that one expects to see when playing gully cricket in the streets, not in an international match! For a batsman to attempt such a stroke against someone so quick means that either he has no care for his own health and contemplating suicide or is so extremely brave that it would shame even King Leonidas.

Watching the shot, I was awestruck. It takes equal parts of bravery and stupidity to even attempt such a stroke against a fast bowler and as the Spanish musician, David Summers rightly said, "bravery and stupidity go hand in hand."

“There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. If you get away with it, you are brave. If you don't, you are stupid,” said Escario once and it's often true that players such as Sehwag and Dilshan tend to walk and even live every ball they face on that thin line where there really is no clear distinction between bravery and stupidity. Dilshan here will be remembered as being both extremely brave and stupid, while the shot he played as being one of pure brilliance and one of the greatest in cricket.

The Wicket Post has been nominated for the 2012 Sportskeeda Blogger Awards. Please take a minute and vote for us here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The luckless and guiltless Pakistan fans

Pakistani fans - victims of politics and terror
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in order to attract foreign players to play in it's Pakistan Super League (PSL), is offering a deal of $ 2 million as life insurance. PCB in addition to this have also gotten the Pakistani government to make the income of the foreign players earned from the tournament as tax free. The move comes a day after the English Players' Union reported of 'grave security concerns'.

There has been no international cricket in Pakistan ever since March 2009, when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked at Lahore by terrorists. No team has wanted to tour the country for security reasons and rightly so, as safety always comes first. Pakistan cricket has suffered greatly in the period and its isolation has affected not only the finance of the PCB but also its fans.

The 10 day domestic T20 tournament, PSL is great for Pakistan cricket and its fans. It resembles the IPL and one of the reasons of IPL's success has been the involvement of overseas stars. However with security still a concern it is to be seen just how many foreign players do opt for the league.

The plight of the 188 million Pakistanis who love cricket has been a sad tale for the last few years. The team has performed badly, the controversies of spot-fixing has tainted their image, the various truffles and schisms between senior players and the board has left a bad taste, the international stars have been barred from playing in the Indian Premier League (which despite all the criticism is the biggest domestic T20 event in the world of cricket) and with no international cricket being played at home for almost 4 years now, the people are desperate to glimpse at a live spectacle that is a religion in the subcontinent. We saw that in October last year when a team known as International World XI, led by a retired 43 year, bald old man played against a Pakistan All Star XI in two T20s that had no official status. PCB failed to recognize the matches, but that didn't stop the Pakistani public from filling every seat, and every available space in the National Stadium at Karachi. The scenes from that series which held no relevance whatsoever showed just how much cricket meant to the Pakistani people and more so how much they miss having it in their home soil.

PSL - Pakistan's IPL
However for international cricket to resume (or get foreign players to play in its PSL) in Pakistan, there is a very long way to go. No team, or player is going to put himself in harms way. Pakistan must ensure an environment that is free of threats and this is easier said that done in a country where chaos is normality. I feel that every single nation is justified in turning down a tour to Pakistan and it is the PCB that is to be blamed for most parts. But what can the PCB do when the entire issue is not in its control? Even it is helpless! How can a cricket board fight against the terrorism that is instilled in the heart of the country and is even developed by its very own government for its selfish agendas? The PCB itself is a victim much like the fans, and cricket in Pakistan suffers as a result of the political turmoil and insecurity the country faces on a day to day basis.

A recent image that went viral had the responses that various countries met out when their country is being attacked. According to the image, USA and Israel when attacked immediately would retaliate against the attackers, while India when attacked would simply stop playing cricket with the attackers (perhaps a very good reason not to attack India). Again this shows India's diplomatic relationship with Pakistan. The two countries have had a long strained relationship filled with violence and the end of that it is no where near. And while Indian cricket hasn't suffered much due to this, Pakistan cricket has, and again for no reasons of its own but because of its government and its inabilities to keep the fanatical jihad elements within it who violate the Line of Control (LoC) and infiltrate into Kashmir to cause terror. The Pakistan tour to India just last month was met with great amount of love from both sides of the border and it signaled a step forward as it was the first time a Pakistan team set foot in India for a bilateral series after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The move was seen progressive for peace. But now after some inhumane acts by the Pakistani army on the LoC by beheading an Indian Jawan, violating the peace, things have gone back and it is unlikely that India will be meeting Pakistan at home for some time.

Cricket and politics are best left alone and separate, but unfortunately that is not always possible. And as much as we would like it not to, a country's politics plays a huge impact on its cricket and in Pakistan we see that and just how negative that it can be, to make the PCB and Pakistani government offer insurance money and tax free income in a bid to attract foreign players. Instead of trying to bribe players with money, the Pakistani government will do well to create a secure environment that makes players want to visit their country. After all what use is the money from insurance when you are dead? Pakistan might hate its neighbor, but it can learn a few things from India.

One of cricket's quintessential writer in 2008 wrote an article on the security issues in Pakistan and the troubles that the country faces. Gideon Haigh in the article writes,
An irreducible degree of risk will attach to any cricket tour of Pakistan, as indeed to daily life itself. For as long as that pertains, Pakistan faces competing in international cricket on an essentially part-time basis, unable, like Sri Lanka in the 1980s, to host inbound tours from non-Asian competitors, at terrible cost to local cricket and its luckless, guiltless fans.
The biggest victims of Pakistan's politics, its terror infrastructure and the PCB's many schisms has been its luckless and guiltless cricket fans and one cannot help but feel sad for these hapless Pakistan fans.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Watch India vs. England ODIs online

In the age of Facebook and Twitter, watching cricket online has never been easier and for cricket fans there's something different at Starsports' recently launched sports website.

The site contains Live, high definition video streaming with an interesting video timeline feature, a live scorecard with social media interactions roped in, and pages and pages of highlights videos.

The video timeline is one thing that has particularly caught my eye and it's the first of it kind. The timeline details all the big moments of the match, such as the wickets, catches and spills as well as the small details such as boundaries and it truly makes watching cricket online a different experience.

The social media conversation happening on at the side is an interactive feature where the viewers get a chance to voice their views and for people who follow cricket on Twitter, this is made for you.

So what are you waiting for? Go take a look at India take on England at

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's in a name?

The pressures Arjun faces on his young shoulders are huge 
William Shakespeare in his tale of the 'star-crossed lovers', in Romeo and Juliet, wonders "What's in a name?" He goes on to tell that names are just artificial and meaningless things and says, "That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." However names in real life do matter plenty and economist Steven D. Levitt has even written extensively on the phenomena of names. However when it comes to cricket, just how big is having a certain name a factor?

Anjali Doshi in her weekly column on Wisden India, looks at the very same thing as she tries to figure out, 'what’s in the Tendulkar name?' Doshi mentions the drawbacks of being in the footsteps of the father and illustrates using Bob Dylan's son, Jakob Dylan as an example.
In an interview to the New York Times a few years ago, Jakob Dylan spoke about his father, a man he otherwise conscientiously kept out of media interactions. A man who puts to shade every achievement Jakob ever notched up since he began his career with rock band The Wallflowers in 1989. A man he is reported to share a strained relationship with. A man whose name he never wanted to be accused of misusing to advance his career.

The lyrics from Hand Me Down, a song Jakob wrote in 2000, are indicative of what it must feel like to live in the shadow of the greatest singer-songwriter of all time: You’re a hand me down/It’s better when you’re not around/You feel good and you look like you should/But you won’t ever make us proud.

Eventually, Jakob resigned himself to the fate that selling six million copies of an album and winning two Grammys would elicit only limited interest in him. No matter what he does, he will always remain a footnote to his father’s triumphs and talent. “I still go into a restaurant and people say, ‘I love your dad’s work’,” he told the NYT.

Imagine hearing that almost every day of your life. A significant amount of psychological study and self-help literature is devoted to the all-pervasive human anxiety of not being good enough. If you’re Bob Dylan’s son, that feeling of not being good enough or “not amounting to much”, Jakob’s angst-ridden verdict in Hand Me Down, is perhaps overwhelming.
Such is the pressure young Arjun Tendulkar will face, she writes. Arjun Tendulkar is already a household name in India and has the media chasing him almost as much as they chase his father. His face is well known to the billions in this country and millions more around the world and the debate of how he'll fare in cricket is one that keeps coming up time and time again. And the young man in the spotlight who has to undergo all this is just 13 years of age and has just taken his first steps to a career of professional cricket as he was selected in the under -14 Mumbai team.

Though the negatives of always living under the father's shadow, struggling to create a separate identity for oneself and always being compared to the father will take a heavy toll on young Arjun Tendulkar, there are also plenty of positives that the name Tendulkar brings him.

Doshi mentions the case of Rohan Gavaskar and mentions that Arjun Tendulkar will undergo the same struggle if he decides to take the brave call of following his father's footsteps.
Except that Arjun is anything but a normal member of the team. If there is one person who has some sense of what it feels like to be Arjun, it is Rohan Gavaskar. In his first Kanga League outing, at 14, Rohan and Eknath Solkar’s son Brijesh both had poor games. A photo of the two appeared in the papers the next day with a big caption that read, ‘Like Fathers, Unlike Sons’. Rohan says it hurt, but he used it to motivate himself.

“I was lucky enough to realise early in my career (during his first Ranji season) that chances of me being another Sunil Gavaskar are very slim. I often got told I was not as good as my dad. And what could I say? It’s true. But nobody else was as good as my dad. And that made it easier. When it comes to Gavaskar and Tendulkar, you’re talking of the greatest of all time. I couldn’t compete with his legacy. I just wanted to be the best that I could be,” says Rohan, who played just 11 One-Day International matches for India but enjoyed a successful first-class career with Bengal.
However the positives are that Arjun Tendulkar is always going to be recognized for his merits and faults. While this maybe harmful on one hand, but at the same time many young cricketers in India crave for some attention to be paid to them and their performances. In a country where thousands play cricket, it's not possible to assess every single player and many great, talented players get deprived of their future as they fail to be recognized. Arjun Tendulkar will never have the troubles that many youngsters in the rural areas in India have as they strive for the spotlight. Javagal Srinath, and Munaf Patel might have been selected for the Indian team, but not before a huge struggle to stand out among thousands of other young lads with similar dreams. For Arjun that will never be much of a problem as every move he makes is bound to be scrutinized by hundreds of 'experts' and millions of fans who chant the Tendulkar name. Of course this has the negatives that all his faults and shortcomings will be in the glaring public light. But isn't it better to be a somebody in front of someone than a nobody in front of none?

Rohan Gavaskar is the perfect example of that, and I'm certain that his name opened quite a few doors for him. In the IPL and the Tamil Nadu team, we see Anirudha Srikanth, son of former Indian cricketer, Krish Srikanth and whenever he plays the comparing to his father's style of play immediately surfaces, but that's just part of the game.

Nico Rosberg, the son of former Formula One World Champion, Keke Rosberg spent much of his childhood in the paddocks and was greatly involved in motor-sport racing, but his career was never set in stone. Now racing for Mercedes AMG Petronas under the German flag, Nico still hasn't achieved his father's greatness, and still has managed to create a niche for himself, even if it be under the shade of his father's name. Rosberg speaking of his father and the pressure of carrying on his rich legacy once said, "Pressure is always a part of a racing driver's life but my father helped me a lot on my way to becoming a F1 driver. So I don't have bad feelings about that situation."

Nico Rosberg - Much like Arjun in a way
Nico Rosberg is much like Arjun Tendulkar. They both watched their fathers during their careers and were integral part of it. Both got to know the sport through their fathers and experience certain aspects of the game that only the sons of Keke Rosberg and Sachin Tendulkar could have. And both were inspired by their fathers to take the game.

Speaking of that, Nico says, "I really grew up in the DTM paddock. I remember my father's last race very clearly when he drove at Hockenheim in front of 100,000 people and I was sitting next to him on the roof of his car and waving to the fans. That was the moment when I thought: one day I want to do the same." It's the name Rosberg that gave him such permission and we see the same thing in the life of young Arjun Tendulkar and surely such a privilege is more a blessing than a curse. Doshi, in her article summarizes the pros and cons.
"The expectations, the scrutiny, the pressure, and the constant comparisons — all downsides of being the offspring of very successful cricketing fathers. The advantages — the spotlight, the doors it opens and having a coach at home to sort out niggles. Not to mention the sense of entitlement when you bear a name such as Gavaskar or Tendulkar." 
And surely the scale tips in favor of the pros.

Another F1 driver, Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late Ayrton Senna has had a largely unfulfilled career in Formula One so far. Bruno Senna is extremely talented no doubt, and even his uncle who is considered as the greatest man to sit behind the wheel said that Bruno was a better racer than him. However time and time again he failed to live up to the promise. Many wonder what Bruno's career might have been had he not been a Senna and not had to carry the burden of upholding the legacy of his uncle. One can wonder, but the fact is that it's his performances that defines him at the end of the day, and one day though Arjun Tendulkar might be compared and measured against the stats of his father, it's his performances that will eventually matter and define who he is. After all only his surname is Tendulkar. His first name is something else.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sir Ravindra Jadeja answers his critics

Jadeja served a dish of humble pie today
Ravindra Jadeja today at Kochi, put up his best performance in international cricket as he helped India rout England by 127 runs [SCORECARD]. Jadeja who was the man of the match, first played a scintillating knock at the death and remained not out on 61 from just 37 balls. He then bowled brilliantly picking up two English wickets in his seven overs, giving away just 12 runs. He also affected a run out and without any shadow of doubt played more than the all-rounder's role that is expected of him.

Jadeja is a talented player, but he has had more than his fair share of criticisms and cynicism over his place in the ODI team as an all-rounder. I'm one of those people who have time and time again have questioned his place in the team and not without good reasons. Jadeja as an all-rounder, simply hasn't filled the batting requirements of the Indian team coming in at number 7 as I had mentioned in an earlier article this week. In the article I had said that India still lack a world class all-rounder and Ravindra Jadeja hasn't done justice to the all-rounder tag as he has only fulfilled his role as a bowler and not as a batsman. But boy oh boy, wasn't I made to eat those words today? Maybe he read the article and thought to himself, 'I'll show'em who's an all-rounder.'

I'm happy that Jadeja proved me wrong today. After all as an Indian fan, how can I not celebrate when a youngster performs and leads his team to victory. It was certainly not expected, but the onus is now on Jadeja to make performances like this expected every time he has the bat or the ball in hand. That is what makes a player really good. People expect good players to succeed more than fail and this is what sets them apart and as good a surprise Jadeja's performance today was, it's time to make this a habit.

One performance is not going to take critics off Jadeja's back. He needs to do this consistently and only then will India have the all-rounder that they so dearly search for. But until then, today will be a strong reminder to all that Jadeja is one of immense talent and temperament - two things that no one doubted he possessed but seldom was showcased at the international arena. And today he showed that all those numbers in the domestic circuit and the IPL, aren't just mere numbers and that he indeed belongs at the international level. Now it's time for him not jut show that he belongs at the very highest level but actually belong at the very highest level and be a success there. Only then will he answer his critics, silencing them forever. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

More twists in the Cronje tale

Cronje testifies at King Commission
Hansie Cronje is one of the most popular name in the game of cricket and mostly for all the wrong reasons. The former South African captain was the one of the greatest cricketers his country had ever produced, but on a hot summer April day in 2000, all hell broke loose when match fixing allegations surfaced. From then cricket plunged into one of its darkest periods as the shadow of match fixing loomed over cricket. Cronje and countless others were named, tried and many handed severe sentences. Cronje's career ended and he was banned for life from playing or coaching the sport. And since then the black smoke of fixing has remained over the sport, tarnishing its credibility.

The troubled times of early 2000, leave many unanswered questions. With cricket boards in respective countries wanting to shut down the fixing case quickly, went about ruthlessly handing out  sentences and shushing up the story, to kill the pest. The case of Ajay Jadeja would be the perfect example of that. Cronje was tried by the King Commission and based on the witness of two team mates, Hershelle Gibbs and Henry Williams (both who were banned for 6 months), he was found guilty and banned for life. There are many different stories, mostly conspiracy rumors on the Cronje trial. There are many who believe that even Cronje's tragic death in a plane crash wasn't an accident but rather a planned murder ordered by the betting under-lords. People such as former South African player, Clive Rice swear by this and Cronje's story has always been controversial. However now, Henry Williams, one of the players whose testimony against Cronje was vital has come out saying that he had lied.
"It was serious then, and after that I thought, alright, life must go on: it can't stop. But at that particular moment there was fear.

"When we testified to our lawyers what the story really was, they came up with a threat that we could be prosecuted for doing something like this. So it means we actually lied to our lawyers, who had to tell another story to get to somebody. I believe that was to get to Cronje and whoever was involved in this. I had never been in a court before. We gave our Senior Counsel the story. We had to come back and testify to the King commission - a different story. I don't know if we were forced to lie to get to somebody else. I'm still confused today.

"When people ask me I will tell them the truth. I'll say, 'That's what I said to my lawyers; what really happened'. Then, to the King commission, a different story. I don't know why, because we were forced by the prosecution. I didn't know what the hell was happening, what can happen to me. So I came up with a different story."
Williams was banned for 6 months for his involvement
At the King Commission, Williams had testified that Cronje had offered him $ 15,000 to concede more than 50 runs in his 10 overs against India at the Nagpur ODI in 2000, but Williams bowled just 11 balls in the match due to a shoulder injury. Gibbs likewise in his testimony had been promised $ 15,000 to score less than 20 runs, but he made a half century. Hence according to the testimony, neither received any money. But these new revelations by Williams raises questions over the entire trial.

Speaking of the 'true' version, Williams said,
"By the time I was in the shower [the morning of the Nagpur match], I heard Cronje in the room speaking to Herschelle but I don't know what they are talking about. When I put my shirt over my head, he [Cronje] said, 'Hey, let's throw this game'. I said, 'Ja, let's throw this game'. Because now he's smiling with me and I'm smiling with him - if you're going to bullshit me I'm going to bullshit you, so fine. There was nothing involved. At lunchtime, he [Cronje] came to me and said, 'We scored too many runs'. I looked at him and said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'Guys, the deal is off'. I said, 'So what?' He never spoke to us about money - you're going to get this and you must go for that."
The lawyers who represented Gibbs and Williams in the trial have called Williams' claims preposterous and Gibbs has distanced himself from it and hasn't spoken on the issue.

In 2012, on the 10th anniversary of Cronje's death, Williams in an interview to BBC had said that he was still scarred in his involvement in the match-fixing scandal.

Whether if these latest revelations by Williams is the truth, we might never know. But what is certain is that the story of Cronje will forever be heavily under skepticism and controversial as ever. And not to forget with the element of intrigue. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The same problem haunts India

Jadeja hasn't filled the batting requirements at no. 7
India for better last decade have struggled to answer the question of team combination in ODIs. The debate whether to play seven specialist batsmen (wicket keeper included) and four bowlers or six specialist batsman (wicket keeper included) and five bowlers, is one that keeps coming up in the absence of an international quality all-rounder who can perhaps fill the void of both batting and bowling at number 7.

India normally has answered this question depending on the nature of the wicket, the conditions of play and the bowling strength of the opposition. But this temporary solution hasn't always worked out and we witnessed that at Rajkot in the first ODI against England as the men in blue went down by 9 runs.

India has always been a team which has relied on its batting. The 'no target is too big to chase' has been the team's mantra at home on flat, batting friendly tracks and it's no wonder that two ODI double centurions are from this team. The bowling has always been the weak link and the strategy has always been to score more runs to cover for the weak bowling. Seven batsmen, four bowlers has always been the default.

India at Rajkot played six specialist batsmen and four specialist bowlers, and Ravindra Jadeja as an all-rounder. Jadeja is a talent player, no doubt but as a batsman, he has been found wanting in the international level. As a bowler, he's performing as well as the other specialist bowlers in the side. He has 61 wickets from 61 matches at an economy rate of 4.89 in ODIs, which in modern day cricket make up good numbers. However as a batsman, he is no where near the class of a specialist batsman and his numbers here reflect that. Time and time again, he has failed when India desperately needed him to succeed and the few times that he has gotten runs, it's been when India have lost. All his five half centuries have come in Indian losses and Jadeja's contribution to the team as a batsman is more than just under question. Jadeja ios simply not the all-rounder that he is in domestic limited overs and the IPL, when it comes to ODIs. He's merely a bowler who can bat, much like Ravichandran Ashwin. So in that case, India in a sense really went with 5 bowlers at Rajkot.

Pathan filled the all-rounder void temporarily
But that decision is understandable considering that India played on a flat track. On a batsman's wicket the strategy is always to strengthen the bowling, and India did that. However in that process India missed a specialist batsman down the order who probably could have seen the team home.

India's isn't hunting for an all-rounder the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Jacques Kallis or Sanath Jayasuria. What they want is someone the likes of what Ian Harvey, Steve Waugh or Andrew Symonds was for Australia. Someone who can play in the team as a genuine batsman, and at the same time also bowl a full quota of ten overs as a bowler if needed. Irfan Pathan was that man for India, and maybe once he recovers full fitness he can come back into the team to fill that void, but the fact is that even Pathan in the past has failed to fill that void completely.

Right now, I believe India should take the approach it took in the 2011 World Cup where the team played 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers. This is perhaps what they should have done and played the extra batsman in Pujara at Rajkot. However this is tricky considering that if one of the specialist bowlers do have an off day the entire plan falls, but with part timers in Yuvraj Singh (someone who really is more of an all-rounder these days), Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli it can work. Yuvraj Singh was the all-rounder, India never had in the World Cup and the success of the team was largely due to his efforts with both bat and ball, and until the time India manage to find a true all-rounder, They will need the likes of Yuvraj, and the other part timers to step up.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Melbourne pitch invader is actually Shane Warne!

Today in the first ODI between Australia and Sri Lanka at Melbourne which Australia won easily by 107 runs [SCORECARD], there was an interesting incident during the 38th over of the Sri Lankan innings. A man wearing just his shorts ran onto the field of play and managed to reach the pitch at the center before the security officials even had any time to react. And what was even more interesting was that, the invader had come prepared with a ball and proceeded to bowl a (tennis) ball in an international match.

The commentary at Cricinfo recorded the ball as - 37.4 overs - Good length ball outside off stump from an unknown shirtless bowler, the pitch displaying some tennis-ball bounce.

When the security officials finally did catch up with the shirtless man and escorted out and interrogated, he was found to be none other the legendary Aussie leg spinner, Shane Warne. Warne who had to sit out of Melbourne Stars last match against against Sydney Thunders after his on field altercation with Marlon Samuels, just couldn't resist his want to bowl in a live match yet again, in front of an international audience. When he was earlier asked about his detention, he had said, "sitting here and doing detention is not easy." He had just wanted to blow of some steam and hence pulled off what he termed as a 'harmless, fun prank' that he's sure the Australian players enjoyed. Warne was handed over to Liz Hurley after he paid a huge fine.

Security officials carrying the invader are happy that Warne has lost some weight.
Earlier last month. Shane Warne had said that he was available for international selection and would play for Australia again, if he was asked nicely. No response was given to the 43 year old's invitation by either Michael Clarke or the Australian selectors and that didn't go down well with Warne. Wanting to prove his match fitness, he had undergone a rigorous dieting programme and Warne said to the security officials that he has shed off so much weight that he's sure that a McDonald's burger now weighs more than him. Indeed Warne has lost most of his weight and that was one of the main reasons why no one was able to recognize the pitch invader as him.

The old Warne bowling action
Warne also said that he has worked on bowling action and that he wanted to showcase his new delivery, 'the Samuel's bouncer', dedicated to Samuels, and hence brought the tennis ball and bowled the delivery.

David Hussey who had earlier said that Warne's on field spat with Samuels was inspirational, has so far remained silent on this latest stunt by the spinner. Andrew Symonds has also remained silent on the issue. The verdict is still out on this latest antic of Shane Warne, but one thing is certain, that when it comes to Warne, it's bound to be very entertaining.

Disclaimer : The article is meant to be humorous, so please do take it with a pinch of salt.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The case for Pujara in ODIs

Pujara for the first time has been called up to theODI squad.
The silver lining for India in the test series against England was Cheteshwar Pujara. In the series he was India's highest run scorer with 438 runs from 7 innings which consisted of two centuries at an average of 46.74. He has long been hailed as the future of Indian batting in tests and the next Rahul Dravid, and so far in his short international career of just 9 tests, he has not disappointed and has shown great promise of being everything that is expected of him. He already has 3 centuries, one of them being a double at an incredible average of 58.53. However he still is yet to make his ODI debut and there is still a small doubt in the minds of the selectors of putting a player like Pujara, one who is technically sound, and somewhat a defensive player, perfect for the test arena into the limelight of the colored clothing, white ball and limited overs. However there is a very strong case for Pujara's inclusion into the Indian ODI team.

Pujara in the Ranji Trophy has accumulated runs, season after season and this year is no different. So far he has 650 runs from just 4 matches at an average over 100. His last two outings against Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka consists big scores of 203 not out and 352. Plus add to this all the runs he scored against England in the test series, and it's clear to see that Pujara is in the form of his life. Now is the best time to get him into the ODI side, when the runs are flowing thick and fast. It'd be a shame to waste this golden form.

Pujara also has shown his temperament and ability to perform during pressure situations in his short time in the test team. We got to see this against England. Also he's pretty experienced for a 24 year old, and surely has many years for India in colored clothing. And Indian batting in the last few months has been shambolic. In the last series against Pakistan, against a young, inexperienced bowling unit, the Indian batting twice committed the greatest crime in ODIs by getting all out before 50 overs were completed. Even the first ODI at Chennai, where the team managed to bat out the entire 50 overs, it barely managed to do that after an early collapse and could garner just 227 runs. Pujara - the man who generally is known to hold the batting, is the perfect cog India need in the middle order to arrest the top order collapses. He can play the role Rahul Dravid played during the 2000s.

Pujara in full flow during his double century
Also for the doubters who say that Pujara is not a player suited for the limited overs format, then it's time to look at the numbers again. Pujara's 202* against Madhya Pradesh came from just 221 balls at a strike rate of 91.85. His triple century was almost as fast coming from 457 deliveries, at a strike rate of 82.43. As Pujara later confessed, that it was his plan to practice for the ODIs. If that is still not enough, one just has to take a look at Pujara's list A career, and it is just as spectacular as his first class career averaging 56.97. And if you still dig deeper into Pujara's youth ODIs (under 19s and youth matches), the numbers still support his case as he averages 76.75 with a strike rate of 75.15. ODIs is not all about big hitting and a player like Pujara who has made an impact in test cricket is sure to succeed in the format.

Pujara is confident of his success in the shorter format. In an interview to Cricinfo he said,
"At the moment, I am very confident. For the past couple of years, I have improved a lot in the one-day format and have scored many runs. That has helped a lot. Once you start playing at the international level and get experience and talk to the coach and senior players, they can always guide you as to how to go about this format. I have done it at the domestic level. I believe I can also do it at the international level. It is about waiting for the right time, which will come. I am very confident about that. I don't need to worry." 
With players such as Rohit Sharma who even after 86 matches haven't managed to cement his place in the team, it's clear that change is needed. But will that change happen? MS Dhoni has however said that Pjuara's inclusion in the team for the Rajkot ODI is unlikely. It would be a dream start for Pujara to make his debut in his home ground and come tomorrow, we will know for certain if it happens. However there is still the rest of the series and there is a very strong case for including Pujara into the side. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The art of stare down [Sponsored Post]

OPSM, Australia's leading eye care provider in its partnership with Cricket Australia is now giving fans a chance to go eyeball to eyeball to win a trip to England and watch the Ashes. All you have to do is prove that your eyes are match fit.

Check out the video in which Aussie cricketers Peter Siddle and Matthew Wade introduce James Pattinson to the art of the Stare Down.

For more information click here.

"This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own"

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Balls, bats and tantrums

Cricketers sometimes behave like overpaid, spoiled brats in the center of the pitch in front of a crowd of 30,000 people and thousands more on live television all over the world. Shane Warne who has had his fair share of them came out with yet another one as he and Marlon Samuels went at each other during a Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades.

So what happened? A ball was thrown. A bat was thrown. Fists were drawn out. And words were exchanged. Here's Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels showing how it is all done.


Shane Warne's team went on to lose the match, but not before Lasith Malinga landed a bouncer onto Samuels' helmet, ripping open the West Indian's eye socket. Warne has been fined 4,500 Australian dollars and also made to sit out in today's match which the Stars won, while Samuels returns back due to the injury.

It's not a great idea to get into a fight with Warne. Malinga's got his back.
It's sad to see the 43 year old man who the world considers as the world's greatest spinner and one of West Indies stars in recent times, behave like immature kids taking the game into disrepute. But with names such as Samuels and Warne, this really doesn't come as a big surprise and that is what is even more saddening.

So much for cricket being a gentleman's game! It's more like an ugly war, with blood being shed in the middle.