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Archive for August, 2009

BCCI Flex Muscles Yet Again

Monday, August 31st, 2009

In what is said to be a controversial revelation, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief Julian Hunte has told reporters that India, the financial super power of cricket has dismissed the proposal by ICC to setup a World Test Championship around the four year cycle. Being a full-time ICC member, Hunte’s disclosure will wallop the cricketing world that is already rocked by several controversies.

According to Hunte, ICC was considering a Super League – a four year structure resulting in a World Test Championship as a part of changing the structure of the Future Tour Programs (FTP) after 2012. Hunte exposed the decision-making power of 4 commercially valued members headed by India in the ICC meeting. Though Hunte hadn’t revealed their names, it is well understood that the other 3 super powers are England, South Africa and Australia.

Hunte also revealed that a few members of the ICC are skeptical about the motives of the IPL team promoters. He told that the ICC should take reasonable steps to take hold of the game as it’s in a crucial juncture.

The main reason for BCCI’s rejection is the sharing of broadcasting revenue from a central pool, which would not be profitable for them unlike other tournaments. As 70% of the ICC’s revenue comes from India, it makes it difficult for the ICC to stand against India.

Back to the ODI carnival

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

After some heart-stopping T20 matches and quality test matches, cricket is back to its foremost shorter-version to take the spectators by storm- The Champions Trophy 2009.Following the draggy World Cup at the Caribbean, the cricketing world would be keen to see how this event performs, as there are lot of expert opinion to cut back the no of ODI’s and retain test cricket.

Australia, the reigning winners will be keen to resurgent in the world of cricket after some abashing defeats in the form of World T20 and at the Ashes. They have lost the dominance since the retirement of their great players and the infusion of new blood hasn’t proved effective yet. Australia is pondering different options like splitting the captaincy to reduce the pressure on Ponting, who is the backbone of the Australian batting order. Brett Lee has missed the bulk of the season due to injury and would be keen to make an impact as the Aussie bowling struggled in his absence in the Ashes.

South Africa and India are the strong contenders who’d be bidding for the title. South Africa’s dismal performance in the crunch matches has been a conundrum that they would like to crack this time around. India on the other hand, is more confident and would like to keep aside the grim at the World T20 as an aberration. They have performed consistently since 2008 and would like to get the silverware that slipped from their hands several times.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England are also unavoidable due to their volatile nature and the unpredictable nature of cricket itself.  The tournament promises to be a belter, if it lives up to the hype.

Another Exhilarating Series of Ultimate Cricket

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

It was more than a life-saver for the test cricket. More than 60 days of grueling series, Ashes 2009 lived up to the hype that loomed much before the start of the series. There would be significant changes in both teams, when they face-off in the next Ashes in 2013. The Englishmen, who‘ve tasted success in the last couple of series in their home soil will cherish the memories for the next four years. The long wait would be hard for the Australians, who will seek payback in the next edition.

After some fascinating test series since 2008, it is hard to believe that test cricket in on the brink of demise. Though there is a shrink in the spectator- turnouts, the overall quality has increased. Several innovative methods are in the reckoning of ICC to improve the quality of test cricket. Creating ‘Elite’ and ‘Plate’ groups is good suggestion, which will avoid the clash of contest between strong and weak teams, that wouldn’t generate any sort of interest among the spectators.

It has been a series to forget for Ricky Ponting, as Australia were stripped off from the helm of Test cricket. They are being placed at the 4th position, which is the worst after the rankings has been introduced. Australia is finding it hard to make the right combinations to form the core of the Australian team. It will be an uphill task for Australia to regain the supremacy they had till 2007 that made them ‘Invincible’.

England will savor this moment for a long time after having a tough season filled with controversies. Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have done a fantastic job to regroup the team which had been hit by the Pieterson-Moles spat. Amid the euphoria, England should not lose their focus of getting to the top of rankings.  The immediate task will be to find a replacement for Andrew Flintoff, which apparently is a very big ask.

A Day of Below-par Bowling and Absurd Batting

Friday, August 21st, 2009

The first day of the final test matched promised a lot but delivered little, despite some mesmerizing fast bowling and solid batting performances. Once again, the English middle-order ruined the momentum setup by the top-order, ended the day at 307/8. The pitch was not as fast as Ponting expected; however, the ball was coming on nicely to the bat. Australia will definitely lack a specialist spinner in the coming days as the part-timer Marcus North was getting some zip and turn off the pitch. Brett Lee also could have been reckoned as there was considerable hint of reverse swing from the afternoon.

England piled up 108 runs in 26 overs in the pre-lunch session, despite losing Alastair Cook early. Alastair Cook once again edged a swinging delivery from Siddle to Ponting at slip. The English captain then forged a partnership with Ian Bell and the duo added 102 runs for the second wicket. Ben Hilfenhaus came back to break the partnership by dismissing Andrew Strauss. Peter Siddle made further inroads by dismissing Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell to leave England in tatters. Debutant Jonathon Trott played exceptionally well under pressure. He stayed like a rock at the crease, however he hardly got any support from any one. Andrew Flintoff played his penultimate innings and hardly made any impact. He looked composed in the beginning, however gave away his wicket by chasing a wide delivery from Mitchell Johnson. Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann took England score past 300 runs. Peter Siddle ended Swann’s resistance to complete a memorable day.

Australia wouldn’t be happy with their overall bowling efforts, notwithstanding an inspired performance from Peter Siddle, who’s having a great series so far. After pondering on different combinations for the decider, Australia went with all quickies, relying on Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson’s form. Helfenhaus and Peter Siddle were exceptional as usual; however Mitchell Johnson once again showed his wayward approach by bowling 8 wides and three no-balls. Stuart Clark looked like his shadow of Headingly, failed terribly in probing and testing the English batsmen. Australia had to employ Marcus North to step-up the over- rate as it apparently fell short due to the inclusion of 4 pacers. North had puzzled the English batsmen with his flight and turn on a first day pitch, which gives the clear indication that the turf will assist slow bowlers from day 3. Australia will definitely miss Nathan Hauritz, who had bowled well on seamer-friendly tracks too.

Australia now has the slight edge and with the relatively new ball, they can bowl out the next couple of wickets in no time to seize the advantage. They will have to bat really well to get a good lead, as they will be batting last on this deteriorating pitch. England on the other hand, will be looking to score in excess of 400, which would be a par-score here at the Oval. It will be interesting to see how Stuart Broad extends his innings

All Set for the Final Battle

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Australia and England go into the final test of an ashes series with one victory each. ‘The Oval’ will decide the ‘urn-holder’ on August 24th. England went into the last test with a 2-1 lead; however, Australia hold a slight edge this time as a draw can help them to retain the Ashes  as they had dumped England 5-0 at home in 2006-07’. The Oval test will be the swan song of Andrew Flintoff, who was instrumental in England’s last triumph. He will be keen to end his test career on a high and an Ashes victory would be the best.

After the victory at Headingly, Australians are right on track. Their batting looks solid and they have a ferocious bowling attack, which will have more vigor when Brett Lee comes back. Australian batting has been spot on so far expect for an out-of-form Michael Hussey. Marcus North’s consistency at 6 has been a blessing for Australia after the exit of Gilchrist. Mitchell Johnson’s return to form will make the selection tough for the final test. Stuart Clark proved his worth in the fourth test with a blistering performance with the ball. Brett Lee has been lethal in the practice match at Canterbury and is most certainly to make the cut for The Oval. If Australia goes with 4 seamers as they did at Headingly then Siddle will be left out, but if Hauritz is included for the final test, either Johnson or Stuart Clark would sit out despite their good form.

England will be looking for a big farewell party for ‘Freddie’ by winning the last test and the series. They were the strong contenders for this series victory until the 4th test match at Headingly, where they looked ordinary without Flintoff. Replacement for Ravi Bopara is still a conundrum, even as Mark Ramprakash, the veteran middle-order batsmen, who hasn’t played a test since 2000, was in the reckoning. Finally, Warwickshire batsman Jonathon Trott sealed the spot and gears up for his debut at The Oval.

It will be an electric five days at the Kennington Oval, which awaits another cliffhanger. A big match on the cards!

Anticlimax at The Oval

Friday, August 14th, 2009

There is perhaps a small similarity between Sir Don Bradman and India’s Independence. Don Bradman played his final innings on 14th August 1948, which was on the eve of the first anniversary of India’s independence. Though Australia had already won the series, the final test at The Oval wasn’t a dead rubber. It would be the last time that cricket’s one and only legend, Sir Donald Bradman would bat for Australia in his lifetime. The stage was set and Don was a whisker away from creating history – 7000 runs in test cricket at a sublime average of 100. He needed just 4 runs in his final innings.

England won the toss and chose to bat first on a smoggy day; however, they were bundled out for just 52 runs. Ray Lindwall ripped through the English batting and claimed 6 wickets. In reply, Australia got off to a great start. Bradman came to the crease when Eric Hollies dismissed Sid Barnes. All eyes were on the legend and the second ball faced by Bradman ended his innings.Hollies bowled a slow leg-break and Bradman couldn’t pick it up.

When he walked off after being dismissed, it was almost certain that it would be his last appearance. Australia finished off the first innings with a mammoth lead of 337 runs. England never looked confident to overhaul that total and ended up losing the match by an innings and 149 runs. Bradman did not get a chance to bat in the second innings and completed his career at 6996 runs at an average of 99.94 runs.

Bradman had a chance after that to make the average 100 runs, however he turned down the offer to bat again for Australia. That was perhaps the decision, which got him so much honor that he probably wouldn’t have got if he had got that 4 runs in the final test. In the centenary year of his birth people still love him and adore him for the qualities of being a great cricketer and a great man.

A Decade After The Cliffhanger at The Edgbaston

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

It is hard to believe that cricket has traveled a lot from the 1999 World Cup. The pace has increased dynamically with the introduction of T20, however the sweet (or bitter) memories of the semi final between Australia and South African 1999 persist. Players have changed in both the sides, notwithstanding the presence of a few veterans. Australia has conquered the cricketing world in that yonks, which include 3 successive World Cup triumphs. The proteas, on the other hand have had ups and downs and reinforced their ‘Chokers’ tag on several occasions. The wound has not yet healed for the proteas.

Shaun Pollock sent back Mark Waugh in the first over of the match to give SA a brilliant start. Adam Gilchrist played in an unusual but effective way to take 68 runs on a deteriorating track. Finally, Jacques Kallis ended the patient knock from the Australian glovesman and South Africa gained the upper hand. Captain Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan forged a 90 runs partnership before a low-order hiccup reduced the Australian score to a below par 213 runs. Shaun Pollock claimed 5 wickets and Alan Donald finished with 4 wickets to give South Africa a definite chance to win the match.

Gibbs and Kirsten started off well and added 48 runs for the first wicket before Shane Warne came to dismiss both, and picked 3 wickets in just 8 balls! Match started to go in favor of Australia as a direct hit from Bevan found Daryl Cullinan short of his crease. Jonty Rhodes joined Kallis to rescue and consolidate the innings. After 40 overs, SA were in a comfortable position of 144/4, requiring further 70 runs from 60 balls. Paul Reiffel dismissed Rhodes in the 41st over to break that important partnership. Shaun Pollock made a quick fire 19 runs, which included a six and a boundary from Shane Warne’s over before he fell to Damien Fleming.

As expected, it went down to the wire! In the final over, 9 runs were needed and the man on strike was the hard-hitting Lance Klusener. He clobbered the first 2 balls of Damien Fleming to the fence and South Africa was just short of a whisker from reaching their maiden World Cup Finals. It all ended in the fourth ball. Steve Waugh had put all his fielders inside the 30-yard circle to pressurize Klusener. He pushed the ball down to the wicket and went for a run. Alan Donald, the non-striker was watching the ball and didn’t see Klusener running. He started off late and before he could complete the run, Adam Gilchirst clipped the bails off to end this cliffhanger.

Australia then went onto become the World Champions after demolishing Pakistan in the final at Lords. Lance Klusener was adjudged as the Man of the Tournament. After a year, in 2000, the South African captain Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match fixing and received a life ban. On June 1, 2002 an air crash in the Western Cape ended the life of South Africa’s greatest ever captain.

This match is considered as one of the best ever in the history of cricket. The reason perhaps is that the world hasn’t seen a match like that afterwards and is eagerly waiting for a similar one.

Aussies are Back at The Helm

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The Australian cricket team is going through a transition stage, which is probably one of the toughest in their history. They had lot of setbacks recently, ever since their key players, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne retired. The controversial exit of Andrew Symonds, their utility player, further more put Australia’s ‘invincibility’ tag at stake. Their early exit from the ICC World Twenty had justified the skeptics.

Their Ashes preparation also did not turn out as expected. They lost their strike bowler Brett Lee due to injury during their warm-up match at Worcester. Australia started well in the test match at Cardiff, but fortunes didn’t favor them at the end helping England to seal an unlikely draw. At Lords, Australia was defeated by a bashing margin of 115 runs. As the rain interrupted Edgbaston test ended in draw everyone thought that the encore of 2005 series looked apparent. England came strongly hard at the Australians right through the series and the spectators booed Captain Ricky Ponting whenever he entered the field.

Australia’s main problem was the poor form of Mitchell Johnson, who spearheaded Australia’s bowling attack in the absence of Brett Lee. Johnson struggled to keep the line and length, which hurt Australia’s chances until till the fourth test.

At Leeds, the absence of the duo stalwarts; Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff, proved too much for England as they were bowled out for 102 runs in the first innings. The solid foundation given by the top-order and a superb century by Marcus North helped to end Australia’s first innings on a high. Johnson came back to form with a fiery piece of fast bowling, claiming 5 English wickets, which helped Australia to seal a mammoth victory by an innings and 80 runs.

After the victory at Leeds, Australia look very much solid, recalling the memories of their vintage form. The Ashes is not yet confirmed for the Australians, however their bid has been reinforced after the victory. Now, England would desperately go for Andrew Flintoff, as they cannot afford another defeat in the series decider at the Oval. It has been a ravishing test series so far and no one expect a blip in the excitement at the Oval. A high-voltage contest beckons from the Kennington Oval.

It’s been 4 Years now, the wound hasn’t healed yet

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Apparently, none of the Aussie players, the spectators and the former players would ever forget the Edgbaston test of the 2005 Ashes. It is still a wound that is hard to heal for every Australian. We can never forget the grim face of the helpless Glenn McGrath when Kasprowicz was given out (though it wasn’t a catch) as Australia fell 2 runs short of victory. McGrath could not play the match due to injury.

England scored a speedy 407 runs in the first innings with good contributions from Trescothick, Pietersen and Flintoff. A few lusty blows from the tail-enders helped England to score above 400 runs, which proved good on a deteriorating track.

Australia lost Hayden in the second over, however Ponting and Langer steadied the ship. At one stage they were 115/2 then bundled out for 308 runs and England gained a valuable 99 runs lead. Lee bowled with fiery pace to remove the English top-order before Shane Warne ran into the middle order with 6 wickets. Amid this hiccup, Andrew Flintoff played a gem to take England to 182 runs, giving Australia a target of 282 with more than 5 sessions to complete.

Australia lost wickets at regular intervals and they ended the 3rd day at 175/8. The target looked very tough with 2 wickets in hand. However Brett Lee and Shane Warne weren’t ready to give it up. After Warne departed, Kasprowicz, the last man joined Brett Lee to continue the fight and in the end, a wrong decision from the umpire helped England to seal the victory in a cliffhanger.

Today, when Ricky Ponting goes for the toss, this defeat would be in his mind than ever before. Australians will have to work their tail off to win over the enthusiastic England, who look solid even without Kevin Pietersen. If Brett Lee makes the cut to the final XI,  it will bolster the bowling department, however doubt remains over his lack of match practice.

© The Daily Mirror

© The Daily Mirror

In Pursuit Of the Numero Uno

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

When Ricky Ponting outdid Alan Border to become the highest run getter for Australia and the 3rd highest run-getter in the history of cricket, another debate triggered for the best contemporary batsman in the world. Currently it is between the legendary Sachin Tendulkar and the Australian Captain Ricky Ponting. Let’s go into the statistics of the two batting maestros to find the best among them.

Away matches

Overseas matches are the best to judge the mettle of a cricket player. The alien conditions in the away matches are the ultimate test and lets compare the overseas performances of Ponting and Tendulkar.. Sachin Tendulkar piled up 7165 runs in 146 innings out of the 90 overseas test matches with a hefty average of 54.28 and has scored 24 centuries out of the 42 centuries he scored in total. On the other hand, Ponting scored 4575 in 101 innings out of his 58 overseas tests at an average of 49.19, which includes 16 hundreds. As far as overseas test matches are concerned, Tendulkar holds the edge due to his stability in performance against all teams. Tendulkar has an average of more than 40 against all teams; however Ricky Ponting has been struggling terribly against India. He could manage only a century against India in 21 innings and could score only 438 runs at a measly average of 20.85.

2nd Innings chases in overseas

A key batsman’s performance is pivotal when his team chases a target in the backyard of the opposition. Tendulkar has had dismal performances in the 2nd innings chases in overseas matches. He could manage only a single century in the 34 test matches and scored only 542 runs at an average of 27.10. Ponting has been slightly more successful as he scored 3 centuries in the run chases for Australia with 673 runs at a brilliant average of 56.08.  Ponting’s success can be attributed to his ‘invincible’ team which had geniuses like McGrath and Warne and a strong batting order that helped ease the pressure on Ponting. Tendulkar has been quite unlucky with this, as he had to shoulder the complete responsibility of the Indian team before the arrival of Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly. Apparently, that pressure had taken the toll on him and his performances reflect that.

India Vs Australia

Ricky Ponting has scored 1787 runs in 23 matches against India, thanks to his wonderful performance in the home soil. He averages 70 at home, however in India, his average went down to 20.85, which clearly shows his powerlessness against quality spinners. Harbhajan Singh has been a real menace to Ricky Ponting as the off-spinner dismissed him 10 times in 12 test matches. Tendulkar has had real success in his 29 matches against Australia; he amassed 2748 runs with an average of 56.08 that includes 10 blistering centuries. During his first Australian tour, at the age of just 17, Tendulkar scored a captivating 114 runs at the WACA, which is considered as one of fastest and bounciest wickets in the world, against a quality fast bowling unit with the likes of Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott. This is considered as one of the best batting performances ever and it proclaimed the beginning of a true legend, who eventually got a place in the heart of every Indian.

Above all these statistical analyses, Sachin Tendulkar is couple of steps ahead of Ricky Ponting mainly due to his consistency over 20 years and the kind of discipline and passion he has shown. Ricky Ponting has never been idolized in Australia, mainly due to his wayward character. He has been into several controversies, which questioned the spirit and integrity of his game.

A true legend sets the benchmark and stands as an example for the younger generation. According to MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and several other youngsters, Tendulkar has shown them the way to cricket with his feats and his hunger to play cricket without any boredom. There is no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar is a model for the young and old alike.

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