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Shopping time…

In Cricket on January 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

With just over 50 days remaining for the third edition of cricket’s commercial extravaganza, each of the eight teams want their share of the imports up for auction in the next couple of hours. We will have a breif look at the key players in their priced categories.

$20,ooo: Of the four players listed in this category, Ashley Noffke(considering the promise all through his injury rigged career) and Ryan ten Doeschate, the dutch star player would be good buys considering the lowest base price on them. Teams would rather wait for Weeraratne to perform on the bigger scene despite his name for big hitting abiities and being a decent bowling option.

$50,000: I would be interested in Welegedara, Luke Pomersbach, Clint McKay, Yusuf Abdulla, Tyron Henderson in the initial rounds over the rest of the pack considering their recent form and given their T20 reputation. I would wait on Darren Bravo to live upto his reputation rather make a premature investment on him.

$100,000: Shane Bond, Shakib Al Hassan, Wavell Hinds,  Jonathan Trott  might be the first round hot picks. It would be really interesting to see how the franchises plan on the Pakistani players considering the Indian Government’s Love-Hate ties with Pakistan. This is crucial as Rana Naved, Umar Gul,Abdur Razzaq, Mohd.Aamer are quality buys on any given day.

$200,000: The Self Proclaimed king (at least on the scalp :p) of T20, Keiron Pollard is the most talked about player in this auction. With his heroics in the Champions League, it would be a steal if the teams snatch him for $750,000 or less. Wayne Parnell, Eoin Morgon, Doug Bollinger would be on every team’s plate especially with Doug’s performance in the Chanpions league on the Indian Soil. I was not surprised with Mark Ramprakash’s inclusion in the auctoin with his healthy average in T20s ( just over 30), but would be really surprised if he is bought for more than $400,000.  Sohail Tanvir might miss out on his pay cut but lets wait and see how the teams decide on buying the imports from Pakistan.

$250,000: I was surprised to see  Graeme Swann in this bracket but not Keiron Pollard.  But considering the worst case Swann will pocket a bounty of $250,000 in the worst case considering the sum he earns in England. Lets wait and see on Afridi (another import from pakistan), but the teams looking for Haddin would be Mumbai and Rajasthan with the other teams already having a healthy bench for wicket keepers. This might not be a good news for Haddin considering his value versus the pay but most likely Mumbai might outbid Rajsathan considering Rajasthan’s cheap buys, thats what I am speculating on.

With just few more hours remaining, the results for the new editon of ” Who is the new Millionaire” will be out. Watch out for more on this space…

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Countdown to 2011 WC

In Cricket on January 14, 2010 at 6:02 am

With 13 months to go for the cricket’s ultimate event (no definitely not the 20-20 WC), we will analyze how the Indian team’s composition looks like and look into the performances on cricketing front. Though there are reports of Wankhede being behind schedule and Delhi pitch under ICC’s scrutiny, I am confident BCCI will out up a great show as billions of dollars are at stake. Coming to the Indian team’s ODI performances, which doesn’t bother many as they feel if India lose this 2011 WC, BCCI can quickly arrange one more tourney and an Indian win will make sure it vanishes quickly from people’s memory.

Will this generation finally get to see an Indian win which so narrowly eluded us in 2003?

Let’s get into the main crux before it tires the readers, who are already bored of watching India play SL. The Indian team of late has looked like Champions in Bilateral series, almost winning every one, and chokers when it comes to series involving multiple nations. The last major ODI win for the Indian team, involving more than two nations, has been the CB series down under. Well the CB series can also be considered a mini version of bilateral as it involves the best of three finals. The point is the team seems to choke when it comes to a knock out match. Be it the high profile Champions trophy or the recently concluded (Forced upon) tri series in Bangladesh. I felt the players were literally dragged to the field as BCCI wanted to make sure its neighbors SL and Bangla never shifted sides. I agree Indians won a tri series in SL before Champions trophy, thanks to Sachin’s classy knock, but consistently Indians are not able to deliver the punch when its needed. This in spite the fact that the series in Bangla was a low profile series and there were hardly any pressure on the team to deliver unlike the normal. Fielding as always been our weak link but one felt with this line up of youth, it will only get better. But it’s been pathetic to say the least. Before we had safe fielders who will catch whatever comes to them, but this lot has serious problem in catching and even collecting the ball cleanly. Suddenly they field so well and the very next day they drop 5-6 catches. This inconsistency can easily affect the team when it comes to knock out matches.

Let’s now get into the likely probable 16 which India might field for the WC. I feel the team has created a pool of 16-17 players with right mix of youth and experience, which augurs well for 2011 WC. Its 13 months away and I feel the inexperienced ones like Jadeja, kohli, raina, tyagi etc will get to play 20 ODIs at least. The top 3 is settled with Sehwag, Sachin and Gambir. The middle order comprises of Yuvi, Dhoni, Raina (secured his place with a fine century at No.6 recently), Jadeja, Kohli. I feel this team has the right mix of right and left handers. The bowling department would ideally be Zaheer, Nehra, Sreesanth, Bhajji, Mishra, Tyagi, Ishant. I feel Ojha is extremely unlucky to miss out but Dhoni seems to be having trust on Jadeja and its difficult to imagine two left arm spinners in a playing 11. Now it comes to the final No.16 spot. I felt the team management made a mistake by not giving Rohit a chance to play in bangle tri series. He was coming into the team after an excellent 300 in a Ranji game and to make him sit was absurd. The toss up is between Rohit and Karthick. Maybe they might go in for an extra keeper which might give Karthick a nod ahead of Rohit, though I am not too satisfied with Karthick’s batting. Well there might be some changes to the team which I had mentioned depending on the form of some players, but I strongly feel at least 80% of the players should retain their places in the team which is a sign of a settled team. Moreover, I hope the team plays more ODI’s on subcontinent pitches before the WC.

Kotla Pitch: A slap on BCCI’s face

In Cricket on December 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Well, its not even a week since I wrote an article, surprisingly enough, showing the positive facets of BCCI (especially on how they increased the pay for the pitches committee), yet again they have shown how unprofessional they were in dealing with the very committee for which I was praising them. Last article gave little tidbits on how they were unprofessional with respect to the grounds committee by showing favoritism towards their board members home associations. But here, in spite of forming a pitches committee and paying them substantially, once again they have let down the fans with their unwillingness to act professionally. By now we all know what had happened to the 5th ODI between India and SL at Ferozshah kotla in New Delhi. Let me not go into too much detail on the last two matches played in past 6 months at this venue. The pitch at kotla was a newly laid wicket and those two matches did not produce the kind of cricket which was expected to satisfy the fans. Added to that, Delhi cricket association (DDCA) was given 45 days time to prepare the wicket for this match and they did not even test the wicket by playing at least a first class game. The problem here is that the pitches committee can only give instructions on what kind of wicket is to be prepared for a particular series. It’s the individual state associations who maintain the pitch when during the off season. Mr Chetan Chauhan, Vice President DDCA, told the media gathering after the match that they made sure the wicket had lot of bounce especially since the last match played on this pitch had low bounce and was very slow. They were surprised to see the balls jumping of the wicket over Keepers heads. Probably Mr.Chauhan and Mr.Jaitley (President) were still in Avatar hangover and instructed the grounds men to prepare the wicket with bounce ideal for ’12 foot Na’vi’. I only hope, in future, the pitches committee will be given more powers in dealing with the pitches directly right from maintaining, testing and preparing for the match.

The man above is neither Mr. Chauhan nor the pitch curator

Well, for long, I have never been a great fan of this ground. I somehow felt, it never had a feel of a proper cricket ground, with unusual stands. Partly due to the weather, a foggy look had always been etched in the memory of cricket fans. Only positive thing I can remember from this ground was when Kumble took 10 wickets against Pakistan. Moreover Delhi crowd has never been a great supporters when its comes to test cricket. The mother of all series, India Vs Australia, happened last year at this venue and there were hardly few hundreds who were present at the venue. This, in spite, of a cracking double hundred from local boy Gambir. BCCI, in future, should decide on certain fixed venues, say 5-6 which have traditionally attracted decent crowds on all five days, for test cricket. Moreover Delhi, for the past few months, has always been in the bad books of the sporting world. First it was the slowness in the preparation for commonwealth games and now this pitch fiasco. Well I only hope the preparation for commonwealth games go on full swing, as it’s important for India to showcase to the world that such an event on large scale can happen in this country. Especially so, after China successfully hosted Olympics after various hurdles, though frankly speaking it’s difficult to match the Chinese manpower. Cricket world cup is just a year away and I sincerely hope BCCI acts quickly to prevent such things and to make sure the event is a grand success unlike the previous edition.

Rise of an Angry Young Man

In Cricket on December 22, 2009 at 2:55 am

The transition of Gambhir, from a batsmen lacking in temperament into a composed one, is quite compelling. Rewind your mind to the middle of this decade and you would do well to recollect a pace mens mantra to dismiss Gambhir. Ruffle him up with a couple of bouncers, get him fired, slant one across and he would invariably nick the ball. This plan of action had proved to be the downfall of Gambhir on more than a few occasions. A few years later at Napier, against the Kiwis, the same batsmen would spend a staggering 643 minutes at the crease, score a century and save the test match for India. This innings turned out to be a critical one, in terms of that series, as India eventually won 1-0.

Gambhir made his first class debut at the age of 18. He made an immediate impact on the domestic circuit playing for Delhi and caught the eye of selectors. As often is the case in India, fortunately or unfortunately, cricketers get thrown into the cauldron of International circuit at a tender age. Gambhir, whose case was no different, put on the Indian colours for the first time at the age of 21. Thereafter, he struggled to make an impact in both the longer and shorter versions of the game. Few doubted his talent, but it was the lack of temperament and consistency at the International level that was his undoing. Being devoid of an extended run in national the team didn’t help matters.

The year 2007 proved paramount to Gambhirs career. He would score a century each in the semis and finals of Ranji trophy and guide Delhi to their first Ranji trophy title in 16 years. With the seniors opting out of the 1st T20 WC, Gambhir, at the international level, was given another chance to prove his mettle. And this time around there was no let up. In fact, he was second only to Hayden in the run scoring list. A pull of Shane Bond over deep mid-wicket, that went 20 rows back, has been etched in my mind. Here was a batsmen who was up for the challenge and was having none of the short stuff. The tournament was rounded off with a well compiled half-century in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan, which helped India win the inaugural T20 cup. The efforts put in by Gambhir, in the domestic circuit, helped improve his temperament for the International game and this fact should not be lost.

The progress of Gambhir should be a lesson for both the domestic batsmen and selectors alike.

The appointment of Dhoni as the captain of team India was a blessing in disguise for Gambhir. Dhoni was instrumental in the omission of Dravid and Ganguly for the ODI leg of the ’07 Australian Tour. As a result, Gambhir found himself a ticket to Australia. Dhoni assured Gambhir of his place in the team, which in turn did a world of good to his confidence. India won the tri-nation tournament with Gambhir amassing over 400 runs, including two centuries. From this point onwards there was no looking back for the Delhi opener. Wasim Jaffer’s abysmal performance both in Australia and the subsequent home series against SA opened the door to test cricket, once again, for Gambhir. This chance was grabbed with both hands. He was awarded the ICC test player of the year 2009, for his exceptional performances against the Aussies at home and NZ away.

Gambhir (Right) did not let down Dhoni (left) by scoring consistently and cementing his place in the national team.

The success of Gambhir’s parternship with Sehwag has been well documented. After years of chopping and changing, India have finally found an opening pair of international standard. The ability to not get carried away or overawed with the presence of Sehwag  is an admirable quality of Gambhir. Critics are still out citing his lack of test cricket in Australia and South Africa. But, his performances over the last two years have given hope for future endeavors in these countries. For the moment, people must sit back and enjoy the success of Gambhir.

BCCI and its many First’s

In Cricket on December 22, 2009 at 2:40 am

With the advent of 20-20 and the unprecedented success of IPL, BCCI has undoubtedly become the cash cow of world cricket. BCCI has earned the wrath from the media and the Indian public for milking money, by making the team India play too much cricket, that too only against the top nations. In fact, the cricketing fraternity is little concerned about BCCI’s hegemony over ICC. There have been accusations of nepotism towards the local office bearers and their respective state associations. Recent example being the fact that the Lords of Asia (aka Eden gardens) has been denied a test or ODI or 20-20 for the past two years, when centers like Nagpur (Hometown for Mr.Shashank Manohar, BCCI president) keep getting matches almost once in every 6 months. In the midst of all these accusations, people have predictably forgotten the benevolent nature shown by BCCI towards the local officials and past/present Ranji players.

This article is mainly indented in bringing into the limelight some of the good measures taken by the BCCI in the past 4-5 years, which the past office bearers in BCCI failed to do so either due to negligence or lack of money. This article primarily focuses more on the measures taken by the BCCI for the ostracized section of the cricket fraternity. We have always worshipped the national players but little have anyone even thought or cared about the state of the domestic (Ranji) players where many Tendulkar’s, Dravid’s or Kumble’s have lost out due to lack of support from the association and lack of money. After all only 11 can play in a team selected from a billion people. It is on this context that the role played by BCCI should be welcomed. BCCI on its part introduced a pension scheme to the retired first class players who have never played a test. The retired players are pocketing Rs15, 000 per month and Rs25, 000 per month for those who have played atleast one test match. Respective player’s wife will continue to receive the pension after his death.

The BCCI under Mr. Sharad Pawar, increased the match fees for the domestic players. This has helped to narrow down the pay scale between international and domestic players. Now a ranji player can lead a decent living even if he doesn’t or never get selected for the national team. This will also encourage more people to consider cricket as a profession without any hesitation.

In India, cricket like movies, has always been about onscreen players. It’s the players and the commentators who have benefited the most. As with the Indian movies, the backstage players have always been a forgotten entity. Till few years back, the pitch curators and the ground staff were pocketing a mere Rs100-200 on match days and on off season, they had no means of earning. The BCCI, on its part, has increased the fees for curators to 20,000 per month. Though I should agree, this hasn’t in anyway paved way for sporting wickets. Irony is that BCCI is equally responsible for giving pitches which can last for even 15 days due to pressures from the broadcasters.

Few years back, they made it mandatory by making international players play in Ranji trophy. It thereby helps some state associations to get corporate groups to sponsor the team. In the recently concluded tests versus Lankans, the selectors made sure the reserve players were not dusting their benches, rather they were sent back to play ranji trophy to be in right groove if they are required by the team . Recent example being the success of Murli Vijay. The team management knew that Gambir won’t be available for the final test match due to family reasons, so they made sure the reserve opener Vijay get a decent outing by sending him to play the ranji during the 2nd test and retaining Badri as the 12th man. Though these things are common in Australia or SA, they have started to happen in India as well which is a good sign. And with the introduction of two tier system in Ranji, the domestic competitions are bound to get more competitive. Moreover the Ranji matches are being telecast live which is an added incentive for the players to perform as the public or die hard crazy fans like me, would be closely monitoring.

On the whole, BCCI has made sure that the money it’s reaping from telecast rights and sponsors don’t go into particular pockets or down the drain. The inception of NCA will only augur well for the youngsters. With IPL, we have stepped into the world stage and we only hope the Indian cricket and all those who are associated with it at the grass root level benefit immensely.

The Art of Remaining Champions

In Cricket on November 25, 2009 at 11:18 pm

A decade ago, the team which wins the world cup was taken for granted irrespective of their success in the following years as the undisputed champions of the game until the next edition comes again. But today, thanks to the ICC rankings and the impeccable approach of the Aussie board, the situation is different and interesting. Cricket Australia just set the example of what champions are made of and defined consistency with their results over the last decade.

The recent India-Australia one days series speaks for this. Australia were a completely depleted side when they arrived for the first odi and there was little doubt in mind who were the favourites. The rest was history. What surprised me was the bench strength which Australia produced over the years that resulted in their success despite the injuries to their key players. So what does it take to perform consistently? whats the Aussie secret? what are these guys doin which some of the richest boards in the world nor the most talented bunch are able to…

Lets start from ground zero.  The Aussie Domestic cricket structure is second to none. Does this mean that other test playing countries like  England, South Africa are second in their facilities. If we take a closer look at the players who represent their countries, the Aussie board wants the players to go through the grind of domestic cricket and the average player makes his international debut as a 28-30 year old unless you are extremely talented as a Ricky Ponting or a Michael Clarke. This would help the guys go through all kinds of experience like A tours to alien conditions and it makes the job easier for the boards to pick the best. It’s like the picking the best players from college football into NFL. When you look at the system in Asia where an average player makes his debut at 19-22  has relatively less experience of handling things and if he is not good he goes out of the side at the expense of the result of the game for the team. This is somewhat different to England or West Indies where they have issues altogether something different. Thats where the other top teams (sans Aus) are not matching the consistency of the Aussies. When you compare the players in the Indian team, it is clearly evident from the performances of Dhoni, Gambhir who had to go through the process of domestic cricket and then make it to the Indian team with those of Suresh Raina, Ishanth Sharma or Rohit Sharma.

The other scenario where the Aussie board differs from the rest of the world is team selection.  Take the case of Herschelle Gibbs. The South African board entertained him despite his inconsistent run considering his “past”  record. Compare this with Mathew Hayden where he was dropped in 2006 despite having a good run in the previous seasons. This results oriented approach drew lot of flak but the tough only survived as we know what happened when the mighty Hayden came back. And there are many cases not to mention Michael Bevan and Mark Waugh. At least the Steve brother had a chance in the longer version.

It’s not that there aren’t enough quality players around the world or the lack of administrators, but its the right mix of the board, selection, grooming and utilizing the players when they are at their best, which makes remaining the champions an art.