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Monday, November 24, 2008

Captain's inputs important, not decisive: Ex-cricketers

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's threat to resign to back a player of his choice did not find much support among former cricketers, who on Monday insisted that while a captain does have the right to give his inputs, the final call should rest with the selectors.

The former cricketers said while a captain's views should be given priority the ultimate responsibility and authority lies with the selectors, who have been entrusted with the job.

"The inputs of captain and coach in selection matters are very important. It's also important for the selection committee chairman to have a quiet word, informally, on the day before the selection panel meeting with the captain and coach. I used to do it most of the times, but not always," former chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar said.

"If the captain's demands are reasonable then it's okay to go with him as he formalises the team strategies. Every captain will put forth his views in selection meetings and Dhoni is no exception. But the final decision rests with the selectors," he added.

Former captain Bishan Singh Bedi said that the captain's views should be considered as much as possible.

"The captain is a co-opted member of the panel. His views should be considered as much as possible. But the selectors also have their plans and they should mutually sort out the issues if there are any," Bedi said.

Former captain and selection panel chairman Chandu Borde said the captains are given their due say during the meetings.

"During our times we used to include captain and manager (now coach) in selection committee meetings for discussions. Generally 85-90 per cent players select themselves on merit and performance. Only one or two players need to be picked.

"We used to discuss among ourselves and come to an understanding. There were times when the captains used to insist on certain players and we used to try and convince him about our choice," Borde explained.

"There were times when we used to put forth certain players' names and he would try and convince us about his choice and we will agree. He knows what is best as if the team does well then he gets the credit.

"In the end of the discussions there would be a consensus on all players keeping in mind the larger interest of the team. It always used to be a unanimous decision. I don't think a captain needs to have a vote. Already there are five votes and there can be ten also without solving the problem," he added.

Abbas Ali Baig also echoed Borde's views and said selectors should pay heed to the captain's opinion if they think it is sensible.

"I think the selectors should choose the team and tell the captain what they have in mind. If the captain is not happy with a couple of players, he can convince the selectors. The captain is responsible for what happens on the field and he is crucified when the team does not do well and he should a considerable say in selections matters," he said.

"But at the same time the selectors have also watched the players and they have some idea on what the team should be like," he said.

Former India opener Anshuman Gaekwad said even a voting right to the captain would not make much of difference as just one vote against an entire panel would not count for much.

"Even if captain or coach has a vote, it's not going to help because what can two votes do against five?

"Captain having a say is not a solution to this problem, but there should be a better understanding between the members attending the selection committee meeting," the former coach and selectors said.

"We should not forget that this is a selection committee meeting and not elections, even if there are votes to decide. Decision has to be mutual and with agreement," he added.

But Gaekwad insisted that a captain's views should be respected.

"But then it is up to the captain to convince the selectors. It must have reasoning and logic. I have gone all this being a selector and a chief coach. In all likelihood players develop a rapport when they are together so things may look a bit different from a third eye and a common man's angle," he said.

Another ex-selection panel chief Bapu Nadkarni also felt that the captain has to be convincing enough in his argument for a player's selection.

"He has got every right to speak his mind in the meetings. Captain's views have to be given priority by the selectors. But it also depends on how convincing he is to get the player of his choice. But I don't agree that he should have more say that he has at present (with a vote)," he opined.

C D Gopinath felt Dhoni should have been hauled up when he threatened to quit.

"I would not accept that. He cannot say that if you do not pick a player of my choice I will step down from captaincy. It is absolutely wrong. It amounts to indiscipline. It is virtually challenging the five guys sitting there and he cannot threaten. He can make his case but he cannot say that without him, I will not lead a side."

Legendary off-spinner E A S Prasanna said, "A captain should have bigger say in selecting players. Dhoni is right in his opting for a particular player if the concerned is in right form and will be of great balance to the team. At the same time, no captain had said so far that he was not given the team that he wanted and therefore he lost a match or a series."

"Captain is only a co-opted member but in order give bigger say and more responsibility to the captain he should be given voting right in selection meetings," he added.

Another spinner Maninder Singh was more sympathetic towards Dhoni, saying that a captain invariably gets the flak when the team fails and therefore he should be given the team he wants.

"He should have a lot of say in the matter but the selectors also have a job to do and it is their job to pick the team. I think that whoever plays international cricket must be good but sometimes their form deserts them and it is then that selectors should take the decision.

"Like the captain, the selectors are also accountable because they also get flak when the team fails to perform," Maninder said.

T A Sekar said, "In my opinion it is a double edged sword. It depends on the captain. Selectors also identify talent. But captains should have a vote in the meeting."

Hayden to play in CL T20 for Chennai Super Kings

Matthew Hayden has been cleared by Cricket Australia to play for Chennai Super Kings in next month's Champions League Twenty20 starting December 3, according to coach Tim Nielsen.

Hayden, who will be playing his 100th Test in the second match against New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval from Friday, will have rush to India for the Twenty20 event before embarking on a three-Test series against South Africa.

Hayden will have Michael Hussey as his company in Chennai Super Kings team while another member of the Australian Test squad -- Peter Siddle -- will represent Victoria Bushrangers in the Twenty20 tournament which is wedged between the series against New Zealand and South Africa.

"Cricket Australia has endorsed their participation, that's the way the modern game goes. We've just got to deal with it like we do when we've got players who are a bit sore or a bit tired on the road," Nielsen said.

To ensure that Australian and South African players represent their domestic T20 teams in the Champions League, Cricket Australia, which has a 25 per cent stake in the tournament, has delayed the Perth Test until December 17.

South Africa will be represented by Titans and Dolphins in the Champions League Twenty20.

"We have to understand the changing nature of the game, that this is what is going to happen to ensure the game keeps generating money and getting people involved and kids wanting to watch it," Nielsen was quoted as saying in 'The Age'.

"From my point of view, the Australian team and international cricket will always be the number one commitment, but it's not as simple any more as just saying that means we have our lead-up and everything else is put on the backburner," he added.

It’s time to rest key players

Apparently, logic and the complex D/L method do not go hand in hand.

Try figuring this out: India score 166 in 22 overs. England score 178 also in 22 overs, yet are declared losers by 19 runs! Of course, Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis have been around for a while now, but surely, the ICC should devise a simpler method that lends itself to logic, whereby the team that scores more runs should be the winner.

Anyway, I am in the minority and so congratulations are in order for Team India and Dhoni for wrapping the ODI series, leaving England and Pietersen wondering what they should do to beat a side that is so obviously on a roll. It is another matter that the Indians have always been tigers on home soil, but their comprehensive superiority over England cannot be doubted.

The Indian team showed the kind of commitment and confidence that saw them beat Australia 2-0 earlier in the month. For sure, we are witnessing the birth of a new Indian side that has the potential to go all the way to the top in all forms of the game.

Exclusive - Gavaskar: Oz went home like dogs that bark and do not bite | In Images: India seal series

It is difficult to visualise England bouncing back contrary to Pietersen’s brave words after the Bangalore game. There appears to be plenty of confusion in the England ranks with the captain himself looking rather out of his depth. They might yet win a game, but their cause is already lost. More to the point, Pietersen has not showed the kind of leadership qualities to keep a team together. At the moment, the England team is falling apart at its seam and yes, the slip is showing!

In contrast, I thought Dhoni kept his composure under pressure when England kick-started a serious chase after a hesitant start. The skipper displayed the same equanimity that he did in dealing with the sordid “Leakgate” where a National selector so obviously lacking in culture, ethics and decorum, whispered to his media friend about Dhoni’s threat to resign during last week’s selection meeting.

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

The wretched episode saw the Indian media having a field day while providing us a relief from the usual quota of “meltdown” news items and such depressing stories that have become a staple diet in the recent weeks. There are some who feel that the selectors who leaked inside information should be identified and banned for life from holding any position in the game, but I, for one, hold the BCCI equally responsible in view of its stubborn refusal to explain team selections.

Under the circumstances, just about everything concerning the BCCI is a matter of speculation and it is pointless blaming the media alone for feeding on the juicy crumbs that are thrown to them from time to time. For me, Greg Chappell’s leaked email a couple of seasons ago was a bigger crime and the former coach even resorted to sending out text messages to select journalists.

Yet, the BCCI continues to adopt a policy of non-disclosure ignoring the fact that the public at large has every right to information. After all, it is the paying public that either buys tickets or indirectly pays through cable that is the biggest stakeholder. Further, it is the public patronage that influences Corporate investments in cricket.

As for Dhoni, he would have got the first taste of cricket politics in India that at times descend to gutter-level. Before him, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar were all victims of politics and intrigue that are so much part of Indian cricket. You would find many such schisms even in those long gone days of Nayudu.

Dhoni stops short of denying resignation reports | Stats: Irfan Pathan v RP Singh

Hopefully, the episode will be buried and not exhumed for further post-mortem as Dhoni has done more than his bit to knit an effective unit that is brimming with talent and bench-strength. So much so that even Tendulkar’s absence is hardly felt and the team seems to be performing at the same level regardless of who is in or out. Of course, though, the Indians have to show the same high performance on foreign soil and in different conditions before one can hail Dhoni as the best captain the country has had.

If there is a point that needs to be highlighted then it is the maturing of Zaheer Khan as a bowler. In the series against Australia and the four ODI games so far, he has been the pick of the bowlers with his consistency, whether line and length or providing early strikes. Some minor alteration in his action by cutting down on the final leap at the wicket, has done wonders to his bowling and like the young terrier Ishant Sharma, Zaheer needs to be carefully nurtured to prolong his career.

British media attacks umpires for Kanpur 'farce' | Full Coverage: England in India 2008

His 1993 'ball of the ce

Now that India have taken an unbeatable lead in the series, perhaps it is time to rest key players and provide opportunities to those on the bench and fringe players. I am pretty certain that Dhoni would insist on this although a 7-0 margin looks better than 4-3 or 5-2 or whatever.

Change in attitude has helped India: Srikkanth

Chennai: Chairman of selection committee Krishnamachari Srikkanth said Indian cricket is going through a transitional phase and that their ultimate objective is to win the World Cup in 2011 besides attaining the No 1 ranking in all formats of the game.

"The Indian team is going through a period of transition and by the grace of God, we are doing very well. The series win against Australia (Tests) and England (ODI) under MS Dhoni's captaincy has showcased our aggressive and positive attitude. Even when the chips were down against Australia and England, our team did well to fight back and win matches," he pointed out on the sidelines of the launch of the Chennai Super Kings fan club of which he is the brand ambassador.

Exclusive - Gavaskar: Oz went home like dogs that bark and do not bite | In Images: India seal series

When asked whether Indian cricket team is witnessing the start of a new era and promises to be the best-ever, Srikkanth said: "It is unfair to compare teams of different periods. The point is that this team under Dhoni has been shaping well.

"The key attributes are solid opening batting pair in (Virender) Sehwag and (Gautam) Gambhir, followed by a strong middle-order with Yuvraj, Sachin, Dhoni and Laxman in tremendous form. But as important is the fact that our new-ball bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have been giving us early breakthroughs with the spinners following up.

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

"What I like about this team is that it has the right balance and bench strength with a lot of talented youngsters waiting to get in. I would say that everyone is chipping in and our success is mainly due to the team effort."

Looking to the future, Srikkanth said the team has short- and long-term plans. "Of course, winning the 2011 World Cup is the ultimate objective, but in the meantime, we would like to reach the No 1 ranking in all formats of the game."

He was all praise for Dhoni's captaincy, describing the skipper as "the Super King of Indian cricket" and said his composure even under pressure was a critical factor.

Stats: Sachin’s 273-day break | Indian clean sweeps

"Against Australia and England, there were times when the team was under pressure. But Dhoni kept his calm and held the team together. He did not panic in a crisis and backed his players all the time. In the process, the team has learnt to adapt itself to changing situations besides displaying tremendous fighting spirit," he said.

Srikkanth, however, declined to take questions on team selection.

'Dhoni is super king of Indian cricket'

Chennai (IANS): The Indian Premier League franchisee Chennai Super Kings launched their "Kings Club" here as part of their brand-building exercise to attract committed loyalty from the team's supporters.

Speaking on the occasion, T.S. Raghupathy, executive president of India Cements, the owners of the Super Kings, said the Kings Club plans to offer incentives to its members by way of subsidised tickets for IPL home matches, merchandise endorsed by the players and other schemes such as personalised interaction, including exclusive photo sessions, with the players.

"The inaugural IPL earlier this year was a tremendous success and the fact that our team (Super Kings) reached the final added to the popularity of the team. By launching the Kings Club, we would like to offer the fans an opportunity to be a part of an exclusive community," he said.

The Super Kings plan to fully leverage the growing status of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captains the team as also the Indian squad for Tests and Twenty20. In his message to mark the occasion, Dhoni said: "I am happy about the launch of our official membership programme. I am sure you will find the club a great window to share the passion that we all have for the team."

Renowned percussionist Sivamani declared open the Kings Club and marked his presence with a rendition of the Super Kings' theme song. The Super Kings' brand ambassador Krishnamachari Srikkanth said Dhoni's stature was a huge factor in favour of the Chennai team.

Srikkanth said: "Dhoni is the Super King of Indian cricket and also the captain of the Super Kings." The presence of other foreign stars such as Matthew Hayden and Muttiah Muralitharan has given the team a high profile, he added.

"When we first launched the IPL, nobody knew what to expect, but I must say that the following for Super Kings has been fantastic. We want to leverage everything and the Kings Club is a starting point for our efforts to attract worldwide following," Srikkanth said.

‘India can help’

S. Dinakar

Chennai: Ramiz Raja believes the present scenario in Pakistan presents an opportunity for India to support cricket across the border in times of need. India is scheduled to tour in January and February next year but concerns over the security situation in Pakistan have put a question mark over the visit.

Said Ramiz speaking to The Hindu on Monday, “It becomes all the more important why India should tour Pakistan now. Cricket or sports have never been targeted in Pakistan. I just think you need to be a little brave for the tour to go ahead. The situation, to be honest, is not perfect in Pakistan but the Asia Cup was conducted without a hitch. Honestly, I do not think there is any threat to the players. Pakistani cricket needs to get out of the rut and India can help.”
No to neutral venue

The 46-year-old former Pakistan captain added if the tour two countries decided, due to unavoidable reasons, to call off the tour, then the series should be staged in India. “I am against holding the series in a neutral venue. You need to have cricketing culture in a place for it to stage Test matches,” he said. India is slated to play three Tests, apart from five ODIs and a Twenty20 International, in Pakistan.

“The Pakistani cricketers would love to test themselves against India, the most attractive and exciting side in world cricket now. You have great variety and contrasting players in the side. Australia is no longer the benchmark in world cricket,” he said.

Ramiz saw shades of Imran Khan’s leadership in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “Players look for honesty and integrity in their captain and Dhoni has these qualities. Without imposing himself, he allows the players to bloom but steps in when the cricketer faces a crisis. He is largely an attacking captain but has been flexible with his methods. He is also adept in strangulating the opposition.”

Rahul Dravid, he felt, deserved an extended run despite not being in the best of forms. “Although he has peaked as a batsman, he still has much to offer to Indian cricket. And losing so many senior cricketers together would not suit the interest of Indian cricket. You still need someone like Dravid in Test cricket.”

Ramiz was disappointed that star batsman Mohammed Yousuf put a career in Twenty20 over Test cricket. “He had a glorious chance to surpass Inzamam-ul-Haq as Pakistan cricket’s greatest batsman. Instead, he opted for what is being termed as a rebel series. He has played for more than 10 years for Pakistan, is financially secure, but…”
Akhtar should retire

The former opener felt controversial paceman Shoaib Akhtar should retire from Test and ODI cricket. “I think Shoaib’s fitness levels would not permit him to play Tests or ODIs anymore.”

Although Ramiz agreed Shoaib Malik was evolving as a captain, he said the bigger question was whether he could make the Test XI as a specialist batsman who could also bowl.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ICC, BCCI clash over Gambhir

MUMBAI: The one-Test ban on Indian opener Gautam Gambhir is fast turning into another showdown between the International Cricket
Council and the
Board of Control for Cricket in India.

On Tuesday, the ICC-appointed Appeals Commissioner, Justice Albie Sachs, upheld the ban on the batsman, triggering an instant reaction from BCCI which protested against the undue haste and unfair manner in which the decision was taken.

Justice Sachs' ruling — which means Gambhir may have to sit out the Nagpur Test beginning on Thursday — was arrived at without giving the batsman a hearing.

Gambhir had earlier pleaded guilty to the level 2 charge of not conducting himself "in the spirit of the game" during the Delhi Test match and ICC rules permit the appeals commissioner to decide the matter without conducting hearings.

But the swiftness with which the decision was taken has miffed BCCI. After shooting off a letter to ICC protesting the decision, the Indian board said in a statement, "The order has been passed without affording the player an opportunity of personal hearing, legal representation and without acceding to his request for certain documents or recordings to be given to him and also denying him any extension of time."

The ball is now in ICC's court. If it doesn't reply to BCCI's letter of objection within 48 hours, the Indian board, under the ICC rules, can go ahead and name Gambhir for the Nagpur Test.

If the ICC takes cognisance of the letter then it would mean another bout of legal proceedings making Gambhir's presence in the Nagpur Test a certainty.

That the BCCI is headed by a legal eagle, Shashank Manohar,was evident in the manner it went about naming Gambhir's replacement - the prolific Tamil Nadu opener M Vijay - for the fourth Test. "We have decided to keep him so that tomorrow the ICC should not tell us we didn't do our part of the job. But we have refused to accept the decision on Gambhir. By Wednesday, we should have a clear picture," BCCI secretary N Srinivasan told TOI.

Gambhir's run-in with Australian all-rounder Shane Watson on the opening day of the Kotla Test last Wednesday had resulted in a one-Test suspended sentence.

The sentence was announced by the match referee Chris Broad on Friday, the third day of the Test. BCCI swung into action immediately and went in for an appeal the same day.

It gave an allowance of seven days for ICC to take further action. BCCI, which though it had managed to ensure Gambhir's presence in the crucial match of the Test series against Australia, were stumped when ICC hastened the proceedings. With 463 runs in three Tests, the Delhi opener is the highest scorer in the series so far.

India surge ahead as Dhoni hits fifty

NEW DELHI: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni reached his 12th Test fifty in the first over after lunch on the second day of the fourth Test
against Australia at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha in Nagpur on Friday.

Scorecard | Videos

Dhoni reached the landmark when he cut a Mitchell Johnson delivery to the third man fence.

Before lunch, former captain Sourav Ganguly hit his 35th Test fifty and along with Singh Dhoni took India over the 400-run mark.

At lunch India were 404/5, with Ganguly and Dhoni having put up a century stand for the sixth wicket.

Looking to capitalize on the century by Sachin Tendulkar (109) and half-centuries by Virender Sehwag (66) and VVS Laxman (64), Ganguly and Dhoni, resuming the Indian innings on 311/5, started well and ran three runs six times.

Playing his last Test, Ganguly displayed ample grit and determination to notch up his fifty and is looking set to become only the second Indian after Mohammad Azharuddin to hit a century in his debut as well as in his last Test.

While Ganguly exhibited grace and elegance in his drives through the off-side, Dhoni showed his raw power in a sweep to square leg from outside off and a couple of shots to deep cover by the bottom-hand.

Ganguly hit his first six of this innings by charging down the pitch and hitting a Jason Krejza delivery straight over the top.

On Day one, India went past the 300-run mark thanks to a 146-run partnership between Tendulkar and Laxman. The stand came after India got off to a good start but then lost three quick wickets after Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first.

Tendulkar's master stroke

NAGPUR: A stunning 40th Test century by Sachin Tendulkar enabled India to take early control of the final Test against Australia on Thursday.

Tendulkar, the highest run scorer in Test cricket, compiled 109 and put on 146 for the fourth wicket with VVS Laxman (64), playing in his 100th Test, to help India close day one at 311 for five.

At the close, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (4) was at the crease with former captain Saurav Ganguly (27), who is playing in his final Test.

Left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson dismissed Tendulkar lbw with the second new ball after debutant off-spinner Jason Krejza took his third wicket when he pegged back the hosts by dismissing Laxman caught behind by Brad Haddin.

Tendulkar rested for England one-dayers

Ace Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been rested for the first three one-day internationals against England, the selectors announced here on Wednesday.

"Considering the hectic schedule ahead and the amount of cricket he has played this season, Tendulkar requested that he be rested for the first three one-dayers," Indian cricket board secretary N. Srinivasan said in a statement.

"The selectors have accepted his request."

England will play seven one-day internationals on the tour, with the opening game to be held in Rajkot on November 14.

The squad for the remaining four one-dayers will be announced later.

Tendulkar, 35, is the world's leading scorer with 16,361 runs in 417 one-day internationals with 42 centuries. He was forced to miss the last one-day series in Sri Lanka in August due to an elbow injury.

Opening batsman Murali Vijay was the only newcomer in the 15-man squad, to be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag returned to the squad after missing the Sri Lanka series due to an ankle injury.

Subramaniam Badrinath, Praveen Kumar, Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan, who toured Sri Lanka, were dropped.

Indian squad for three one-dayers: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Rudra Pratap Singh, Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay.

Friday, October 31, 2008

ANALYSIS-Cricket-Gambhir ban again sours India v Australia clash

NEW DELHI, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Batsman Gautam Gambhir's one-test ban has again drawn attention to the acrimony that has marred India's recent tussles with Australia.

Gambhir was suspended by International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Chris Broad on Friday for elbowing Shane Watson while taking a run on the opening day of the third test in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Australia all-rounder Watson was fined for provoking the batsman, the incident bringing to a head a series of verbal clashes forcing the umpires to intervene.

Gambhir was also fined for barging into Shahid Afridi in a one-dayer against Pakistan last November.

The Indian cricket board has lodged an appeal against his latest ban, which would allow the 27-year-old to play in the fourth and final test.

This series started in the shadow of India's tour to Australia in January when spinner Harbhajan Singh was at the centre of another storm.

India then overstepped the line again when paceman Zaheer Khan was fined 80 percent of his fee in the second-test win in Mohali for a verbal send-off of opener Matthew Hayden after the Australia opener had been dismissed.

Players from both sides made good-behaviour pledges before the series but have since shown scant regard to Broad. Some pundits say the Indians are adopting a tit-for-tat approach against Australia, who have long been accused of gamesmanship by sledging rival players.

"It is a sign of self-belief," former India captain Ravi Shastri told Reuters. "Give back as good as you get but make sure you don't cross the line and look stupid.

"It is India who have played well against Australia in the last three or four years."


Shastri said England skipper Kevin Pietersen had shown the best way to tackle Australia was to stand up to them.

"Kevin has shown he is capable of backing his words by taking that extra pressure upon himself and performing," he said.

Shastri backed Gambhir's ban and warned players against violating the spirit of the game but also said the Indian verbal response was having its effect on Australia, who trail 1-0 in the series.

In the controversial Sydney test in January, Harbhajan was initially banned after being found guilty of racially abusing Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds. India threatened to pull out of the tour if the ban was upheld and he was eventually let-off with a fine after the charge was downgraded to use of abusive language.

The attitude of the Indian players has changed markedly since they won the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, beating Australia on their way.

During this series Zaheer, Vangipurappu Laxman and India vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have dubbed Ricky Ponting's side too defensive.

Some pundits say India's young, self-confident players are more aggressive but that the captains should help ease the tension and ensure the focus of attention is firmly on the playing of the game rather than side issues.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Too hot to handle: Gambhir and Laxman hit doubles

Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman hit double centuries in Delhi yesterday as India all but batted Australia out of the third Test of the four-match series. The opener hit 206 - the maiden double century of his career - and Laxman made an unbeaten 200, at which point Anil Kumble declared with India on 613 for seven. Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich closed the day on 50 without loss having seen off the final 15 overs.

Australia began the day banking on the second new ball to break the partnership between Gambhir and Laxman, worth 139 overnight. Those hopes turned to dust as Gambhir hit 26 fours and a six before being bowled off the inside edge by Shane Watson, 4½ sessions after he first came out to bat. The fourth-wicket partnership had yielded 278 runs in 72.1 overs, the best ever at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.

It had taken 35 overs for Watson to be introduced and Ricky Ponting, who had bowled two overs himself by then, saw the all-rounder remove Gambhir with his sixth ball. Katich came on at the same time and broke through in his second over, Sourav Ganguly hitting to the captain at short cover, and when Watson had Mahendra Singh Dhoni caught behind for 27 Australia had taken three for 46, their best period of the game.

"The [Australians'] total approach has been defensive right from the start of the series," Laxman said later. "You see the captain saying that they are the underdogs for the series; that puts them in a defensive mode. Our captain, Anil [Kumble], despite the criticism he's been facing, he's very, very positive in the way he's talking about his team. And Ricky is talking about the Indian team rather than his own.

"They've got the resources," he added. "Except for [the retired] Adam Gilchrist, the team doesn't look different from what we played in Australia when they beat us 2-1. I think it's just that mental approach. I'm not sure why they've been defensive in the way they've approached the series."

Watson, meanwhile, has been fined 10% of his match fee for a confrontation with Gambhir. The pair clashed while the Indian was taking a second run off him during the first day's play. Gambhir has admitted a more serious offence and his case will be heard today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sachin – the evergreen bestseller

Anand Philar

Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket what Beatles were to music. Never has a single cricketer aroused so much emotion and passion as Sachin has over the past 19 years since he first represented India as a curly-haired 16-year-old. I vividly recall the sensation this wonder kid from Mumbai created when he made his international debut at such a tender age back in 1989.

We could hardly believe that one so young was thrown into such a competitive arena to face the likes of Imran and Akram in Pakistan. We cheered every stroke he played, every run he scored and gasped in disbelief as he took on the Pakistani attack despite suffering a bloody nose. To think that we continue to follow every move of this little man in 2008 is a testimony to his greatness and iconic status.

Perhaps, it would take a Neville Cardus to do justice to Sachin’s cricketing ability that evoked wonderment from even the reticent Sir Donald Bradman. A million words have already been written on Sachin surpassing Brian Lara’s record and going on to become the first batsman to cross the 12,000-run milestone, and in this context, I admit I am a late arrival in applauding these feats that underline his endurance. Nevertheless, it is always a pleasure to write about a player who set our heart aflutter every time he walked in to bat.

Wish Sachin | Sachin Special

There has been the usual comparison between Sachin and Lara. The former Aussie captain Ian Chappell perhaps summed it up nicely the other day when he said Sachin learnt to reinvent himself with age while Lara at the end of his career batted in the same as he did at the start. I would say that Sachin is more like quality wine that matured with the passage of time and something to be sipped and savoured while Lara was a heady cocktail, much like the potent Jamaican Rum!

Despite all our admiration for Sachin, we have also been guilty of castigating the great player every time he failed, without making allowance for the law of averages. From the onset, he had set such a high standard that even a little drop would see heckles rise.

In the recent past especially, we overlooked his great deeds and wrote that it was time he bid adieu. His own Mumbai crowd booed him in a moment of madness at a time when Sachin was struggling with form and injuries. Yet, we didn’t get any reaction from him except that he continued to bat on as if he was unaware of all the criticism hurled at him.

And at Mohali when he crossed Lara’s record and went on to make 88, Sachin in his inimitable style made his critics to eat their own words. It was typical of him to let his bat do the talking rather than get tangled into an unseemly war of words.

Looking back at his career, Sachin nearly made it to the Indian team on its disastrous tour of the West Indies under Vengsarkar in 1987-88. Sachin had made waves with his triple hundred in a Harris Shield schools tournament and also a world record partnership with his mate, Vinod Kambli. Many believed that Sachin was good enough to face the fearsome West Indian fast bowlers at that time, but wiser counsel prevailed and he was not included.

Full coverage: Australia in India | More cricket news

In 1987, when I was working in Bombay, some of my friends urged me to do a piece on Sachin. One of my colleagues said: “You got to watch this boy. He is an amazing talent and perhaps, we should do a feature on him.” I dismissed the suggestion thinking rather cynically that making runs in schools tournament was no big deal considering the quality of bowling. Till to date, I regret the opportunity that I missed.

So, what is it about Sachin that sets the entire country afire? The obvious reason I can think of is that he is living our dreams. After all, most of us nourished an ambition of playing for India, hitting the fast bowlers for fours and sixes, making a century and winning or saving a game single-handedly. Sachin did all of these and, going by his Mohali form, is not in sight of the finish line.

If I were to pick one flaw in Sachin’s personality, it is that he failed as a leader. Had he been successful in his two stints as India captain, it would have polished those little rough edges in his persona. But then, even a Bradman was denied of perfection that only lies in the realm of Utopia. I am sure, it would have pleased Sachin a great deal more had he shaped the team into a fighting unit, like Ganguly did after him.

Off the field, being a very private person and extremely sensitive to exposing his family to public glare, few really know Sachin the man. I have spoken to a few who have closely followed his career and life, but none could throw light on his family life, or rather, chose not to talk about it for reasons that are a mystery to me.

Perhaps, a day would dawn when Sachin decides to write an autobiography and I have no doubt, it would be a best seller, much like himself.

Dhoni continues to top ICC ODI batsmen ranking

Dubai: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni continued to top the batsmen chart in the Reliance Mobile ICC ODI rankings issued on Wednesday.

Dhoni, with 793 rating points to his kitty, is way ahead of Australian Mike Hussey (776) and South African Graeme Smith (764) who are at the second and third position respectively.

Full coverage: Australia in India | More cricket news

Dhoni's teammate Sachin Tendulkar is the other Indian in the top 10 list at the eighth spot with 724 rating points.

Smith, however, is eyeing second place in batting list as South Africa face Kenya in a two-match ODI series in Bloemfontein on October 31 and in Kimberley on November 2.

In the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers, Australia's Nathan Bracken heads the list with New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori in second spot and left-arm pacer Mitchell Johnson, another Australian, in third.

Comment: Adam Gilchrist and his True Colours | India favorites for Kotla Test

In the ODI championship table, India is in the fifth spot above Pakistan. India and New Zealand both have 113 points, but the Kiwis are on fourth position after recalculation upto two decimal points.

Australia (131) leads the table while South Africa (118) and England (116) are in the second and third positions respectively.

Gambhir accuses Australians of pressure tactics

Delhi: India's century-maker Gautam Gambhir on Wednesday accused Australia of resorting to pressure tactics to get him out on the first day of the third cricket Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla here.

Gambhir had run-ins with spinner Simon Katich and medium pacer Shane Watson. First he had an exchange of words with Watson when the all-rounder got in his way of taking a second run. Gambhir elbowed him out, but insisted that it was not deliberate.

Full coverage: Australia in India | More cricket news

Gambhir then got into a heated exchange of words with Katich who, on his follow-through, came in Gambhir's way to prevent him from taking a single. Gambhir was furious and umpire Billy Bowden had to step in even as skipper Ricky Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke ran in to pacify Katich.

"The way we batted, they had no other way and they were desperate to get me out. Under the circumstances it was important for me to maintain my concentration," Gambhir told reporters after the day's play.

But the 27-year--old downplayed the incidents, saying that such things happened in international cricket and that the team management is not going to lodge any complaint with match referee Chris Broad. "It has been a hard fought series and such things are bound to happen," he said.

Comment: Adam Gilchrist and his True Colours | India favorites for Kotla Test

Gambhir's unbeaten 149 was his second consecutive Test century and also the first at his home ground. The Delhi batsman admitted that the 104 in the last Test in Mohali helped him to ease the pressure.

"My century in Mohali was very crucial. Before the start of the series, there was a lot of talk about my batting and I feel that century helped to take the pressure off me. I was playing at my home ground and I didn't feel any pressure."

Gambhir rated his century here better than the one at Mohali.

"In Mohali, the century came when we were already 200 runs ahead. But here I had to give a good start to the team and put runs on the board for the bowlers," he said.

Gambhir also said since Australian spinners, especially Katich, was able to get some turn out of the track, the job for him and the other Indian batsmen will be to put up a big score.

"It is still a good track to bat on. But as the match progresses, the pitch will crumble and there will be inconsistent bounce. So our target now will be to pile up a huge score for the bowlers so that they can take the 20 wickets," he said.

Ind vs. Aus 3rd Test Match: Australian Bowlers Puzzled in the Indian Conditions

Review : Day 1, Session 3 (post - tea break) of the Third Test Match of the 'Border - Gavaskar Trophy' between India and Australia at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, New Delhi.

Once again a good start by Australian Bowlers became a dismal performance by the end of the day. Kudos to the Indian batting line-up for firing for their Team after early set backs happened in the morning in form of Sehwag and Dravid.

Magnificent batting performance by talented youngster Gautam Gambhir with excellent support from the Master Blaster Tendulkar and the Classy VVS Laxman made the day for the Indian Cricket Team. Gambhir scored a very well crafted 149 n.o. on day 1; a innings which seemed to be well planned and executed as he played calm and composed innings till Tendulkar was going great guns in the middle and in the next phase Gambhir fired with wristy Laxman playing an unlikely innings today.

Laxman is unbeaten on a score of 54 with Team Indian ending the day with a cricket score of 296 runs for a loss of 3 wickets. The run rate never went down below 3 runs per over once Tendulkar went out to bat and got accelerated with Gambhir - Laxman partnership, who added 139 runs from 37.1 overs with a run rate of 3.73 runs per over.

Indian Dressing Room will surely see happy faces today and all will be charged up for one more day of kangaroo hunting tomorrow. Cricket360 feels proud as its estimate of Indian Team scoring 250 plus runs today for a loss of 3 wickets came true. The Cricket360 review for the first session of the day estimated those figures with an outlook of Indian Team getting on top in this Test Match with the achievement of the estimated figures.

Congratulations to Team India for a successful day of play and Cricket360 worries for the Aussies as the pressure in building on them. Aussies had a poor over rate in today and had 30 overs left to be bowled in the last 45 minutes of the play. Ponting had to bring in non-regular bowlers like Katich and Michael Clarke to take care of the over rate and take Australia out of one more poor show in India.

The Aussie bowlers were helpless once the early moisture dried up and they had a pitch like Mohali once again infront of them. Neither their strategies and studies on reverse swing helped them nor did the ‘Coaching Classes’ of Bishan Singh Bedi prove to be fruitful.

Start re-thinking or Cricket360 must say Aussies should go for a 'Cricket Process Re-engineering' before every Indian Tour.

Cricket360 will present a Cricket Special Review for the days play in a short time from now. Till then let us take a break and cherish the wonderful moments of the day with our friends through Cricket360 video chat and blogs.

Sachin upset by lack of respect for the seniors

Zeecric Bureau

New Delhi, Oct 29: Sachin Tendulkar finally opened his mouth in the whole ‘junior-senior’ debate that has been dogging Indian cricket for some time.

Taking a firm stand on the whole issue, the Master batsman, who has recently broke Brain Lara’s record to become the highest scorer in Test cricket, said the seniors including him would decide the place and time of their retirement.

“The seniors including myself will decide the time and place of retirement”, said Sachin.

In an interview to a private news channel, Sachin also said, “The lack of respect towards the seniors does not happen anywhere”.

"We all know when to move away from the sport. But people have their opinions. Sometimes these opinions are not correct. But still one is made to believe that yes this is the right opinion and all kinds.”

"I think this should be left to an individual. Having said this, we have played enough to know exactly when to move away from the game. The individuals will take their decisions when feel it`s the right time," said the batting maestro.

“It’s only in this country that not enough respect is shown to the seniors who made major contributions”, Sachin added.

Tendulkar thought there was not a single player in the team who believed that if he was not enjoying the game he would still stick around. "I don`t think there is a single individual like that in the team".

He also categorically said that he was surprised to learn Sourav Ganguly’s decision to quit cricket at this juncture of his career.

"I am sure it must have taken him a long time to reach there. And it`s a big decision. But if he feels that it is the way to go, then we all should respect," Tendulkar said.

Asked why he chose to skip the Twenty20 World Cup last year, Tendulkar said, "I felt my body was not up to it. I was struggling a bit with my body and If I am not able to give my best, I should not be a part of it. Because it is going to be a fast game and I don`t want to be those players inside where captain is trying to protect me from this and that."

"I wanted the team to go out there and give their best without thinking me as a sort of handicap for them and I felt I was not in a position to give my best. I don`t want the team to think about my injury but focus on how to get the cup back home," he said.

On the emotional aspect of playing in front of Mumbai crowd, he said, "That`s where I grew up and there are plenty of friends sitting in the stands and so it`s different. I can`t deny that I have got support from all over the country, got affection and love. But Mumbai is something different."

Tendulkar praised ODI captain MS Dhoni for possessing a balanced head and sharp mind.

"He got a balanced head on and off the field and I think he has got a sharp mind. His situational awareness is very good and that the quality that I noticed quite early in him."

Asked about his suggestion of Dhoni`s name when Rahul Dravid stepped down from captaincy, Tendulkar said, "I have never talked on this publicly. I conveyed to the president Mr Pawar at that time and also to Dilip Vengsarkar. I don`t believe in talking about certain things publicly.

He also does not think that his batting form dipped during his stint as India captain.

"It was media who projected it wrongly and if you go back and see my record as a captain I was averaging 51. It was projected as if I am not scoring runs. In some 20 games I have scored 700-800 runs and I averaged 51," he said.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fab Four will be difficult to replace, says Jonty - ‘I’ve never seen an Aussie team let opposition off the hook’

Mumbai: Jonty Rhodes, cricket’s original fielding king, has acknowledged India’s domination of Test cricket following their comprehensive win over Australia in Mohali, but foresees challenging times ahead for the team when the Fabulous Four hang up their boots.

The former South African player, in the city on a promotional visit, said that he was surprised by the way Australians had played in the two Tests and that, perhaps, there were a few lessons from their defeat for India as well.

“The proceedings in Bangalore were an indication of what was to come in the second Test. I have never seen an Australian team get ahead and then fail to finish it off,” Rhodes told reporters at the Cricket Club of India.

“In the last 10 years of my career, I have seen that whenever the Australians get ahead, they close the door on the opposition.”

The 39-year-old Rhodes, who represented South Africa in 52 Tests and 245 ODIs, praised the Indian team, particularly the fast bowlers, but also pointed out the contribution of the senior players.

“India have been always a formidable team at home and of late they have been producing results on tours also. And the Fab Four are getting better with age like old wine,” he said.

“They are a solid team now. My only concern for India is their seniors. What happens in one year when they leave and there is a void? As Australia have showed, you can’t replace experience.”

Nevertheless, Rhodes was all praise for the India’s frontline bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

“Indian fast bowlers are fast bowlers now. They are not there to take the shine off the new ball and make way for the spinners,” he said.

“Pakistan is known for producing genuine pacers who can do reverse swing. The Indians are getting that reputation.”

The man from Natal, who would soon be working alongside Sachin Tendulkar when he joins the IPL Mumbai team as fielding coach, was effusive in his praise of the Indian star who surpassed Brian Lara as Test cricket’s highest run-getter in Mohali.

“To have started at 16 and still be playing is an amazing effort. He has always scored runs, especially away from home, consistently. His record, both on and off the field, has been good. But I am not sure whether he would like me giving him the fielding drills,” he said with a mischievous smile.

Rhodes said the Indians should not go ga-ga over Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy.

“Dhoni has captained the team for four and half days and everything he touched has turned to gold. But he could have had the Test backfire. It depends on how consistent he is in the long run,” he said.

Gilchrist questions Tendulkar's honesty

FORMER Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist is set to further inflame tension between cricket's superpowers by questioning India's sportsmanship, singling out its most revered player, Sachin Tendulkar.

Gilchrist has implied that Tendulkar is a sore loser, and has questioned his honesty during last summer's "Monkeygate" affair that soured relations between the Australian and Indian sides.

In his autobiography, an extract of which appears in tomorrow's Good Weekend, he describes as a "joke" Tendulkar's evidence at an appeal over the episode, in which Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was accused of calling Andrew Symonds a monkey. He said that when Tendulkar told the initial hearing that he could not hear what was said, he was "certain he was telling the truth" because he was "a fair way away".

But Tendulkar told the appeal that Harbhajan used a Hindi term that sounded like "monkey" to Australian ears. Harbhajan's suspension was quashed, infuriating the Australians.

"The Indians got him off the hook when they, of all people, should have been treating the matter of racial vilification with the utmost seriousness."

Gilchrist, considered one of the fairer players to represent Australia during its dominance, makes it clear he believes Harbhajan was guilty and says India's threat to abandon the tour was "a disgraceful act, holding the game to ransom unless they got their way".

He says there was a cultural difference in the way the teams approached the game. "In the Australian mentality, we play it hard and are then quick to shake hands and leave it all on the field. Some of our opponents don't do it that way. Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, can be hard to find for a changing room handshake after we have beaten India. Harbhajan can also be hard to find.

"I guess it's a case of different strokes for different folks."

The comments are certain to revive ill-will between the rivals, which are in the middle of another testy series. India has taken a 1-0 lead in the series this week, with tension bubbling over and Indian bowler Zaheer Khan fined 80% of his match fee for abusing Matthew Hayden.

The book also reveals the depths of Gilchrist's feelings about the malicious whispering campaign about his private life during Australia's 2002 tour of South Africa.

He describes how he received a telephone call from his manager telling him to turn on his laptop and check his emails.

One of them linked to a website that featured an anonymous email saying his recently born son Harry had been fathered by his former teammate Michael Slater.

"At first I thought it was a prank, and had a chuckle," Gilchrist writes in True Colours. But as he re-read the email, he "got a sick feeling in my stomach". He immediately called his wife, Mel, back in Australia, who was extremely agitated and had to be "calmed down".

Before taking the field in the first Test in Johannesburg, he spotted a huge banner reading: "Baby Gilly, who's your daddy?" Next to it, another sign read: "Slater, Slater."

"This was a disgusting thing to do," Gilchrist writes. "But my initial feeling wasn't outrage. It was more a vicious stab of paranoia. It set me thinking: 'Is the whole world talking about it behind my back? Are my teammates talking about it?' "

Gilchrist describes the rumour as "preposterous nonsense".

Slater agrees: "There was absolutely nothing in it." He said the website had to make a payout, but "that didn't heal the hurt".

By the time he batted, Gilchrist was "in a terrible state". Nevertheless, he went on to score 204 not out, racking up the fastest Test double century in history. "This was the first time I cried on a cricket field," he writes.

Tendulkar is a bad sport: Gilly

Adam Gilchrist takes aim at India's finest in his new book, writes Glenn Jackson.
Tension … Adam Gilchrist and Sachin Tendulkar.

Former Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist is set to further inflame tensions between the two most powerful cricketing nations by questioning India's sportsmanship - singling out their greatest player, Sachin Tendulkar.

The retired wicketkeeper claimed the biggest difference between Australia and India was that his former teammates left hostilities on the field while many of their antagonists including Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh often snubbed their opponents.

The explosive claims in Gilchrist's autobiography, to be released next week, centre on the hostilities between the two cricketing powers last summer which escalated after the Indians claimed Australia had not played in the spirit of the game.

Gilchrist surprisingly hinted at tensions with Tendulkar, revealing he was "hard to find for a changing room handshake after we have beaten India", and questioned his honesty during the Monkeygate scandal.

He also continued the Australians' attack on off spinner Singh, who was accused of racism, and criticised both the Indian and Australian boards for their handling of the scandal, which he said drove "a stake through the entire summer".

Writing about the dramatic final moments of the SCG Test when the last two batsmen, Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma, walked off without any Australians offering a handshake, Gilchrist said: "We went into the Indian changing room and shook hands.

"Not all their players could be found, which points to another subtle cultural difference. In the Australian mentality, we play it hard and are then quick to shake hands and leave it all on the field. Some of our opponents don't do it that way. Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, can be hard to find for a changing room handshake after we have beaten India. Harbhajan can also be hard to find.

"I guess it's a case of different strokes for different folks. But the criticism of us for not immediately shaking hands with Kumble and Sharma was unfair, and typified a moment when everything we did was wrong."

In his book True Colours, serialised in tomorrow's Good Weekend Magazine, Gilchrist also took aim at the Indian players and officials over the major scandal of the tour - Symonds's claims that Singh called him a monkey, which began after the off spinner patted Brett Lee on the backside as they passed mid-pitch.

Recalling the events of the day which seem to have tarnished the relationship between the nations, Gilchrist said: "The next thing I saw, Symo … said to Harbhajan something like, 'Don't touch him, you've got no friends out here."'

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mishra's five helps India dominate

Amit Mishra had to wait six years for his second call-up to the Test squad but the timing was nothing short of perfect and his performance the definition of heart. Handed a Test debut after Anil Kumble was ruled out by injury, Mishra, the 25-year-old legspinner from Haryana, picked up five wickets and spun Australia out for 268 to give India a 201-run lead. Shane Watson batted superbly for a career-best 78, the highest score in a disappointing Australian innings, but couldn't take his team past the follow-on mark. India chose not to enforce it, however, and their openers rattled off 100 in 23 overs, extending the lead to 301.

If India go on to win this Test their think-tank should pat itself on the back because the decision to play Mishra, plucked out of relative obscurity, paid off spectacularly. India bowled with determination and resolve through the day but Mishra was the pick of the lot. Short and stocky with an easy action, he bowled the ball slow and that earned him the massive wickets of Simon Katich and Michael Clarke yesterday. The remaining three came either side of a 73-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Watson and Brett Lee, and proved crucial in strengthening India's position.

India gained the early advantage by removing Michael Hussey in the first session, but Watson and Brad Haddin looked to be settling in when the persevering Harbhajan Singh struck. He bowled Haddin with an offbreak that went through the bat-pad gap before Mishra doubled India's joy by sneaking a googly through Cameron White. India were made to toil for over two hours during the one period Australia can claim to have dominated. Watson played a positive innings and remained in control throughout, timing the ball superbly through the off side. He leant into his drives and caressed the ball- six of his fours came on the off side.

Watson batted with composure despite the ball turning enough to beat the bat or strike the pad. He walked in after lunch on 39 with the responsibility of lifting Australia from 174 for 7, and was fortunate to be given not out by Rudi Koerzten, when the first ball of Ishant's post-lunch spell swung in and struck him plumb in front. With a couple to long-leg in the same over, Watson equaled his highest Test score of 41, and bettered it with a pull for six when Mishra dropped short. His fifty came with a cut behind point for four and the Australian dressing room voiced its appreciation.

Watson and Lee batted out the first hour after lunch, scoring 47 runs, and were nine minutes away from tea when Harbhajan was rewarded for tight bowling when Lee pushed hard and edged low to Rahul Dravid at slip.

Mishra was immediately called back into the attack, and he ended Watson's resistance on 78, trapping him on the back foot with a slider. Soon after, the flight did it for Peter Siddle, who failed to get his back foot down before Dhoni completed a smart stumping. Mishra's 5 for 71 was the best return for an Indian bowler on debut since Narendra Hirwani's 8 for 61 against West Indies in 1988. Fittingly, the camera panned to a beaming Hirwani, now a selector, in the pavilion. Plenty had been written about India's persistence with two spinners, and Mishra stepped up commendably. He didn't get a lot of turn, but got enough, and his fearlessness to toss the ball up was refreshing.

Expectedly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not enforce the follow-on. Australia needed wickets but Ricky Ponting spread the field and started with one slip. Gautam Gambhir survived a vociferous leg-before shout off the first ball from Lee and opened up with a pleasing square drive. Virender Sehwag batted aggressively and received support from Gambhir who played a couple of superb drives either side of the pitch. India's 50 was up in 12 overs and, soon after, Siddle pitched the ball up and Sehwag slammed him over extra-cover. Sehwag's fifty took 68 balls and he promised much more on day four.

The day began with Australia in difficulty at 102 for 4 and ended with them facing the prospect of chasing a gigantic target.

India set Australia 516 for second test victory

By N.Ananthanarayanan

MOHALI (Reuters) - India set Australia a massive 516-run target for victory in the second test after the hosts declared their second innings closed midway through the fourth afternoon on Monday.

Led by opener Gautam Gambhir's 104, India raced to 314 for three before stand-in skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted to end the innings one hour after lunch.

Indian bowlers, who helped forge a 201-run first innings lead after dismissing Australia for 268, have four-and-a-half sessions to try and seize a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.

The visitors, meanwhile, will probably be content to just hold on for a draw.

Dhoni, who shuffled the batting order to keep the scoreboard moving, scored a breezy 68 not out after making 92 in the first innings.

Australia's bowlers toiled with little success on a dry and slow Mohali pitch where India scored 130 runs from 26 overs in the first session.

Left-hander Gambhir, who made his second test century, and fellow Delhi batsman Virender Sehwag piled on 182 runs for the opening wicket after India had resumed on their overnight 100-0.

Sehwag was dismissed for 90, edging paceman Peter Siddle to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin to miss out on a 16th test hundred on his 30th birthday. The aggressive opener, who survived a caught behind appeal on 88, hit eight fours from 122 balls in three hours.

Gambhir hit seven fours and one six facing 138 balls as both openers fell before lunch chasing quick runs.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting spread out the field but could not really stem the flow of runs.

Brett Lee, who has been below his best in the series and needed two stitches on an injury to his right hand, removed Saurav Ganguly for 27 in his only spell of the second innings.

On Sunday, all rounder Shane Watson (78) and Mike Hussey (54) helped Australia score 268 as leg spinner Amit Mishra claimed 5-71 on debut to help India take a 201-run first innings lead.

The first test in Bangalore ended in a draw.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Lord Snooty' Ganguly divided and conquered

MICHAEL KASPROWICZ was reading the Ahmedabad Mirror when he answered his phone. With a trigger-finger photographer in his face to capture unforgettable images of him eating breakfast, Kasprowicz turned his back on the intruder and cast his eye over the newspaper story entitled, Sourav Ganguly - tragic hero or devious villain?Fair and timely question. Ganguly is about to retire. Some will miss him. Others will tell him to scram. Cricketing historians are hurriedly trying to find the right pigeonhole for the most successful, divisive, annoying, agitating, brave, cowardly, noble, cheating - and downright confusing - Indian cricketer of modern times.

"He did have the knack of irritating you, grating you," Kasprowicz, who locked horns with "the Raj" on countless occasions, told The Sun-Herald between matches for the Mumbai Champs in the Indian Cricket League.

"There was the third Test at Nagpur in 2004. He requested a spinning wicket. The groundsman went against Sourav and made a good cricket wicket, hard with a bit of bounce, which suited our bowling attack more than theirs.

Ganguly was captain but Rahul Dravid walks out to do the toss. Adam Gilchrist was our captain. Ricky Ponting was injured. Gilly asked, 'What's happened here? Where's Ganguly?' Dravid says: 'Oh, who knows'?"

Ganguly not only skipped the toss. He threw the toys out of the cot, withdrawing from the game altogether. The hosts fell apart, losing by 342 runs to hand Australia their first series win in India since 1969.

"Sourav liked to play by his own rules," Kasprowicz said.

"Sourav's record, and what he did for his country as captain, is highly commendable. But he has alienated a few people. That's not just the Australian perspective. The Indians think the same thing."

Ganguly infuriated Steve Waugh by arriving late for the toss on four occasions in 2001. Waugh knew Ganguly was trying to annoy him. Annoyingly, he had to admit it worked. Former Australian coach John Buchanan said: "Sourav is … almost contradictory in everything he does.

"He is so skilful with his batting and bowling, yet so lacking in basic skills when it comes to fitness, running between wickets or ground fielding.

"He is a great tactician, yet makes many tactical errors. He is so courteous, yet so ignorant of basic human courtesies at times.

"He can be an inspiring leader, yet can be the wrong person to lead. He is a deep thinker of the game and issues but can be quite mystical and live in his own world." Ganguly's actions, as much as his aloof attitude, anger Australia. He once claimed a victory at a toss despite the coin falling Waugh's way. And celebrated a half-century by wiping his face with a red handkerchief, mocking Waugh's fondness of his own red piece of cloth.

But Waugh also admitted to a kind of begrudging respect: "I saw in Sourav a committed individual who wanted to inject some toughness and combativeness into a side that had often tended in the past to roll over and expose a soft underbelly," Waugh wrote in his biography.

Ganguly was dubbed "Lord Snooty" while playing county cricket. Once, upon reaching his 50, he raised his bat to the home balcony at Glamorgan. It was empty.

Ganguly can have his Kolkata mansion, billions of rupees, 111 Tests and 7000-odd runs and counting, and the record as India's most successful Test captain … his biggest accomplishment has been getting up the noses of a team that succeeded in getting up the noses of everyone else - Australia.

ICL issue ICC warning

15 hours ago

The Indian Cricket League has issued an ultimatum to the International Cricket Council to resolve the issue of recognition by November 4 or face legal action.

The ICL has been banned by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the ICC have also refused to recognise the Twenty20 league.

The BCCI initiated talks with the ICL earlier this week but they lasted barely 20 minutes before breaking down and BCCI president Shashank Manohar is due to submit a detailed report to the ICC.

In a letter to ICC president David Morgan, Subhash Chandra - the chairman of Essel Group who own the ICL - claimed legal proceedings would be started against the ICC if recognition is not granted under Rule 32 of the ICC operating manual within 21 days.

The rule deals with authorised unofficial cricket.

"Mr Morgan, I would appreciate ICC's sincere efforts to resolve the issue without us going to the courts but it seems to me that ICC will have to take a decision in this regard and grant us approval under section 32 of the ICC charter, after expiry of 21 days from October 14, which expires on November 4," Chandra wrote, according to the Times of India.

"I request you to call a Board meeting of ICC and communicate to us a decision by closing of the week of November 7.

"Alternatively, we will have no option but to initiate legal proceedings in the appropriate court of law."

In his letter, Chandra alleged that the BCCI would deal with him on the condition that he left the ICL.

"This was a no-brainer for me to respond negatively, as we have an obligation towards more than 500 players and other staff working in the ICL. I cannot just desert them or hand them over to someone."

Champion's story not over yet

Sachin Tendulkar reached a beautiful cricketing crescendo on Friday afternoon. And no sooner did he edge past Brian Lara's world record, Tendulkar
, like he usually does, looked to the heavens to seek his late father's blessings. As the firecrackers went up and the stands erupted into frenzy time stood still for those fleeting moments.

To be sure, in his nineteen years of cricketing pilgrimage Tendulkar has been living a dream for an adoring nation. Brian Lara, of course, scored those runs in lesser number of Tests while a certain Viv Richards was almost always pleasingly brutal. Yet, what makes Tendulkar's record memorably distinct is the fact that for almost two decades he has been the signature of Indian cricket, carrying the burden of expectations of a billion people on his shoulders.

At the peak of his prowess, India was a 'One-man' team. Again it's hardly surprising that Shane Warne, arguably the best spin bowler to have played the game, has Tendulkar heading the roll call of excellence in his list of 100 best cricketers. To most of his passionate fans, to see him grace the batting crease is akin to see the sun rising everyday. Even his walk to the wicket, which is celebrated with wild cheers from the packed stands, is a spectacle in itself.

Those who know Tendulkar as a mere cricketer may find his fawning over by the Indians quaintly amusing. However, to understand that you have to be both a cricket lover and an Indian. There are things about him more than his cricket that we admire. He is successful but not drunk on success. He is rich but not arrogant about his riches. At the height of his success, when he can order the world upside down, he remains a dignified champion.

All along Tendulkar has inspired a generation of cricketers. When he speaks, a nation listens in rapt attention, likewise when he is on a song fans watch in sheer amazement. He has grown up so fast, and is also ageing gracefully, before our eyes. For someone who started off as a shy cricketer, his interviews are rare but, of late, never short of depth and wisdom. Some time back, when asked about this change, he said, "Maybe it's a sign of growing up."

He always extends his warmth whenever his friends go through tough times. Likewise he is always respectful of the elders. More importantly, he also reaches out to the handicapped kids and supports the underprivileged with their education without making a song and dance about it. He is that kind of a person. And over the years, he hasn't changed one bit. Seldom have personalities occupied our personal mind space like that.

Winning a World Cup is probably the only thing he hasn't achieved in his magical career. And it's this inner desire that will give him the strength to go on till 2011 when India hosts the next World Cup. The Tendulkar story is not over yet. It has a few volumes still to be published.

Aussies put through the hoops

Maninder Dabas
MOHALI, Oct. 18: Although his critics had been calling for his immediate removal and India's selectors were no longer appreciative of his abilities, his knock of 102 runs on the second day of the second Test here today seemed to suggest Sourav Ganguly was going away a tad too early. And he let it be known, once the day's action had been gone through, that he wasn't reconsidering his retirement decision.
The brilliant innings, off 225 balls, and his 109 runs joint enterprise off 175 balls with standin skipper MS Dhoni (92 off 124 balls) led India to a formidable total of 469. Australia were 102 for four in 49.5 overs at stumps, with Michael Hussey (37 off 97 balls) required to fight a long and grim battle tomorrow to avoid the followon. Michael Clarke had appeared more confident than Hussey, but he fell to debut maker legspinner Amit Mishra's wrong'un on the day's last ball.
Hussey survived a few chances - including a tough caught-behind miss by Dhoni on 25 - but Australia could do with what he contributed primarily because the others weren't all that generous with their contributions. Australia's chase started badly when experienced opener Matthew Hayden played on to Zaheer Khan's third ball of the innings, just before the tea interval.
Matt Hayden's form slump continued and the visitors' problems worsened after the break when skipper Ricky Ponting (5), having survived a very confident lbw appeal, fell in the same manner later in Ishant Sharma's over. Opener Simon Katich's resistance dragged on till 33 but Australia fell to 62 for three when he pushed a defensive shot into the pitch and it rolled off his leg and on to the stumps.
The wicket was the first for Mishra, who finished with two for 21. “Mishra's done very well, but it's just the beginning,” Ganguly said, with the air of someone who's known and done it all. “It's about doing it day in, day out, like Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have done, but it's a good start. He's definitely put us in a situation where Australia are under pressure.” Australia legspinner Cameron White said the start of the third day would be crucial.
“The first session will shape the rest of the game,” White said. “The ball is reverse swinging and spinning, so it's going to be very tough.” Earlier, Ganguly raised both hands in the air and was a relieved man to hit a century: his inclusion had been questioned following a rather poor series against Sri Lanka.
India had resumed the second morning at 311 for five and were 326 for six when Dhoni arrived, pulling his first ball from Lee for four. Dhoni made 92 from 124 balls, inclusive of eight fours and four sixes.
Lee, though, had struck Dhoni in the shoulder when he turned his back to a bouncer early in his innings.
Lee received two stitches for a split webbing in his right hand after injuring himself in the first session, but returned to the field after lunch.
Opener Phil Jacques, afflicted with a back problem, is someone the visitors cannot count upon any more too. Earlier, Australia's preferred spinner Bryce McGain, reportedly injured, went home too.
At the Press conference, Australian allrounder Camroon White conceded his team were in in real trouble. "Yeah, we're in a little bit of trouble and will have to play well tomorrow to save the match."
Asked about the pitch, White said: "The pitch is playing well, it might yield some turn in the fourth innings." It's not very often that the world's top team look this vulnerable.
In Mumbai, Dilip Vengsarkar congratulated Ganguly on his feat.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sportspersons upbeat as Sachin conquers another peak

Ludhiana, October 17 At 2.31 pm, on Friday afternoon, when Sachin Tendulkar surpassed Brian Lara’s record of being the highest run-getter in Test cricket, he not only reinforced his image as the one of the true greats of the game but also drew praises and accolades from all corners of the city.

Arun Dhand, former veteran World Badminton Champion, said it was an amazing feat for the ace Indian batsman.

“I went to the PCA Stadium to watch Tendulkar break the record and I am very happy that he did not let his fans down,” said Dhand.

Hardeep Singh, who was part of the Indian Hockey team to the 1984 Olympic Games, was also elated.

“He (Sachin) has done the country proud. Being a sportsperson, I feel very happy for him,” he said.

Asked if it is time for Tendulkar to hang-up his boots, Singh said: “We should not force senior players like Sachin to retire. We should leave this decision to him.”

Expressing his happiness over the achievement of the “Little Master”, Teja Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary, Punjab Basketball Association (PBA), said Sachin had done the country proud, time and again. “I feel age should not be the criterion for any player to retire but his fitness and performance should count. If the players are fit and performing well even at an advanced age, there should be no problem in allowing them to continue,” added Dhaliwal.

Rahul Bhatia, a junior-level cricket coach with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), said: “Sachin’s milestone is a slap on the faces of those who were lobbying for his retirement. I think he can easily play till the next World Cup.”

Another cricketer, Khushal Sharma said: “Sachin has given his best to the country and he has done the country proud with his scintillating performances in a career spanning nearly two decades.”

Today, I miss my dad: Sachin Tendulkar

Mohali: Sachin Tendulkar's body language on Friday evening was that of a relieved man.

Despite having become the highest run-getter in Test cricket by surpassing Brian Lara's record and then being the first batsman to score 12,000 Test runs, Tendulkar has not thought of giving up yet.

"I am very happy about this achievement. Though I don't play for records, there was a lot of talk about this one (Lara's record). People kept asking me all the time about when it is going to happen. Now, at least, no one will ask," an elated Tendulkar said at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) pavilion here at the end of first day's play in the second Test between India and Australia.

The batting maestro admitted that he could not sleep properly the previous night.

"That happens to me. It was a little difficult to sleep. I am constantly reminded by others about such things (record)," he said.

Tendulkar made it clear that he was going to continue playing international cricket and was not even thinking of retiring.

"My next target is that I am going to continue (playing). I am feeling good. A lot of things are said and written about me. These may not necessarily be right. People tend to know what's going on in my mind. I don't need to prove anything to anyone," he said.

Sounding a word of caution for those criticising him, Tendulkar said: "When I started playing cricket 19 years ago, no one told me how to play. No one needs to tell me now either. I have 19 years of contribution to Indian cricket. I have not played to prove anything to any XYZ. I just try to complete what the requirement of the team is. Getting the record is a wonderful and fascinating feeling. I am happy that the record is in the name of an Indian."

Wish Sachin | Sachin Special

Tendulkar said he looked up at the skies after scoring the 15 runs needed to surpass Lara's record "to thank the Almighty for everything he has given me and thank my father who is not around."

"He would have been a proud man today. Today, I miss him," Tendulkar said.

It has been a fantastic journey: Sachin | Comment: At last, the pressure on Sachin should ease!

Tendulkar dedicated his achievement Friday to his family.

"All records are meant to be broken. I don't think about them. I cannot be running after everything. But if it comes my way, I will accept it. The beauty is to go out and play. But as the career progresses, the mind starts thinking of records."

He said that he was happy that some of his records had come against the world's top cricketing side, Australia. "It's a coincidence that it's happening against Australia," he said.

Full coverage: Australia in India

Tendulkar, who debuted for India in 1989 at the age of 16, said that among his memorable innings was his first century.

Showering praise on Indian Test captain Anil Kumble, who turned 38 on Friday, Tendulkar said: "He is the greatest bowler that India has produced and the world has seen."

"Getting 600 wickets is a big thing. I applaud that. His dedication and hardwork has got him there. He is a true champ. He has a big and strong heart."

LEADER ARTICLE: Is Sachin The Greatest?

When Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara's record for the most runs on Friday, the old question raised its head once again. Is Tendulkar the grea
test ever cricketer? It's a debate that can never be settled with any kind of finality. This is especially so because such a question inevitably leads to comparisons across generations, contexts and timeframes, which are distinctive and also profoundly different from each other. Perhaps such comparisons are unfair as well. More so, because we don't have the resources to make such comparisons. Yet, these comparisons are inevitable. They add to the aura of modern sports, offer talking points and animate cricket fans across the world.

For example, when a Donald Bradman inspired millions of Australians to come out of the Great Depression in the 1930s and once again catapulted cricket to the forefront of Australia's national imagination with his unrivalled run-scoring abilities, how much pressure was he under? Or when Garfield Sobers led the charge in a Caribbean plagued by apartheid, what did it mean to his countrymen? Were they under more or less pressure than what Tendulkar has had to face for nearly two decades? When a billion-plus people are ready to deconstruct his every gesture, what must be going through his mind? These are the ingredients that spice up comparisons and make modern cricket the most talked about Indian obsession.

When Sunil Gavaskar left India's cricketscape, we did not want a player to fill the void; we needed a saviour who could help us overcome the crisis the nation was facing. The Tendulkar phenomenon may be linked to the medieval Indian practice of bhakti and the visual economy of darshan where the devotee worships the divine object of his desire. No contemporary icon has possibly had to face such intense scrutiny. That's why Tendulkar, who has under-gone this ordeal with perfection for nearly two decades, stands above other cricketers.

What does Tendulkar mean to Indians? Simply put, he is anything but a mere cricketer. He is a phenomenon we have collectively worshipped for 19 long years ever since he made his debut in 1989. He has given our cricket muscle and taught us to believe that we can be the best in the world. He is the cricketing equivalent of Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan, who is capable of hammering the very best villains, be it a Shoaib Akhtar or the legendary Shane Warne.

Tendulkar is our answer to every ace that the others might have in their bag. He has allowed Indian cricket fans to stand up tall even when the Indian team has collectively failed. From Tendulkar, the nation of a billion brooks no failure. No mortal could have lived with such expectations for years and yet achieve what he has. While it is true that Lara scored his runs in 20 fewer Tests, his volatile character and his inability to lift West Indies cricket out of the doldrums will always make him second best in any comparison with Tendulkar.

When Tendulkar disappoints, it hurts us all. When he got out for 88 against debutant Peter Siddle at Mohali — interestingly he has given his wicket to more than 10 debutants, including Craig White in the last Test — the entire country was in shock. The reaction was similar to what we witnessed in Bangalore a week earlier. Uniquely for him, it has been the same for two decades.

In recent times, questions have been raised over whether he is the champion he once was, whether he can still tear bowlers apart and whether he still deserves the mantle of the world's best batsman? However, all of these doubts have been laid to rest with several gritty performances over the last few years. These innings might not have had the flair of Tendulkar's earlier knocks but they are worth their weight in gold.

In this age of hyper nationalistic sport, Tendulkar is perhaps the only player who receives a standing ovation every time he steps out to the middle. It is the same everywhere in the world. For example, when Tendulkar stepped out to bat at Sydney in January 2008, it was a hugely satisfying moment as an Indian fan to see the entire stadium standing up to applaud a champion.

It was even better at Lord's in 2007. It remains one of the few grounds that Tendulkar has failed to make his own. When he got out to Monty Panesar in India's second innings in July 2007, even the Lord's Long Room — the most conservative as also the most strongly nationalist of bastions — groaned in sorrow. They wanted the master to leave his mark. It was as if Lord's lost out on something precious with Tendulkar getting out cheaply.

Against the Australians, who boast of the best cricketing infrastructure, excellent faci-lities, a great sporting culture and intensely competitive domestic cricket, our refrain has always been, "We have Tendulkar". This refrain hasn't changed for nearly two decades; chances are it will continue in the same vein for some more time.

The writer is a sports historian.

'Record won't be Sachin's motivating force'

Mumbai: One time Team India's psychologist Dr Rudi Webster has kept a congratuatory message ready to be delivered to Sachin Tendulkar.

On the eve of the Mohali Test against Australia, Tendulkar has been advised by Webster "to seize the moment of scoring another 15 runs and enjoy the world record".

"Sachin being a strong man may find some nervousness in the initial phase of the match but would certainly achieve this target," the West Indian pshchologist, who has also worked with the Indian team in the past, said from his Barbados residence.

"I am sure that the record will be at the back of Sachin's mind but that won't be his motivating force in the next Test. Wanting to do well to help his team beat Australia will be much more important to him. Out-thinking, out-planning and out-performing the Australians will therefore be in the forefront of his mind.

"Of course, when he breaks Lara's record he will be very happy and he will probably look back at his career with pride and say to himself, 'I gave cricket everything I had and to have scored more Test runs than anyone else is a singular achievement and great honour. I hope that during my years on the field I was able to entertain the crowds and bring hope and joy to the lives of the millions of people who have watched me over the years'.

"Sachin does not have to prove anything to anyone. He has done it all. I hope that he will give us another year or two because I believe that with a few minor mental adjustmments he could still be a great force in world cricket."

"I know that the whole of India will be ecstatic when Sachin breaks the record. But that admiration will not be limited to India. It will be shared by millions of people around the world who love and respect him. Sachin is a modest man and is the epitome of the quiet achiever. He has been a great ambassador for India and In some respects he has been the face of India in many parts of the world.

"I shall certainly send a congratulatory note to him once he creates the new world record," he signed off.

Gambhir stars as India start strongly

Gautam Gambhir hammered an unbeaten half-century as India got off to a flying start in the second Test against Australia on Friday.

Gambhir and opening partner Virender Sehwag belted Australia's bowlers around the park before the tourists stemmed the run flow with the wicket of Sehwag (35) just after the first drinks break.

India went into lunch on 104 for one.

Gambhir was on 53 and Rahul Dravid 11 at the interval with both men looking well set on a flat pitch.

Sehwag and Gambhir added 70 runs for the first wicket before Sehwag, scoring at a near run-a-ball, fell to Mitchell Johnson.

The left-arm paceman tempted the batsman with a short delivery down the leg side and Sehwag fell for it, edging to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Sehwag, who had hit consecutive boundaries in debutant paceman Peter Siddle's fourth over, stroked a total of six fours during his 36-delivery stay at the crease.

Gambhir had brought up his half-century with consecutive boundaries off Michael Clarke.

India's regular skipper Anil Kumble was ruled out of the match due to a shoulder injury and stand-in skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to bat first. Amit Mishra was handed his first Test cap, replacing Kumble.

On the Australian side, Siddle came in for Stuart Clark, the paceman ruled out due to an elbow injury.

Talks between India's rival Leagues fail

NEW DELHI (AFP) — Moves by the unauthorized Indian Cricket League (ICL) to gain recognition from the world governing body have been shot down by the Indian board, officials said on Friday.

The International Cricket Council had this month asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to hold talks with ICL officials before any decision on accepting the 'rebel' Twenty20 League was taken.

But talks between the BCCI and the ICL in New Delhi broke down late Thursday, with senior officials saying no further meetings were planned.

"There was a meeting at Delhi between officials of BCCI and ICL to see if there was any common ground," BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan said in a terse one-line statement.

"The talks failed and there are no plans for any further meeting."

The ICL, started by Indian media magnate Subhash Chandra last year, runs parallel to the commercially successful Indian Premier League, which is owned by the BCCI.

The ICL has not been sanctioned by the ICC, and most players participating in the tournament have been handed lengthy bans from international cricket by their respective boards, barring England.

ICL chairman Kapil Dev, who did not attend the meeting with the BCCI, said he was "unhappy" at the development.

"I don't know all the specifics, but I understand the BCCI wants the ICL to be a closed chapter," the legendary all-rounder and India's lone World Cup-winning captain told reporters.

"That, let me reiterate, is not possible. Right now, I would not like to say anything more. Of course, I'm unhappy at what happened."

The second edition of the ICL, featuring former Test captains like Inzamam-ul Haq of Pakistan, Marvan Atapattu of Sri Lanka and Habibur Bashar of Bangladesh, is currently being played in four venues across India.

Among other international stars in the fray, along with Indian domestic players, are New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond, Australian batsman Damien Martyn and Kiwi all-rounders Chris Cairns and Nathan Astle.