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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.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ponting: The best since Bradman

Questions were being asked of the Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, as he led his team into the series with India. His brilliant century in the first Test suggests he remains one of the great batsmen of this, or any other, era. Stephen Brenkley on an underappreciated genius

All the fuss in Mohali over the next few days will surround a man who has been treated as a god for most of his adult life. Sachin Tendulkar, of India, needs a paltry 15 runs to become the highest overall scorer in Test history, an achievement entirely befitting his status in the eyes and minds of his countrymen.

But events in the second Test between India and Australia, starting tomorrow, may well be driven by a cricketer who far, from attaining deification, has regularly shown defects that are all too human. Ricky Ponting, the captain of Australia, will probably one day annex the runs record himself and take it beyond Tendulkar and anybody else for a generation.

The careers of both have been remarkable, batsmen not only for their own but for any era. As it stands at present, Tendulkar has scored 11,939 runs, tucked in just behind Brian Lara. Ponting's century in the first Test of this series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy took him to 10,239, in sixth place.

At the age of 33 (34 in December) Ponting is 20 months younger than Tendulkar and so far his body, unlike that of the "Master Blaster from Mumbai", has shown few signs of rebelling against the constant demands put on it. Nobody ever can become the new Don Bradman – the man scored a century on every 2.75 visits to the Test crease, for goodness sake – but another Australian is building a sound case for being the Best Since Bradman. And as a captain Ponting is creating a record of similar magnitude. Under him, Australia have won 73.3 per cent of their matches, greater than anybody who has led in more than 10 matches: better than Bradman, and better than Ponting's immediate predecessor, Steve Waugh.

It is the ultimate stamp of a great batsman that he makes big runs on big occasions. Since Tendulkar is one of only five players to have made nine Test hundreds against Australia – one more would make him second behind the 12 scored by England's Jack Hobbs – it would be a stretch to accuse him of failing to make the most of himself. But there is a quality in Ponting, a mixture of talent, desire, will and doggedness, that sets him apart.

This has failed singularly to make him popular among the majority of Australians, who seem grudgingly to respect rather than admire him. Nor, despite his frequently articulated intentions, have the Australian team become conspicuously less swaggering. They might be quieter, slightly, but they still play it hard, pushing the regulations to the limit. Ponting has been complicit in this; indeed, has propelled it up to a point.

The spat between India and Australia this year during and after the Sydney Test did not reflect well on him. By word, he has seemed to resist a win-at-all-costs approach, but by deed during that match he all but signed a contract to adopt it. It was not so much that he reported Harbhajan Singh, his old bowling nemesis, for an alleged racial comment directed towards the Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, but that he informed the umpires that a catch taken at slip by Michael Clarke was good when replays were to show otherwise.

Australia went on to win a contentious match with eight minutes left. Eight minutes in which Ponting might have lost the Australian public's backing. There were calls for him to be sacked. He rode out the storm and, though his form was distinctly patchy for a while he seems not only to have retrieved it but to have ensured that this team is as much his as ever.

Ponting's record in India had been woeful until last week. His hard-handed, front-foot style had contrived to make him a walking wicket: 189 runs in 15 Test innings, out 13 times to spin. Harbhajan snaffled him for the ninth time in Bangalore but by then Ponting had made 123.

Perhaps a player of his indubitable gifts was bound to make a hundred sooner or later somewhere in India, but it was characteristic that he should do it when he did. As the team left Australia, it was the burning issue. Only four of the party had played in India before and if Ponting did not make runs, ran the argument, they would probably be sunk.

It merely fuelled the captain's craving and if he needed any more incentive it arrived in the first over of the series when Matthew Hayden nicked one behind. Ponting was imperious thereafter and his 36th Test hundred should, and normally would, have established a platform from which Australia would take a lead in the series. In matches where he has scored a century, the team have won 27 times; India have won on only 13 of the 39 occasions when Tendulkar has made a hundred.

There is a steel in Ponting which is impossible not to notice. He may try to disguise it, but it is ever present. There have been times during interviews, especially the interminable round of press conferences that cricket captains have to perform, when it is not so much disguised as controlled. The strength of his ambition to do well can almost be felt across a crowded room but he seems anxious not to make too much of it.

This trait was at its plainest during England's last tour of Australia two years ago. Ponting had been chastened by the Ashes defeat away 14 months previously and although he never quite admitted as much, it became pretty clear pretty early that he had vengeance in mind. Not only that but he had been plotting it, nurturing it since 2005

When he scored 196 in the first Test at Brisbane it was as predictable as a bank collapse. Immediately, the Australian papers unveiled their Bradman comparisons and, bearing in mind this had been his 10th hundred in 30 innings, it was truly Bradmanesque. He made it 11 in 32 at Adelaide and when he was dropped on 35 English hearts could have sunk no lower had Bradman been reprieved. Throughout that winter the feeling was that Ponting would achieve redemption only if Australia could win 5-0. It drove him and he drove his team.

The captaincy has in its way been the making of him, not only because he averages above 60 leading the side. He and his law graduate wife Rianna had their first child, a daughter, Emily, earlier this year. Ricky is the highest-earning Australian sportsman, making, according to estimates A$4m (£1.6m) a year. He has acquired a Sydney mansion.

Thus he has left behind the rough diamond from Launceston, Tasmania whose passions were greyhounds, drinking and betting. From his early days he was "Punter" but at one point he might have been "Boozer" as well. The night in 1999 he received a black eye outside a Sydney night-spot marked a turning point. That would not happen now but there is a sense that taking the boy out of Launceston is not quite the same as taking Launceston out of the boy.

He had a modest season at home last year, though it was noticeable that after the Sydney rumpus he dusted himself down and hit back with a century in the last match of the series. The innings in Bangalore may allay for longer the whispers that the reflexes and the eyes are waning enough to make a difference.

Like Bradman, Ponting is not especially easy on the eye. He is neither languid nor elegant, neither graceful nor flamboyant. But when he is in he does not look like getting out. He hits the ball hard and often. That hundred last week may be another turning point. Whatever Tendulkar does in Mohali, it is now Ponting who is BSB – Best Since Bradman.

Measure of the man: How Ponting stacks up

Top 10 Test run-scoring batsmen


1. Brian Lara WI 1990-2006/131/232/11,953/400*/52.88/34/48

2. Sachin Tendulkar I 1989-present/151/246/11,939/248*/54.02/39/49

3. Allan Border AUS 1978-1994/156/265/11,174/205/50.56/27/63

4. Steve Waugh AUS 1985-2004/168/260/10,927/200/51.06/32/50

5. Rahul Dravid I 1996-present/126/218/10,302/270/53.65/25/53

6. Ricky Ponting AUS 1995-present/120/201/10,239/257/58.50/36/40

7. Sunil Gavaskar I 1971-1987/125/214/10,122/236*/51.12/34/45

8. Jacques Kallis SA 1995-present/123/209/9,761/189*/55.46/30/48

9. Graham Gooch ENG 1975-1995/118/215/8,900/333/42.58/20/46

10. Javed Miandad I 1976-1993/124/189/8,832/280*/52.57/23/43

Top 10 Test century-scoring batsmen


1. Sachin Tendulkar 1989-present/246/39

2. Ricky Ponting AUS 1995-present/201/36

3. Sunil Gavaskar I 1971-1987/214/34

4. Brian Lara WI 1990-2006/232/34

5. Steve Waugh AUS 1985-2004/260/32

6. Matthew Hayden AUS 1994-2008/169/30

7. Jacques Kallis SA 1995-present/209/30

8. Don Bradman AUS 1928-1948/80/29

9. Allan Border AUS 1978-1994/265/27

10. Garry Sobers WI 1954-1974/160/26

(WI=West Indies, I=India, AUS=Australia, SA=South Africa, ENG=England)

Other Ponting landmarks

* The only cricketer to have scored over 1,500 Test runs in a calendar year on two occasions. The first time was in 2003, averaging 100.2 in 18 innings, with a highest score of 257.

* Most Test runs in a calendar year by an Australian (1,544 in 2005).

* Most Test centuries in a calendar year by an Australian (7 in 2006).

* Joint most consecutive Test wins as captain, 16 (shared with Steve Waugh).

* Only Ricky Ponting and Sunil Gavaskar have scored a hundred in each innings of a Test match on three occasions.

* Most Test runs on Australian soil, passing Allan Border against India this year, including:

Highest run scorer at Sydney:


1. Ricky Ponting 13/22/1,282/75.41

2. Allan Border 17/29/1,177/56.04

3. Greg Chappell 12/22/1,150/63.88

Highest run scorer at Brisbane:

1. Ricky Ponting 12/19/1,120/74.66

2. Greg Chappell 7/11/1,006/111.77

ICC finalises dates for 2009 Champions Trophy

The ICC will hold the postponed Champions Trophy between September 24 and October 5, 2009, it was decided during the second day of its board meeting in Dubai. The announcement ends months of uncertainty about the event which was originally scheduled for September this year in Pakistan but was postponed after several participating countries refused to travel over security fears in the country.

The new dates were formalised after detailed discussions between Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, and officials of various national boards, many of whom will have now have to adjust their international programme to accommodate the event. The ICC, too, has had to make an adjustment of its own to accommodate the event, shortening its duration from the original 17 days to 12, including a reserve day for the final.

The ICC also said the event will be held in one city, possibly to ensure foolproof security arrangements, though Pakistan's fate as host will be decided only after a review following India's tour of the country in early 2009. Lahore and Karachi were the original venues. David Morgan, the ICC president, welcomed the decision to find a place for the tournament despite an increasingly packed Future Tours Program (FTP) and Lorgat thanked the participating countries for their cooperation. "I'm hugely encouraged by the spirit of togetherness and teamwork shown by our members in ensuring we have found a place for the Champions Trophy in next year's calendar," Lorgat said.

The ICC board's decision means the BCCI, which had originally refused to adjust its international programme to allow the postponed event, will have to reschedule the second edition of the Twenty20 Champions League, which had originally been slotted for September 25-October 10. India has also tentatively scheduled a seven-ODI home series against Australia to start from October 13 next year.

N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, said that "there will be no clash of dates". "The new programme takes into account a provision for the Champions League also," Srinivasan told Cricinfo.

According to Lorgat, for whom the result of today's decision is an achievement of sorts considering the initial opposition to the new window, the tournament needed to be held as it is "vitally important for the world game".

The Champions Trophy is expected to rake in around USD 40 million, most of which will be redeployed for the development of the game. "The tournament, with its new format of the top eight teams playing in a short, sharp event, is vitally important for the world game because it allows those members, as well as the developing cricket world, to grow the sport," Lorgat said.

I will take final call on my availability Friday: Kumble

Mohali (Punjab) (IANS): Indian captain Anil Kumble Thursday kept everyone guessing on his availability for the second Test match against Australia at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium starting here Friday.

"I am feeling much better now. I will take a final call (on the shoulder injury) tomorrow morning on how I feel," Kumble told reporters here on the eve of the match.

The Indian captain refused to commit himself on who would lead the side if he was not fit to play Friday.

"We still have time (to decide the captain). There are still 24 hours for that," a stern Kumble said when asked who would replace him as captain.

In his absence, ODI team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is likely to lead the side.

Kumble had a shoulder injury on his bowling arm side during the drawn first Test match at Bangalore.

The India captain said that fitness concerns were there in both teams. The obvious reference was to the injury to Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark who is a doubtful starter Friday.

Kumble, who is the third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, said that he had a good record at the PCA ground. Kumble has 36 wickets from seven test matches played here.

"My record here has been good so far," he said.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sachin falls short of Lara's record

NEW DELHI: Sachin Tendulkar failed to break legendary Brian Lara's record of maximum runs in Test cricket. He fell just 15 runs short of Brian L
ara's record of 11,953 runs in Tests. ( Watch )

Sachin hit a flighted delivery by Cameron White straight to Michael Clarke in the extra cover region. What was interesting in the dismissal was that just prior to that over, both Sachin and Laxman complained to the umpires about the light and that forced Australian captain Ricky Ponting to bring on debutant spinner White in the attack.

Sachin was battling to save the Test match after Australia set a victory target of 299 runs on the final day of the first Test.

Earlier, Australia grabbed two quick wickets when seamer Stuart Clark sent back opener Virender Sehwag (6) and Brett Lee dismissed Rahul Dravid for mere five to leave India tottering on 41 for two at lunch.

Clark had Sehwag caught at slip by Matthew Hayden in the sixth over. The opener had been dropped by wicketkeeper Haddin off Lee in the previous over.

Dravid, who scored a dogged fifty in the first innings, fell three overs later, flicking uppishly for Ricky Ponting to take a magnificent diving catch at mid-wicket.

Opener Gautam Gambhir was the lone batsman dismissed in the post-lunch session, bowled for 29 by left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson. Gambhir, who added 53 runs with Sachin, failed to take advantage of surviving two close appeals off a single delivery.

Better luck next time!

BANGALORE: Sachin Tendulkar scored a match-saving 49 to help India avert defeat in the first Test against Australia on Monday, but himself fell short of a world record.

India, set a victory target of 299 runs in 83 overs, finished with 177/4 before bad light forced the match to be abandoned as a draw after tea on the fifth day at the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Tendulkar was caught in the covers off debutant spinner Cameron White just 15 short of surpassing retired West Indian Brian Lara's tally of 11,953 runs as Test cricket's leading run-getter.

Even as he neared the record, the 35-year-old vehemently protested to the umpires about allowing play to continue in fading light and walked away in disgust after becoming White's first Test victim.

Vengsarkar lashes out at Kumble for team's poor performance

NEW DELHI: Former chief of selection committee Dilip Vengsarkar has lashed out at Test captain Anil Kumble, who was apparently not fit, for his
poor performance and hold him responsible for letting the team down.

Before the match, Kumble was not 100 per cent fit. "Unfit Kumble is letting the team down", Vengsarkar said.

"If Kumble could not bowl more overs then he should have not played, Vengsarkar said and added that the skipper should have earlier come clean to the selectors on his fitness.

Vengsarkar also criticised Kumble for not allowing Virender Sehwag to bowl more overs.

India do play a lot of drawn games: Ponting

BANGALORE: Frustrated Australia captain Ricky Ponting took a swipe at India's negativity after the first Test ended in a draw on Monday.

"We were the only ones in the game trying to take the game forward. We played aggressive cricket. I am not surprised by the way they played, the Indian team do play a lot of drawn games," Ponting said.

India clung on for a draw at 177 for four after being set an unlikely winning target of 299 on a difficult pitch.

"We thought we had a really good contest on our hands today," Ponting added.

"We got some extra runs we thought might have needed. We gave it our best shot with the ball but we just didn't create enough opportunities today.

"We played good cricket, there is no doubt about that, we dominated this test match pretty much from the second or third over on the first day.

"We could not win it at the end, but it was a pretty good start to the series for us."

Sachin Tendulkar top-scored with 49 in India's second innings, dismissed 14 runs short of equalling Brian Lara's world runs record.

India paceman Zaheer Khan said Australia's failure to force a victory would put them under more pressure for the remainder of the series.

The second Test in the four-match series starts in Mohali on Friday.

Kumble is fit and fine: Srikkanth

BANGALORE: Former chairman of the national selection committee Dilip Vengsarkar may have changed from calling Anil Kumble the most prepared cric
keter to saying 'an unfit Kumble is letting the team down,' but Kris Srikkanth, here watching his first match as the new chairman, has no issues with the captain's fitness.

"He is fit enough to play," said the former Indian captain during a chat at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. "You saw him bowl. I don't think there is any question about his fitness," added Srikkanth, who was most obviously delighted with the draw.

"I am very happy with the team's performance. One good thing that has happened is that everybody has scored. Even though no batsman got a century, if you look at both innings together, all batsmen have scored. That's a very good sign," said Srikkanth.

"The batsmen did an excellent job. In a trying situation like this, experience comes into play and everyone saw the value of that today. The batsmen were able to apply themselves well. On the one hand you can't go for your shots, at the same time you have to defend. It's not easy to bat on a fifth-day pitch and you need a lot of mental strength. The experience of Sachin, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly proved very useful in this Test match," pointed out the man who in his playing days didn't care too much for defence, first day or last day.

Kumble himself, in his post-match press conference, indicated that he had three days to work on the shoulder and get fit for the second Test. He also tried to put things in perspective: "I think all the other bowlers played their part and I did play my part as a captain but I want to play my part as a player in this series. One bad match doesn't make a bad cricketer."

Continuing about Kumble, Srikkanth didn't seem too worried about the sore shoulder or the fact that Kumble went wicketless in India for the first time in his career (third time overall).

"He's such an honest, committed cricketer and I'm confident he will win the series for us. Don't forget he's a cricketer who has bowled his heart out all these years, even bowling with a broken jaw once. He was a bit unlucky he dropped catches off his own bowling. What he needed was a bit of luck," he said.

That really is showing confidence in one's captain and so very different from Vengsarkar's take, whose committee first picked Kumble as the captain.

"If Kumble could not bowl more overs then he should not have played," Vengsarkar was quoted as saying even as he hinted that the skipper should have come clean to the selectors on his fitness.

Kumble, it must be remembered, bowled in the Irani Cup and at the five-day camp here, and all through there was no indication that his shoulder was giving him a problem. Medical opinion too was in favour of Kumble. "It is a minor issue, certainly not a career-threatening one," said a member of the medical staff on duty here for the Test. He ruled out any rotator cuff problem or tendonitis issues.

Kumble also clarified that the hand injury he sustained while attempting to catch Brad Haddin off his own bowling of the day's first delivery too was nothing serious, Kumble revealed.

Kumble left the field after bowling the first over but thereafter it was Tendulkar and the batsmen who took centre stage. Srikkanth, not exactly known for his technique but well aware what it's all about having watched a certain Sunil Gavaskar bat at the other end, seemed especially impressed with the technical masterpiece that was on view on Monday.

"I was very impressed with Sachin's knock. In trying conditions, it was not easy to bat. If you look at the overall picture it was a fantastic team effort. In the first innings, Zaheer and Harbhajan fought brilliantly. That's a great quality, not giving up and fighting hard."

Our aim is to win series: Kumble

BANGALORE: Skipper Anil Kumble, who is battling a shoulder injury, said the hosts have gained a lot of confidence with their fightback ahead of
the second Test beginning in Mohali on Friday.

"We fought back really hard on this pitch after losing the toss. If we had won the toss we would have fancied our chances."

"Harbhajan and Zaheer got us back into the game and we had some crucial knocks at the top of the order in the second innings. It is the first match of the series and we had a really good game. It gives us confidence going into the next match and our aim is to force a win and take the series," said Kumble, who went wicketless for the first time in a Test in India and third overall.

Asked about the shoulder injury that curtailed his bowling to just eight overs in Australia's second innings, Kumble said: "My shoulder is feeling better. There are three more days to go for the second Test and we'll monitor it closely. 'It would have been nice to bag the wickets and won the match." he said.

The skipper reposed full faith in VVS Laxman.

"Laxman is a true champion who has played in 97 Tests and made major contributions in all the matches we have won. Looking back you can always say we should have had five bowlers and six batsmen. We are confident of winning the series," he said.

Kumble said the wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is not ideal. "The wicket has changed. It is very different from what it was 10 years ago. They have changed the soil and now it cracks up fast and that is not ideal," he said.

Pulling a fast one

NEW DELHI: In ODIs, it is common for fast bowlers to mix the occasional slower delivery with the faster one. But for some strange reason, the disguised ball is always underused in Test matches. No longer. The Bangalore Test showed how the slower ball could be delivered with telling effect.

Two bowlers, Ishant Sharma and Mitchell Johnson, made the best use of the delivery bowled at reduced speed.

In the first innings, Ishant Sharma outfoxed Brad Haddin and Cameron White and in the second innings he got Michael Clarke, all with slower deliveries.

For Australia, Johnson returned the compliment, getting Sachin Tendulkar caught in the first and bowling Gautam Gambhir through the gate with a well-disguised one in the second innings.

We could have chased 299 had Viru and Gambhir fired: Kumble

BANGALORE: Indian skipper Anil Kumble on Monday minced no words in saying that his team could have chased 299 runs and won the first Test if ope
ners Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had given a rousing start.

"We would have definitely chased the target if Viru and Gambhir had given us a good start," Kumble said.

"After we fought back through Zaheer (Khan) and Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) we were confident of finishing the match on a high note. If we had got a start like we did in the first innings we could have gone for the target. But unfortunately we did not get it and we had to settle for a draw," he added.

Kumble said toss also played a vital role. "I think the toss also played an important role and if I had won the toss probably things would have been different and we could have been in a much better position on the fifth day."

About the Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch, Kumble said, "The Bangalore pitch has changed with people fiddling with it in the past eight years or so but again as I said before winning the toss could have made a difference."

Asked as why the middle order batsmen was not coming up to the mark, particularly VVS Laxman, Kumble quickly retorted, saying it was unfair to judge a player on a single performance.

"It is unfair to point a finger at any of them (Fab Four). Laxman has been a real champion and has won us matches in the past," Kumble said.

"It is not fair that people try to put an axe on him every time he fails and forget his contributions to the team's cause in the past or for that matter any of the players. I'm sure all of them will perform as they have the quality and will get centuries at Mohali," he said.

On his own wicketless show on home ground here, Kumble said, "I think just one failure should not be held against a player. As a captain I have played my part. But I could not take wickets. It is not possible for a bowler to take wickets in every Test as everybody has an off day.

About his reported shoulder injury, Kumble said, "As far as my shoulder is concerned, it is much better now. There are still three days to go for the Mohali Test. We will monitor it (shoulder) closely."

With the first Test slipping out of his fingers, Kumble is now eyeing the second Test and sounds confident.

"We are certainly going for a win at Mohali. We are confident of doing well in the series as our aim is to win the series. In fact, we would have been in a better position if we had got rid of Haddin or Watson yesterday.

"They batted well. Even today if I had taken Haddin's catch in the very first over, things would have been different but it did not workout that way," Kumble said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Home » Specials Chat: 'Time for fab four to rise’ |

Sriram: Hello! What will be the result of the 1st Test?

Nishant Arora: Pheeww, tough one to predict! Isn’t it? That’s the beauty of India Australia Test cricket. All the three results are possible. I would hate to predict this one mate. It reminds me of 2004 India-Australia Test match where India needed 210 odd runs to win on last day. And what a big disappointment it was. It rained, rained and rained. I hope it doesn’t happen this time.

Subramanian C: Why do you think India is struggling against the quality Aussie fast bowlers? Don’t you think India are still finding difficult to play against good cricketing nations like Sri Lanka, Australia?

Nishant Arora: Yes, if you look at last four Test matches India have played they haven’t lived up to the expectations of theirs and others. And more than us they know it. Time to pull up their socks and make telling contributions to the total. The outcome of this series will depend on how these ‘Fab Four’ go from here.

Azam: Hello Nishant! What do you think of India’s chances of drawing this Test match?

Nishant Arora: I think India will either win this or loose it. Draw is not a possibility unless it rains.

Rajan: Tendulkar was injured even some time back and could not have any match practice for a long time. Do you think anyone can play at international level without any match practice? Why didn’t the selectors ask Tendulkar to play few matches to prove his fitness before including him in Test series? Even Ganguly’s fielding is awful, then why aren’t youngster given a chance. Is there any point in supporting all these senior players? Look at Kumble for that matter.

Nishant Arora: Rajan, if I may ask you who are the youngsters who give you so much confidence. Yes, all of them will go and their time is not far. But you don’t make changes for the sake of it. None of youngsters have pushed them hard enough. Do you think Ganguly could have made a comeback if any of the youngsters had grabbed their chances. If someone who has served cricket for two decades and is one of the greatest players India has produced, has to be trusted when he says that he is fit. Ganguly is leaving and youngsters will get their chances. Kumble is not going to last long. And lets give time to Sachin to decide his own fate. He won’t hurt Indian cricket.

Sudheer: When will Australia declare the second innings?

Nishant Arora: I don’t think they will declare before getting 300 runs on board. That means they need to bat for at-least an hour or 45 minutes tomorrow morning. And then India will require to survive two half and session.

Paramesh: Nishant, do you think Dhoni deserves to be in the Test team? Players like Parthiv Patel, Saha and Karthik are better in terms of wicketkeeping and batting in the Tests. Don’t you think so?

Nishant Arora: Dhoni certainly deserves to be in the team. He has earned his place and you can’t compare Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik with him. I do agree that he needs to do a lot more in Test cricket but as an overall package he is far ahead of these guys. Dhoni is special cricketer and he needs prove that in Test cricket as well.

Aamir: Do you think Dravid is Inida’s best Test batsman? I certainly do.

Nishant Arora: If not the best then certainly one of the best and most reliable one.

Anand: How many matches have passed by since we saw the ‘Fab Four’ firing? I know you are not an astrologer, but I think they are no more the ‘Fab Four’. Do you think that its time for the young guns like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan to be roped into the Test arena?

Nishant Arora: All the youngsters you have mentioned are extremely talented and have future in India cricket. But at the same time they have to wait for their chances. Yes, ‘Fab Four’ is walking towards sunset but you can’t remove all of them together, even in One-Day cricket. You have Sachin Tendulkar and some other seniors to guide the youth brigade. He was one of the reasons why we won tri-series in Australia. And at the same time youngsters haven’t done enough to push these seniors. If they had, then Ganguly wouldn’t have made a come back.

Digvijayd: Does India lack the killer instinct? Remember Bangalore last time when we had Aussies on the ropes, yet we let them off the hook and now they have the advantage.

Nishant Arora: Dear Digvijay, you have point to an extent. But this Test match is different form that one. This time India were always on backfoot but then they fought hard -- thanks to Zaheer and Harbahajan to make a comeback in the Test match. And they bowled well today to keep this Test interesting. One wise man told me when you are coming from behind you can’t afford to have even half hour of bad cricket and I agree with him. So, let’s hope famous Indian batting line-up play to their potential and save this Test match.

Ricky: Do you think not letting Ganguly bowl in the first innings was a good decision by Kumble?

Nishant Arora: He could have been tried. Although, I don’t know how much his style of bowling would have worked in the given conditions. But there was no harm in trying him.

Digvijayd: If Kumble is indeed injured and misses next Test, does Amit Mishra have the caliber to perform at the top level? He has a weight of reputation in domestic cricket.

Nishant Arora: I would prefer a left-arm spinner over him. Even in this Test match Clarke, who is not a full time bowler got some grip and turn from the wicket. And I don’t expect Mohali wicket will be different. Mishra is good bowler, but his style of bowling is different from Kumble who is much faster and straighter. Let’s see if that happens then what Dhoni decides.

Sudheer: Australia struggled in practice matches but they came back strongly in the Test match. How and why?

Nishant Arora: You think Australia played the practice game with same intensity. No way, mate! Test cricket is different.

Ravi: Do you think India lacked one attacking spinner and one attacking middle-order batsman who could have put India on victory path in this match?

Nishant Arora: I am not sure about middle-order attacking batsmen because Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni -- they all are attacking players. And anyway, Harbhajan did the needful, but yes Kumble is not hundred percent in this match and that has really effected the match.

Digvijayd: Ponting vs Bhajji and now Ponting vs Ishant. Last year in Bangalore Ishant took five vs Pakistan. How do you look at him improving so much in one year? Is it just the confidence or the advice of the seniors coupled with sheer hard work?

Nishant Arora: I am really very impressed with the way Ishant Sharma has improved. His stature has improved by the day and he makes the maximum of his talent. Tall, hits the ball hard and has the ability to swing the ball both ways with some good pace. It is so good to see an Indian fast bowler rattling batsmen with pace and bounce. And good thing is that he is fit and has experienced Zaheer Khan to support him from other end. If he remains fit and keep his head over his shoulders he will go long way in international cricket.

Shashank Jain: Don’t you think that in the next match pitch curator should make turning pitch?

Nishant Arora: In Mohali it is very difficult to make rank turner. You can twist the wicket a little bit but you can’t change the basic character of the pitch. It will be dry wicket with some bounce for seamers and spinners.

Thanks for today….will be back tomorrow after the match!!