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Monday, November 24, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hayden to play in CL T20 for Chennai Super Kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to rest key players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His 1993 'ball of the ce

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

Change in attitude has helped India: Srikkanth

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsten reveals recipe for success in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Dhoni is super king of Indian cricket'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘India can help’

S. Dinakar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ICC, BCCI clash over Gambhir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India surge ahead as Dhoni hits fifty

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

Scorecard | Videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tendulkar's master stroke

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

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

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

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

Tendulkar rested for England one-dayers

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

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

"The selectors have accepted his request."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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