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Justin Nurse swims in the pool below the gym South Africa players train at when in Cape Town. He has been a big fan, and when he came across Smith after his retirement announcement, he couldn't hold back his tears. He pays an emotional tribute to the man at 2oceansvibe.com
I can't help myself though. I choose the moment when he finishes a phone call to go on over there and thank the man. I'm searching for an in - not "I'm the T-shirt guy." I mutter something about how I play soccer with Bouch at Bob's place (interpret: I'm not a crazy fan - yes I am), and how I just want to thank him for all that he's done for South African cricket. And then I just break down. I start bawling my eyes out, right there in front of him and his wife. I can't help myself, and it is pathetic to see. Blind one, as we used to say back in the 90s. I'm trying to tell him how I was with him when he came out to bat with a broken hand, how I also followed those angling sliders from Zaheer Khan that got him time and again...
Mervyn Westfield went from county cricketer to criminal after being caught up in spot-fixing while playing for Essex. He has spent time behind bars, but is now rebuilding his life by warning others of the dangers of being sucked into a murky world. He will also resume playing cricket this season, at club level in Essex, and is not feeling sorry for himself. In his first significant interview, he speaks to the BBC's Joe Wilson.
He never spent the money and didn't even carry out the spot-fix correctly, but the stark fact is he took £6,000 to deliberately bowl badly. It was a decision which eventually left him in one of Europe's most secure prisons. At Belmarsh, he learned how to live alongside murderers and exist on 10 minutes of outdoor activity a day. "Whatever punishment they gave to me, I had to take it," he said. "I did wrong and got punished for it. I've just got to accept it.''
Writing for NewStatesman, Ed Smith profiles Kevin Pietersen, narrates his personal experiences with him, and wonders if people will miss him now that he is banished from the team.
I have never seen any batsman impose his willpower as Pietersen could. Where Sachin Tendulkar was a genius of skill, Pietersen is a genius of self-belief. His confidence and desire filled the whole arena, relegating the other players to the status of pawns. He could be gauche and socially awkward, but that doesn't explain why people took against him. There was something more innately domineering about Pietersen, a quality that transcended language or manners, as though he could succeed only by putting other people down.
Saurabh Somani, writing for Wisden India, sheds light on some young women from Afghanistan who made a long trip to cheer for their team during their historic win against Bangladesh.
A group of 24 young women from the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, an eight-hour bus journey from Fatullah, have occupied seats in stands packed to the brim with Bangladesh supporters. The fatigue of the journey is forgotten and the strain on vocal chords kept away. They've come here because it's a Saturday and there are no classes. No encouragement can be loud enough for their history-making team during the one shot they have of cheering them on.
Hassan Cheema, writing for the Nightwatchman, illustrates how Pakistan viewed and defined themselves through the successes and failures of Sachin Tendulkar.
It seems odd to argue that a foreign sportsman could have such a far-reaching influence on a country's youth, but the view that Pakistanis had of India - and by extension of Tendulkar - is unique. Their attitude towards the Indian team was how Pakistanis proved they were Pakistani, as the post-Zia nation over the last three decades went from isolation, and in search of recognition, to a place the world knows about - not necessarily for the right reasons. It's no coincidence that at the time the rest of the cricketing firmament prostrated before Tendulkar, a major Pakistani news channel ran a segment about how Javed Miandad, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf were each his equal.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Baum says David Warner deserves praise and not censure for his comments on South Africa's ability to reverse swing the ball.
Not every cricketer can be Rahul Dravid. Not ever cricketing utterance can be a Mike Brearley-style dissertation, nor should be a Clarke-esque circumlocution. Warner, unable to dissemble, most often tells his see-ball-hit-ball truth, and pastiche notions of ''respect'' be damned. The least that can be said of his approach is that it is crazy-brave: it is he who stands in the 22-yard front line, facing an attack doubly rearmed by a new ball and fresh slight.
As long as Warner's gibes are not personal, nor demean innocents, what harm is in them, except to a spurious ideal of respect? Impugning professionalism is as old as professionalism. Separately, it is mystifying that work to coax a ball to reverse swing is regarded as a sin. Ryan Harris, in distancing himself from Warner's stance, inadvertently bore him out. ''You've got to do something with the ball, everyone does it,'' he said. ''They handled the ball better than us.''
The ECB may have tried to quickly forget the 'Twenty20 for 20' but Allen Stanford's downfall cost thousands of jobs and left a giant hole in Antigua's economy, writes Stephen Brenkley in the Independent.
Stanford's effect on English cricket was a fleeting, if huge embarrassment. Why the England cricket team was effectively sold to play in an exhibition match that had no proper sporting context was not properly resolved. They lost abjectly by the way after being bowled out for 99 to climax a surreal week in the sun.Stanford's effect on Antigua was dramatic. His arrest and subsequent conviction brought the country to its knees. Its repercussions are still being felt. They may never completely be erased.
"There has been a tremendous impact as a result of the demise of Allen Stanford," said Harold Lovell, the Antiguan Minister of Finance. "The estimated impact on the economy is approximately 434 million Eastern Caribbean dollars. That is quite a significant lump. The total GDP is just under three billion EC dollars so it was taking out more than 10 per cent of GDP. Overnight we lost more than 10 per cent of our GDP."
Twenty20 is king of Caribbean cricket but West Indies needs to find players who can perform in the longer form of the game, writes Mike Selvey in the Guardian.
A look at the list of centrally contracted West Indies players is instructive. There are three tiers, with six players - Dwayne Bravo, Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sunil Narine, Sammy and Marlon Samuels - in the top grade. Of these, Narine alone, at 25, is under 30 years old, with Chanderpaul almost 40. Only the pace bowler Kemar Roach is in the next banding. It does not speak highly of the next generation, however optimistically the West Indies Cricket Board says it is "fully confident" of being the top ranked side in one form or another by 2020. It will not be Test cricket.
Graeme Pollock turns 70 today. In Mid-Day, Ian Chappell pays tribute to the former South Africa batsman.
In 1970, the elegant opener Barry Richards nearly scored a Test century before lunch on his home ground at Kingsmead. A wicket fell at the other end on the second ball of the last over before the break and after lunch, Pollock strode to the wicket with Richards. Pollock hit three of the remaining four balls from Alan Connolly to the boundary, then crossed his legs and leant on the handle of his bat. As I walked to slip at the other end, I said to Keith Stackpole; "We've got a problem." He asked; "What do you mean?"
"This bloke (Pollock)," I replied, "is going to see how many Richards makes and then he's going to double it." I was wrong. Richards made 140 and Pollock was dismissed for only 274. That day Pollock set out to show the fans at Kingsmead there was a batsman other than Richards who could really play.
R Ashwin unveiled a new bowling action in India's first Asia Cup game against Bangladesh. "When a bowler starts relying on so many variations he is bound to lose his consistency," writes former India spinner Maninder Singh in the Indian Express.
This was bound to happen with Ravichandran Ashwin. He has been trying so many variations for a very long time now. In this case a bowler is bound to lose his original style and that is exactly what I feel is happening with him. He is basically doing what he is comfortable with at the minute because he doesn't know his original action ... I feel Ashwin is using more variations than he has numbers of balls to bowl in an over. When you do that you are going to lose control. I sometimes wonder what the bowling coach does with him, letting the lead spinner drift away like that.
Also in the Indian Express, Shamik Chakrabarty says Ashwin's reworked action came out of the blue.
If anything it looked like a taller, heftier version of Sunil Narine was in action donning India colours ... The change in action had come out of nowhere. There were no hints of it in the nets during India's practice session on the eve of their Asia Cup opener. In fact, Ashwin hardly bowled and seemed more keen on working on his batting skills. Replicating Narine in a bid to get back to wicket-taking ways might come across as a desperate move. But the desperation is understandable. It was also an indication of the 27-year-old's muddled state of mind.
Geoff Lemon, writing for the Guardian, believes that it was only a matter of time before Australia's wobbly top order would dragged the rest of the team down.
The first innings at Port Elizabeth started with a familiar pattern. Five of the usual top seven scored a combined 41 runs. Smith, though, batted beautifully on a pitch that no one else had been able to gauge. It looked for all the world like another escape, until suddenly something changed. In every previous episode, Australia's rescuers had a decent wedge of luck. Reprieves were offered by bowlers, fieldsmen or umpires. This time, with Smith on 49, a caught-behind appeal was reviewed, and a squiggle that didn't have the sound signature of a nick appeared on the snickometer. The third umpire gave it out anyway. The rescue was aborted, Australia falling 177 behind.
Paul Collingwood, in an interview with Donald McRae of the Guardian, opens up about his relationship with Duncan Fletcher, leading Scotland to the 2015 World Cup, and his current stint as assistant coach of England.
"Today you need your x-factor players, your mavericks and different personalities, because people express themselves at a whole new level. You don't need robots. In fact you cannot have robots anymore. If you're going to win things you're going to have to give these mavericks a leash and allow them to perform. They can't all be like that but team dynamics have changed. Look at Australia. Going into the Ashes I thought they were ready to blow up. There seemed no real team ethic. But see what they're doing now with these maverick players. They can blow you away."
India have not won an overseas Test since June 2011 but the BCCI have found a way around it to keep the team high in the Test rankings and increase profits - reduce tours and play more at home. The scrapping of the FTP will make it all possible, writes Sandeep Dwivedi in the Indian Express.
We will have more wins at home, top ranking, time for auctions and an undisturbed IPL slot. We will also have batsmen who score 200s in ODIs, Test batsmen sitting on record run piles and spinners on the top of the ranking charts. So what if the batsmen will continue to show a lack of patience or skill while playing the rising ball and the bowlers will remain one dimensional. We have never won a series in Australia and South Africa, and perhaps we never will. But, thanks to our administrators, we will remain a few rungs above them on the power list. It's time officials got their due.
Shakib Al Hasan was fined and banned for three ODIs for making an obscene gesture on live television during the second ODI against Sri Lanka. But Bangladesh want him for the Asia Cup and so the captain Mushfiqur Rahim, along with coach Shane Jurgensen and Mashrafe Mortaza, have asked the BCB for leniency. Such a move is a mistake, says Sakeb Subhan in the Daily Star.
What, we are left to ask, does this request tell the other members of the team, especially the juniors? Will they not draw the conclusion that as long as they perform, regardless of whether they help the team cause or not (Shakib's gesture came hot on the heels of him playing an irresponsible shot when the team needed him to stay out there) they can behave in whatever way they want? As far as Shakib goes, this request and heavens forefend if it is accepted, will just serve to remind him that he continues to be above the law.
With Matt Prior having been dropped from the England Test side, and Jonny Bairstow's unconvincing form in Australia, the wicketkeeping position is up for grabs at the start of the season. The role very much needs involves producing sizeable runs these days as well as how good they are behind the stumps. In the Observer, Tim Lewis thinks back to a previous era when there was a battle between the keepers
The Taylor-Knott imbroglio was not a standard, frothy, sporting back-and-forth. It was not: should the England football team line up with Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines at left-back? It meant something. Your allegiance was a revealing comment on who you were and what you stood for. It was an aesthetic judgment, perhaps even metaphysical. A vote for Taylor showed you acknowledged the labours of a fine craftsman, that you could appreciate unshowy elegance, that you weren't distracted by razzle-dazzle. A preference for Knott, meanwhile, screamed that you were an ignorant heathen.
Following India's fourth consecutive overseas defeat, Harsha Bhogle writes in the Indian Express if the India players actually believe if they can win Tests abroad. He also says after winning the off-field battles, the BCCI should win some battles on the field too, and find out why India have been losing.
If you look at the away scorecards of matches between 2002-07, which was a good phase, some things become apparent. For a start, the batsmen made a lot of runs; it was the coming together of an extraordinary quintet of batsmen. With Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane, maybe that phase can return though it is best not to live with such expectation. In seven Tests in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04, India had scores of 409, 523, 366, 705, 211-2, 675 and 600! India won three out of those seven Tests but lost two and again the scorecards tell a story. While there were sporadic individual bursts, Agarkar at Adelaide, Pathan and Balaji in Pakistan, India's bowling wasn't scaring anyone. The opposition in those Tests made 323, 284-3, 556, 558, 474, 376-6, 407 and 489. What India seem to have done well was to capitalise on opportunities created which, in the years ahead, came from shooting stars like Sreesanth, RP Singh, and from Zaheer Khan.
Mohammed Shami once made headlines with his Test debut in November, but his performances faded on the tours of South Africa and New Zealand. Aakash Chopra does technical and statistical analysis of the fast bowler on his blog cricketaakash.com to figure out what's gone wrong with him.
But it seems that the bowler we saw at the Eden Gardens and in the subsequent few matches didn't take the flight to New Zealand, for both the accuracy and the speed has been missing. While he had some success with the new ball in the ODI series, his old ball numbers (a boundary every 4th ball after 40th over) and the potency in both the Test matches was below par. He's still running in hard, the arm is still high, he's still close to the stumps and the ball is coming out okay too, yet something is a amiss. Both the consistency with regards to the off-stump channel and the pace has gone missing. When he's trying to bowl an out-swinger the ball, instead of remaining close to the off-stump, is finishing at least a foot and a half wider. The extra width allows the batsman to free his arms. And when he tries to bring it back to the right-hander, the ball drifts down the leg side for easy runs. It doesn't come as a surprise that he's looked half the bowler in NZ that he really is.
While N Srinivasan's grip over Indian and world cricket is well known, the circle of influence extended deeper into the family after his brother N Ramachandran was elected president of the Indian Olympic Association. In Tehelka, V Krishnaswamy profiles the brothers who now hold the most coveted positions in Indian sport.
Indian sports can be divided into two categories -- cricket and the rest (that means Olympic sports). One brother, 'Srini' held the reins in cricket and 'Rami' was the master of the rest. Under normal circumstances, that would merit a headline by itself: Brothers ruling Indian sport. Alas, not all stories are fairytales.
In Outlook, Suresh Menon is amazed at the complacent reaction of the BCCI to the report of the Justice Mudgal commission which is looking into the allegations of corruption in the IPL.
The report of the Justice Mudgal commission deals not in philosophy but in the practice of sport. It should have lit a fire under the smug behinds of the BCCI. Yet the governing body didn't think the Indian Premier League or indeed cricket in India was in any crisis.
Vice-president Rajeev Shukla (and former IPL chairman) said airily, "The good thing that the Supreme Court has done is that the IPL auction was not stopped." I am not sure he didn't add a "Phew!" to that. Forget the lies, the betting, bringing the game into disrepute. Forget the fact that the most successful team in the IPL might be thrown out. At least the auction was untouched.
Could Mitchell Johnson carry his Ashes form to South Africa. Damn right he could. At Centurion Park he ended with a career-best 12 wickets and inflicted some potentially serious scars on the South Africans. Writing for the Guardian website, Russell Jackson says that Johnson is now a must-view event, one where you stop what you are doing and race back to the TV set. It's a remarkable tale with, you sense, more to come.
He's also now an event himself, which is an astounding thing to achieve over the course of six Tests. It's Mitch as appointment television. It's Mitch as default headliner and Mitch as TV news bulletin place-setter. You find yourself rushing back with a drink in time for the first ball of his over. It's a cage fight and we're all clamoring for a better look. For opponents it's more about endurance and survival than winning or losing. In those six Tests he's taken 49 wickets at 13.14 with a strike rate of 27.1, a rare case of numbers doing justice to what you're seeing with your own eyes.