AUGUST 10, 2014

England v India, 4th Investec Test, Old Trafford

'India threw in the towel'

ESPNcricinfo staff

In his column for the Telegraph, Michael Vaughan criticises India's performance in the fourth Investec Test, saying the visitors took their eye off cricket after being distracted by the James Anderson episode

India were simply embarrassing. They have been brought up facing orthodox off spin but they made it look as though Moeen Ali was bowling hand grenades and folded abysmally.
They just gave up under pressure, they threw in the towel. For the past two weeks it looks to me as if India have been fighting too many battles off the pitch and have forgotten to fight on it.
They got embroiled in the James Anderson case and were so bent on getting him banned that they took their eye off the cricket.

In the same paper, Steve James attributes Moeen Ali's success to the bowler's use of pace.

Pace is also vital for a spinner. Moeen Ali's remarkable transformation from distrusted part-time off-spinner to match-winner has all been down to his pace. Quite simply, he has decided to propel his twirlers a little more quickly and it has made him a different bowler. The club cricketer's cliche of 'give it some air' might work for crease-bound batsmen at that level, but not for the top practitioners. Then pace and revolutions become key. Moeen has found both.

In the Guardian, Mike Selvey comments that Joe Root and Jos Buttler should also be commended for giving England a firm advantage, when India were still in a position to challenge.

AUGUST 10, 2014

Indian cricket

'Poor pace attack has made Dhoni defensive'

In an interview with Madhu Jawali for Deccan Herald, Greg Chappell opens up about his stint as India coach, his relationship with Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni's captaincy, and the future of Test cricket.

He has tried to be conservative and I don't think being conservative comes naturally to him. I think, perhaps, at times he should have been confident enough and courageous enough to be aggressive. Be the best with what you have rather than be conservative and play safe. It's not in his nature and it doesn't work for him.

AUGUST 10, 2014

England cricket

The two faces of James Anderson

There is much more to James Anderson than the aggressive, competitive bowler who allegedly pushed and abused Ravindra Jadeja, writes G Unnikrishnan for Deccan Herald.

The grim competitor that we are familiar with morphs into a large-hearted man of charity outside a cricket ground. There's, in fact, not even a trace of cricketer in him. He is passionate about music, loves going for a cinema with his friends, and he likes movies so much that he has formed a club within the England team consisting Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, Graeme Swann, Matt Prior and Jonny Bairstow.

AUGUST 08, 2014

India in England 2014

Dhoni in a zone of his own

MS Dhoni has the unique ability to soak up pressure and ignore consequences. It's evident in the way he conducts himself in press conferences. It's no different when he bats and his 71 at Old Trafford after the top-order train wreck was one such example, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian.

There was nothing beautiful about Dhoni's batting but there was a magnificent resolve. He punched away the odd overpitched ball with a short-arm jab that you do not find in the textbook. Watching the ball intently, he played late with barely a backlift. In this there were echoes of Basil D'Oliveira and his self-taught technique. With such powerful forearms and deft timing an elaborate backlift was of no great value to a D'Oliveira or a Dhoni.

In the Telegraph, Michael Vaughan writes that England were successful because they ditched the short ball for fuller lengths, with the ball swinging a mile.

Indian techniques are so geared to the ball coming back and playing it to the on side that the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay were found out. They move their right shoulder around, bringing them square on to the wicket so their front foot is pointing down the pitch. If you look at Ajinkya Rahane, the best technical player in the Indian side, his front foot is placed on a 45-degree angle, which gives him a better chance to cover the ball swinging into his pads.

AUGUST 07, 2014

India in England 2014

Asking players to 'man up' not the solution

The Jadeja-Anderson spat should shake up the custodians of the game to revisit the code of conduct and make it clear to the players that abuse of any kind makes the game poorer. Expecting a player to cop the filthiest abuse and carry on with life does not set a good example, for it will encourage others to dish out more abuse without fear of consequences, writes Harsha Bhogle in the Indian Express.

I am not asking for the game to be made sterile, for emotion to be quarantined. No, not at all. I am not asking for the "finger on the lips" that primary school teachers demand of young boys and girls. I don't mind a word spoken in anger or jest or even contempt. But filth and abuse must stop, references to families and parentage must stop for it is inevitable that it will lead to a punch thrown. We are not far away.

In the Telegraph, Michael Vaughan wants Anderson to continue sledging the Indians, but not to the extent that will fetch him a fine or a ban. Fast bowlers use it as a mechanism to get on top of the batsmen, and an aggressive Anderson is what England needs to win the series, provided the abuse doesn't get personal.

The best bowlers channel the aggression in the right way. You knew you were on top of McGrath if he started losing his rag. At Lord's it was clear England were unsettled by the allegations that came out of the Trent Bridge Test. They were very fragile and stand-offish out in the middle. I think it really got to Jimmy. But at the Ageas Bowl he was back to being the Jimmy of old.

AUGUST 06, 2014

West Indies cricket

A West Indies tour without the Caribbean spirit

Mike Selvey, writing for the Guardian, believes that the days of visiting teams in the West Indies soaking up the beach and the sun, and later being blown away the pace in the pitches, are long gone.

All this is in contrast to how it once was, back in the days where West Indies were the supreme cricket machine. Tours then, much less concentrated than they are now, seemed to conform to a template. First came some seductive island warm-up matches, what we would term beach cricket: St Kitts, St Lucia, Grenada, that sort of thing, and all very nice. For the most part, unless they happened upon the fearsome Antiguan trio of Vaughn "Hungry" Walsh, Randy Challenger, and John "The Dentist" Maynard, they would find numerous overs of spin confronting them, hardly the preparation they required for facing Curtly, Courtney, Bish and Kenny Benjamin over the course of the next five matches
.

AUGUST 06, 2014

India in England 2014

Sledging, a blight on cricket - Boycott

The prospect of James Anderson fronting up against India at Old Trafford, his home ground, puts England in the driver's seat. That advantage, though, has come about in the backdrop of an unsavoury dispute with Ravindra Jadeja. Geoffrey Boycott, in his column for the Telegraph, believes dominating the opposition can happen without resorting to offensive behavior.

Sledging is a blight on cricket and needs stamping out. Light-hearted banter, amusing remarks are great for the game. But this stuff is downright offensive. Downton agreed with me but was reluctant to tell Jimmy not to do it in case he lost his competitive edge. Presumably winning must be everything whatever the cost. I believe if something is not right you should set a moral standard. It ishould have nothing nothing to do with winning or losing.

Farokh Engineer, a former match referee, is bemused that the James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja dispute has taken nearly a month to resolve. Speaking with Andy Wilson of the Guardian, offers his brand of justice along with a few anecdotes.

"It's ridiculous that it has all dragged on for so long. I blame the match referee [David Boon] and the ICC. If I'd been the match referee - and I used to be one - I'd have had Jimmy and Jadeja into my room there and then, asked them to sort it out between them and, if Jimmy was at fault, I'd have asked him to apologise. If he refused, then it could have been an issue but it should have all been sorted out in five minutes."

Ajinkya Rahane has bedded into the Indian middle order and has sparkled away from home, especially with his temperement while batting with the tail. His state-mate Rohit Sharma, though, is slipping up both on the field and in terms of percetion. Amit Gupta, in Mumbai Mirror, seeks an explanation for this disparity between two talented players

As former India player and Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar says, "They are two different personalities and not just players. Rahane calmer, Rohit flamboyant. At this point it will be a little bit unfair to say that it's turning out to be two different stories. Rahane is having a good run but Rohit had to sit out of the first two matches and come back and get runs when team was under pressure ... But yes, Rahane has taken that one step higher in the last three away tours."

AUGUST 05, 2014

England cricket

The rise of Steven Finn

Since his return from the winter's tour to Australia during the Ashes, Steven Finn has revived and restored himself by working on his basics at Middlesex. In the Telegrpah Derek Pringle charts Finn's return to the England squad by talking to Angus Fraser, Middlesex's director of cricket.

"We sat down after Australia and asked whether it was a technical or mental issue," Fraser said. "After talking to Andy Flower and Richard Johnson, we decided it was technical. The logic, therefore, was get that sorted and he would bowl well again and confidence would return."

It appears to have worked, too, and the Finn bowling for Middlesex this season has a far smoother action than the one in Australia. Most of his pace is back, too, something he and Liam Plunkett, the man he has replaced in England's squad because of an ankle injury, have over the other bowlers.

AUGUST 04, 2014

India in England 2014

What does it mean to 'man up'?

Michael Holding, in his column for Wisden India, analyses the performances of India and England after the third Test, and questions the concept of 'manning up', something India are being expected to do, by a few, after the Jadeja-Anderson controversy. He also makes his stand clear on the issue of banter.

I believe there have been calls from some quarters for India to 'man up'. I'm not quite sure what that means. Are they trying to say that cricket must be like football, that if somebody tackles you hard, the next time you tackle them just as hard? I don't understand it. I thought cricket battles were fought out in the middle with bat and ball, but apparently not. It seems those calling for India to 'man up' think 'manning up' will stop what supposedly took place in the walkway leading to the dressing rooms from happening again. I think teams 'manning up' will lead to more confrontations, not less.

AUGUST 04, 2014

Cricket

From cricket widow to cricket wife

Kathleen Galligan, an American, was clueless about cricket, until she met her future husband Subash Jayaraman at a small Irish pub in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2007. Jayaraman, who hosts the popular podcast Cricket Couch (now featured on ESPNcricinfo) and blogs about the game, decided in 2012 to set off on a nine-month whirlwind cricket tour across the world with his wife. Now in their third country, Kathleen writes about her gradual transformation from a 'cricket widow' to a potential 'cricket wife', in her blog for Wisden India.

Maybe, when the trip is over, we will go back to that bar where it all started. We can talk about our travels, catches taken, and sixes hit. Maybe, as we toast, we will spy a young couple sitting across the table from each other, speaking shyly, strangers becoming something more, and we will watch them and smile, knowing they have no idea what they are in for.

AUGUST 04, 2014

Not quite cricket?

John McDuling, writing in Quartz, draws parallels between India's refusal to sign the WTO customs deal and the BCCI's stranglehold over the ICC.

The so-called "Bali Agreement" was poised to become the most important trade pact in decades, and according to some economists, had the potential to boost global growth by as much as $1 trillion. The deal collapsed at the eleventh hour midweek after India demanded concessions allowing it to stockpile agricultural supplies (effectively subsidizing its domestic industry). Diplomats were "flabbergasted" by New Delhi's stance, according to Reuters.

Perhaps they should have been paying closer attention to the Indian cricket team. The country's intransigence at the WTO mirrors its recent attitude toward the administration of its favorite sport.

AUGUST 03, 2014

India cricket

From Rajkot to Oxfordshire

Manoj Parmar, who kept wicket for Saurashtra in the 90s, is now an ECB-certified Level 4 coach who owns the biggest sports shop in Oxfordshire. Sandeep Dwivedi of the Indian Express pays him a visit.

The number of Parmar's wards bloated with time and the spike got noticed by the club officials. One day, as Parmar went out collecting litter from the ground after training, an old habit from his playing days, he was called by club chairman, the late John Fulkes, who was the secretary of Oxford Cricket Board, ECB's cricket manager for south region. Fulkes, unmarried but a true cricket romantic, was an Oxford graduate and a deputy head of local school. He stayed with his mother and spend most of his after-work hours drawing schedule for school cricket, score for them or being the lone little league spectator.

"Mr Fulkes asked me to buy a house. I could just spare 800 pounds but he would give me about 3 to 4 lakh pounds since my family was growing. He really liked what I did and he wanted to me to make Thame my home," says Parmar. In a twist of fate, the day after Parmar got the cheque, Fulkes succumbed to a heart attack. "I wanted return the cheque to the family, but his mother told me that 'If John had given the cheque, you must have done something good."

AUGUST 03, 2014

West Indies cricket

Kallicharran revisits his roots

The Trinidad Guardian catches up with West Indies legend Alvin Kallicharran during his first visit to the Caribbean in 20 years, and talks to him about his career, his idols and his life post-cricket.

Who are the people who influenced and inspired you the most, in your career and in life in general?

All my uncles on both sides were cricketers. My father captained the local team, so it was cricket all around. We followed them around, fed off the passion and learnt a lot from them. Interestingly, it was a shopkeeper back in my village, Mr Ramsey and his family, who influenced me in the early days by providing money to travel to Georgetown to see and play cricket, and I was inspired by being in a village that produced so many West Indian cricket heroes like Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, John Trim and Robert Christiani. I also read a lot at the local libraries about earlier heroes like Learie Constantine, George Headley, Weekes, Worrell, Walcott (the 3 W's), and then came the genius Garfield Sobers. These were the people who influenced and inspired me the most, people who you copied mentally and physically and felt their vibrations and sense of purpose, those who set high standards and the strong foundations for us who came later.

AUGUST 02, 2014

India in England 2014

Clear humiliation for India and Dhoni

In the Telegraph, Derek Pringle calls James Anderson's not-guilty verdict a "clear humiliation" for India, whose "players have long thought Anderson's boorish sledging to be unacceptable and their admission probably weakened their case here which smacked of opportunism to get the bowler for past misdemeanours."

Dhoni's persistence with the charge, after the two boards had instructed the players to sort it out, made it look like a personal crusade for which Duncan Fletcher, India's coach, in a rare misjudgment, backed him. You cannot hope to get a player banned (the intended outcome once India had lodged a level three complaint) for being annoying, that is a separate matter, and with no independent witnesses and no video evidence for the alleged spat in the Trent Bridge pavilion (which India claimed to have) Lewis clearly found there was no case to answer.

Also in the Telegraph, Scyld Berry says Anderson needs to "channel his energies better."

He is second in England's all-time list of Test wicket-takers, after Sir Ian Botham and ahead of Bob Willis and Fred Trueman. But Anderson is now in a class of one among England's all-time greats when it comes to sledging. He used not to say boo to a goose. Then he said boo to batsmen with a hand in front of his mouth, and in mid-pitch so the stump microphones would not pick him up. Now it is an overt torrent of abuse for all to see, and it is ugly.

In the Guardian, Mike Selvey is of the opinion that England may bring back Ben Stokes for Chris Jordan at Old Trafford.

There could be a case for Ben Stokes returning in place of Jordan, who, as has been commented on here a while since, needs work not just on his run (watch how athletically he moves when chasing the ball in the field) but more importantly on his grip. A fundamental you might think but one with which it is mightily difficult to tinker, so personal can it be. In essence,though, he grips the ball as if he were a life model for the claw feet of a Regency commode, and a bowler cannot get control or fluidity of wrist action from that. The best bowlers caress the ball not strangle it.

Stokes's problem has been two fold, one is physical (his left foot has been such a mess that he is said to have been getting through boots by the dozen in order to ease the discomfort) and the other is to do with his batting, which has been dismal and without which it is hard to argue that he should play simply as one of the four best seam bowlers in the land.

AUGUST 01, 2014

England cricket

Serene Moeen could fill spin void

One quality that Moeen Ali has shown in his short Test career is serenity, writes Scyld Berry in the Telegraph. He showed it while scoring a century at Headlingley, he showed it while fielding at long leg, cut off from the rest, and he showed the same quality while bowling in the second innings at Ageas Bowl. It is also the quality that might help Moeen fill up the void left by Graeme Swann, Berry suggests.

Graeme Swann would surely have bowled better than Moeen did to India's left-handers, Shikhar Dhawan and Ravi Jadeja, sliding the ball into their pads. But would he have bowled better, on the day, against India's right-handers? There is no guarantee. Moeen has now registered a century and 18 wickets at 32 runs each in his first five Tests. He may take nought for 100 at Old Trafford, if India bat first, but he is still on course to become England's specialist spinner - who can bat.

England lost the Lord's Test in the first session by not making full use of helpful conditions and India lost the Southampton Test in the second session when MS Dhoni asked Ravindra Jadeja to bowl a negative line to two well-set left-handers Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance, writes Aakash Chopra in Mid-Day.

JULY 31, 2014

Jacques Kallis retires

Kallis transcended thrill

Jacques Kallis' fans have said he is a greater all-rounder than Garry Sobers and his critics have pointed out that Sobers made you rush to the ground as his style exuded that thrilling sense of expectancy which Kallis never quite managed to stir in many. Sriram Veera writes in Mirror that Kallis stripped batting of its accoutrements. It was what made him great and it was also what kept many cricket watchers aloof to that greatness.

Kallis didn't do dares; his feet moved just about enough, the bat would unobtrusively cover for the swing, and the solidity in the defense was remarkably non-fussy. It made one feel that there was no venom in the first place. He almost denied that moment of its potential romantic battle that perhaps left some a touch cold.

JULY 30, 2014

England cricket

Wristband or wrist-banned?

Writing on the Moeen Ali 'Save Gaza' wristband issue, Ally Fogg, in the Guardian, says the sports bodies are being hypocritical in an attempt to keep politics out of sport.

In times of great humanitarian crisis, there can be indifference but there cannot be neutrality. To do nothing, to say nothing is in itself a political act. In declaring which causes are appropriate for sports audiences and which are not, David Boon and the ICC have made a political statement of their own. It is not Moeen Ali's statement that is in the wrong, but theirs.

The ICC states categorically in its regulations that displaying political, religious or racial messages is not approved, but how does one decide which message is political and which is not, argues A Cricketing View.

It is worth reflecting on this idea of a thing not being "political". When is a thing political? And why does the ICC's Match Referee get to decide what is political and what isn't? A military charity raises money, it takes advantage of incentives to raise this money (tax breaks, for example). Supporting it might influence the public's opinion of an individual running for political office. Is it simply the case that we say a particular idea isn't political because we all broadly agree it? Are political things only those about which people might still want to have a debate? If so, shouldn't everything be open to politics?

Pavilion Opinions presents a similar point of view, and ponders the threads connecting a controversial MP, the anti-apartheid protests during the time of the D'Oliveira affair, and Andy Flower and Henry Olonga's 'death of democracy' protest against Robert Mugabe.

It's a murky, dirty, interconnected matrix of a world whose permanently fluctuating ills are inbred over decades and centuries. Sport and cricket cannot pretend they do not play or haven't played their part or that they are not firewood in the furnace of geopolitics. Flower, Hain, Mugabe, Skelton, Olonga and D'Oliveira are all interlinked, tenuously in some instances, but interlinked nonetheless.

In the context of all the above, banning a pair wristbands ranks fairly low on the list of establishment cover ups, but the ICC looks hypocritical for telling Ali to shut up about his choice of political gesture while allowing the England team to so overtly display their collective one.

Dennis Freedman argues an alternate view in his blog, saying that "cricket ground is not a parliament, a place for social issue debate or a medium for protest." If the need be, Freedman writes, ample opportunities exist for raising awareness for a cause outside the ground.

JULY 27, 2014

Indian cricket

'Dhoni is a very principled man'

Duncan Fletcher speaks to bcci.tv about his coach-captain relationship with MS Dhoni, whom he describes as an approachable man who "never pre-judges anyone".

What was the first thing that struck you about MS Dhoni?

That he is a very, very honest man. He would quietly sit down and discuss the point that he wants to make. He likes clarity when he is discussing something with you. What I really admire about him is that he is a very principled man. And because of his principles, he wants to give everyone a fair chance, sometimes to his own detriment. I try to share that sentiment with him because some people get a fair chance and the others tend to be judged in a different light. But with him it is very straightforward and simple; if you give one guy so many games to perform, it must be equal for everyone.

JULY 25, 2014

Sri Lanka cricket

'I was always aggressive' - Jayawardene

Mahela Jayawardene, in an interview to Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror, says he has always been vocal and aggressive both on and off the field but maybe that part of his personality went unnoticed earlier. He also talks about his competition with Kumar Sangakkara, his captaincy and the need in Sri Lanka to prepare the upcoming cricketers better for international cricket

Even when I was a young cricketer, I was very aggressive. May be people did not see that side of me. If opposition says something I would always get back at them. I was very vocal. Even in press conferences I would raise my voice, I was aggressive at teams meetings with certain decisions. I have had lots of confrontation with media as well in early part of my career when it came to player rights and image rights. I was quite happy to do that. I went through these emotions when I had to but in other times I am calm and collective. I felt that I needed that aggression.

JULY 24, 2014

India in England 2014

Rose Bowl and the smoking hole

Ian Tulk, the groundsman at Rose Bowl, the venue of the third Test, has seen a piece of forest land turn into England's most recent Test venue. And he has stories to tell. Sandeep Dwivedi, in the Indian Express, writes:

With Kevin Pietersen too having made the Rose Bowl his home once, you know Tulk will surely mention him. And he does. "KP was once facing Alan Mullally, who was repeatedly bowling big no balls," he says. KP, in an evidently sarcastic tone, asked the left-arm pacer to might as well take a few more steps ahead. Mullally agreed, the next ball was fired from 15 yards. "Not too high, parallel to the ground, the ball rocketed and hit that wall," he says showing a six-feet fence.

The doubts around the England camp have lingered after the defeat at Lord's. However, Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, has lent support to Alastair Cook's captaincy, which may have roots in the bad memories of a series Downton played in 26 years ago, when change brought chaos rather than clarity, writes Derek Pringle in the Telegraph.

Downton played the first three Tests of the series before being replaced behind the stumps by Jack Richards for the last two. But he would have seen, after an honourable draw in the first match and a loss in the second in which England were competitive, how quickly matters can spiral out of control when change is indiscriminate.

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