MARCH 01, 2014

Australian cricket

Warner's honesty deserves respect

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.''

FEBRUARY 28, 2014

West Indies cricket

Shadow of Allen Stanford grips Antigua

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."

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

West Indies cricket

What next for West Indies?

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.

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

South Africa cricket

'Graeme Pollock is the second best batsman I played against'

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.

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

India cricket

What next from Ashwin? Medium pace?

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.

FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Australia cricket

A collapse months in the waiting

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.

FEBRUARY 24, 2014

England cricket

The importance of the 'x-factor'

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."

FEBRUARY 24, 2014

Indian cricket

BCCI finds solution for overseas defeats

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.

FEBRUARY 24, 2014

Bangladesh cricket

Bangladesh wrong to plead for Shakib

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.

FEBRUARY 23, 2014

England cricket

Stats or style for a wicketkeeper?

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.

FEBRUARY 21, 2014

Indian cricket

BCCI should also focus on on-field battles

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.

FEBRUARY 20, 2014

Indian cricket

What's gone wrong with Shami?

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.

FEBRUARY 20, 2014

India cricket

Keeping control of Indian sport within the family

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.

FEBRUARY 20, 2014

Corruption in the IPL

BCCI: what, me worry?

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.

FEBRUARY 17, 2014

Australia in South Africa 2013-14

The Johnson show

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.

FEBRUARY 14, 2014

IPL auction 2014

The flaw in the right-to-match card

Karthik Shashidhar, in the Mint, raises an interesting point about the usage of the right-to-match cards in the IPL auction and concludes they are unfair to the franchises.

For example, the bid for South African batsman Faf du Plessis was initially won by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs.4.75 crore (which might not have represented their full willingness to pay), but du Plessis's earlier employer Chennai Super Kings matched the bid at that price and bagged him.

In Wednesday's auction preview, we had mentioned that in order to get around this flaw in the auction design, "we might see a bizarre situation where only one team continues bidding on a particular player, just to dissuade his home team from using the right to match card". It appears that none of the teams noticed this flaw in the auction mechanism.

It also appears that teams didn't fully appreciate the concept of the right to match. For example, when South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis came up for auction, his former employer Kolkata Knight Riders entered the bidding, thus possibly bidding up his price, before it used a right to match card to secure his services for the next season.

FEBRUARY 13, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Is Jesse Ryder running out of sympathy?

After another drinking incident cut short another Jesse Ryder comeback, the feeling among the New Zealand cricket writers is that the troubled but talented batsman might have run out of goodwill, especially at a time when New Zealand have built up a string of impressive results and should be basking in it.

Dominion Post's Wayne Martin won't be surprised if he doesn't see Ryder in a New Zealand shirt again.

Jesse Ryder must surely have exhausted any lingering shred of sympathy most reasonable observers might have felt towards New Zealand sport's serial recidivist

Former fast bowler Jonathan Millmow, writing in the same paper, says:

"Ryder and Doug Bracewell's drinking session the night before the first test in Auckland took the gloss off an exciting win against India. That does not go down well with players, coaches and selectors who pore over computer footage late at night while Ryder and Bracewell shout their hangers-on another round of bourbon and cokes. No one wants to see Ryder self-destruct but at some stage he has to accept some responsibility. The timing of his latest slip-up is poor, with the IPL auction on tomorrow night (5pm NZ time) but perhaps it is a blessing in disguise."

Over at New Zealand Herald, David Leggat expresses that anger that might well be NZC's too.

First, enough is enough. This is far from the first time the pair, together and individually, have been in hot water, and let off relatively lightly. Lessons have not been learned. Second, their timing was awful.

FEBRUARY 12, 2014

India cricket

IPL clean-up needs hard evidence

Writing in the Hindustan Times, Kadambari Murali Wade, the former editor of Sports Illustrated India shares her experience of meeting with the Mudgal Committee that was probing the spot-fixing and corruption charges in IPL 2013.

Drawing on her experience of an investigative story published in the magazine, and her interactions with the committee, she says that mere allegations or suggestions of corruption by the committee are not likely to help the cause of Indian cricket.

The ACSU does get information from several sources, players, journalists, officials etc. They reportedly even have several players on an unofficial watchlist. However, they find it difficult to push forward because of a lack of evidence that will stand up in court. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to note that a Supreme Court-appointed committee seems to think there is enough "evidence".

Everyone knows that Indian cricket needs to be cleaned up. But it can't be done on the basis of allegations, unless they've received hard evidence, allegations by a committee of this magnitude could be even more damaging.

FEBRUARY 12, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Meet the McGlashans

Daksh Panwar, writing for the Indian Express, talks to the McGlashan siblings Peter and Sara about their rise through the ranks, their cricketing careers, and their new life in coaching.

Sara says she owes a part of her success to her brother. She took up cricket because of him. "It's because of this guy that I started playing. There is a gap of just three years between us, and so I pretty much did anything he did," Sara says. Which is evident from the fact that like Peter, she too is a wicketkeeper. "Idolised him. He used to go to coaching, I just used to run around chasing balls," she recollects.

FEBRUARY 11, 2014

England cricket

A talent whose ego was too big to let go

Nishant Joshi, writing for All Out Cricket, recalls an early meeting with Kevin Pietersen which gave him in an insight into the batsman's attitude and ego.

There is a consistent theme of hubris in Pietersen's actions. His ego is overwhelming, both to others and himself. After DoosGate his international career seemed to be over before he released a video on his 'OfficialKP24′ YouTube channel that was meant to serve as a public apology. It was posted seconds after Mo Farah had won gold in the 5,000m at London 2012 though, and public euphoria was momentarily pierced by Pietersen's stage-managed attempt at ingratiation. It was a coincidence that the timing of the video's release was so off the mark, but at a time when it was perceived that he was out of touch with his teammates and reality, it added some comic juxtaposition to reinforce the notion.

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