Paper Round January 12, 2006

The butcher and the tandoori Ashes

A butcher and an intelligent batsman
"He is a butcher", Imran Khan said of Virender Sehwag. Speaking on the news channel CNN-IBN, Imran dwelt on the contrasting styles of the Indian opener and Salman Butt, the Pakistan opener.

On Sehwag
"He reminds me of Gordon Greenidge who used to devastate bowling attacks. He hits the ball very hard with a short bat. He can play a match-winning innings anytime. I mean what he did to Pakistan in their first Test match, you know on the last tour of Pakistan, I mean that he just pulverised the Pakistani team. They never really could come back from that."

On Salman
"Salman Butt is a very intelligent batsman; I mean his maturity is beyond his years, beyond his experience. The sort of innings he played in Kolkata, the one-day match with Pakistan, I mean only a mature batsman can play that innings. And he does not have that experience as yet. So he is clearly a player who uses his mind. I think he is going to be there in Pakistan team for a long time. He looked better as the tour went on. He improved against England and in the end he looked the most set opener Pakistan has had for a while."

Imran went on to pick his top 6 in the batting line-up for the two teams.
Indian Top 6
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh

Pakistan Top 6
Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi

Tandoori Ashes
Tanya Aldred, writing in the Guardian, christens the Indo-Pak series as "The Tandoori Ashes". This time around, she feels it will be all about cricket, diplomacy being put on the backburner. "This time things are, if not normal, calmer. The third meeting in less than two years has produced shouts of overkill and greed from some quarters, though not many. The hype is still enormous but the posturing less ridiculous and the military similes are simmering nicely but not jumping out of the pot. Political tensions have cooled a little, especially following the earthquake last year."

A humbling experience and Sachin consoles Salman
And it's just not all cricket. The Indians found time to visit Imran Khan's cancer hospital, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital - the sole reason why Imran played the 1992 World Cup and where apparently "70 per cent" of the patients don't pay a Rupee. The players return humbled and moved. "I've gone to hospitals, but never to a cancer facility... It was a moving experience," says Dravid while The Telegraph, the Kolkata-based daily, reports a special visit by Sachin Tendulkar with Salman Khan, a patient. "I chatted with Salman for a couple of minutes... I know he's ill, but that I could give him some joy made me happy, too."

Ganguly or Yuvraj?
Moin Khan, who has warmed the spot behind the Pakistani stumps for a long time, takes time out to poke at certain Indian wounds. "If Ganguly is not picked for the first Test, I would certainly like to ask the selectors why they included him and made final selection difficult for Dravid. This will be an example of poor coordination between the selectors and the captain." Moin fires another dart, "I know both Yuvraj and Ganguly don't like to face genuine fast bowling and have exposed their weaknesses especially against short-pitched bowling." Ah! Moin rattles on, "Gautam Gambhir has a solid defence and likes to stay on the crease". Huh! That would have come as a surprise to Gambhir himself.

And the last word, actually a delayed soundbyte, goes to Dilip Vengsarkar. A couple of days back he was asked about the threat Shoaib Akhtar presents to the Indians and the former Indian captain shot back, "He'll be a threat if he bends his arm." Ouch....

Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo