Thursday, 31 January 2008

Zaheer, RP, Yuvraj bag inaugural Cricinfo awards

Three Indians, two Sri Lankans and an Australian shared the spoils in the inaugural Cricinfo award that recognizes exploits in all three forms of the game – Test, ODI and Twenty20.

Kumar Sangakkara (Test), Adam Gilchrist (ODI) and Yuvraj Singh (Twenty20) won the batting awards, while bowling honours went to Zaheer Khan (Test), Lasith Malinga (ODI) and RP Singh (Twenty20).

The jury included Geoffrey Boycott, Ian Chappell, Daryll Cullinan, Tony Greig, Michael Holding, David Lloyd, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ramiz Raja and Ravi Shastri.

List of winners

Test batting - Kumar Sangakkara (SL): 192, Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Hobart
Test bowling - Zaheer Khan (Ind): 5 for 75, England v India, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge
ODI batting - Adam Gilchrist (Aus): 149, Australia v Sri Lanka, World Cup final, Barbados
ODI bowling - Lasith Malinga (SL): 4 for 54, Sri Lanka v South Africa, World Cup, Guyana
Twenty20 batting - Yuvraj Singh (Ind): 70, India v Australia, World Twenty20 semi-final, Durban
Twenty20 bowling - RP Singh (Ind): 4 for 13, India v South Africa, World Twenty20, Durban


Sunday, 27 January 2008

Tributes to Gilchrist

As Adam Gilchrist prepares to hang up his gloves, teammates, former coach, peers and even the Australian Prime Minister doffed their hat at the wonderful entertainer.

Here is a collection of who said what:

Peter Roebuck, noted cricket writer and former Somerset captain:

Adam Gilchrist has given more outright joy to followers of the game than any cricketer since Sir Garfield Sobers. He will be missed as a cricketing force, as a contributor and as an entertainer.

Kim Hughes, former Australia captain:

Wicketkeeper-batsmen will always be compared to Gilly and they will never be as good.
Mark Boucher, days after losing his world record to Gilly:

He revolutionised the game in terms of being a wicketkeeper-batsman…He is the guy who set the tone for everyone else in the game, and he has changed it forever.
Rod Marsh, former Aussie stumper:

…whoever replaces him will have enormous shoes to fill.
Sourav Ganguly:

… he must be the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman ever.
Kevin Ruud, Australian Prime Minister:

As his prime minister (I) said, 'Gilly you need to reconsider,' and he told me he wasn't.
Ian Healy, who lost his place in the side to Gilly.

It's very easy to talk about his batting, but it was his glovework right from day one, in his first Test match in Brisbane, that I liked.
John Buchanan, former coach:

Possibly his loss is more than even Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
Jason Gillespie:

He just loved being around the lads in the dressing room, having a laugh.
Anil Kumble:

He changed the way countries would look at wicketkeepers.
Kumar Sangakkara:
He pioneered the wicketkeeper-batsman role.
England ODI captain Paul Collingwood gives voice to what bowlers worldwide felt:
Thank God for that.

Image: AFP

Gilly to go

Adam Gilchrist is about to hang up his gloves. Apparently, dropping VVS Laxman in the Perth Test prompted the decision.

Indeed, he has not been the same intimidating presence either in front or behind the stumps. But still cricket has not seen his kind before.

He has nipped many a bowling career in the bud. His batting in one dayers has been a trauma for pacers and spinners alike. Ricky Ponting, coming at number three, could not stop grinning as he often faced bowlers who had been already beaten to pulp by the swashbuckler southpaw.

And with Gilly behind the stumps – and I’m talking about his salad days – McGraths, Warnes, Gillespies and Lees looked even more formidable. Despite not being in the best of terms with the leggie, Gilly has often been Warne’s partner-in-crime. More batsman have taken the caught-Gilchrist-bowled-Warne way than other available roads to peril.

And not to forget that in the bunch that has been schooled to stand ground and make life difficult for the umpires, Gilly has been a welcome exception, a walker.

Gilly already boasts of more dismissals and tons than any glovesman in the history of the game and Australia might struggle to remain the same force once he departs.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Padma Vibhushan: Tendulkar lands yet another award!

Sachin Tendulkar’s cupboard must be overflowing. He’s no stranger to awards after all. But that does not stop anyone, including the government, from showering more on the Little Champion.

And the latest is the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award. Along with him, chess wizard Viswanathan Anand and late mountaineer Edmund Hillary (posthumous) also got this award.

Soccer star Bhaichung Bhutia and swimmer Bula Chowdhury also had something to show. Both have been selected for Padma Shri.

Meanwhile, former captain Ajit Wadekar has demanded a Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) for Sachin Tendulkar.

Conferring those on some Tom, Dick and Harry, the awards have become cheap in public eyes over the years. And Tendulkar is already a Bharat Ratna. Isn’t he? So why bother about what is essentially a medal?

(Full Padma award 2008 list)


Thursday, 24 January 2008

Indian Premier League woos celebs, biz bigwigs

The suspense is over and BCCI has finally laid the cards on table. Shahrukh Khan, Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya have bagged some of the bids and it would be interesting to see how they fare in this uncharted territory. Analysis can wait, let's get the facts first.

I Thought I should share the BCCI release that landed in my inbox with you all (excerpts):

Bids were received from: Red Chillies Entertainment, DLF, UB Group, Deccan Chronicle Holdings, GMR Holdings, RIL, India Cements, Deutsche Bank, Emeralds Telecoms, Priety Zinta and Emerging Media (UK).

Late bids were received from: Sahara India, Future Group, ICICI Ventures

IPL Franchise Winners Are (And How Much They Are To Shell Out)

Delhi – GMR Holdings at USD$ 84 m

Mumbai – RIL Pvt Ltd at USD$ 111.9 m

Chennai – The India Cements Ltd at USD$ 91m

Bangalore – UB Group at USD$ 111.6 m

Mohali – Preity Zinta/Ness Wadia/Karan Paul/ Mohit Burman at USD$ 76 m

Jaipur – Emerging Media at USD$ 67 m

Hyderabad – The Deccan Chronicle at USD$ 107.01

Kolkata – Shahrukh Khan/Juhi Chawla/Jay Mehta at USD$75.09m

Some other points:

Each Franchisee bid to own teams in any 8 of the 12 cities that satisfy the eligibility criteria

The 12 cities are: Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Cuttack, Kanpur, Gwalior, Mohali, Jaipur, Delhi, Hyderabad

IPL has contracted the Top 80 Players according to ICC Rankings

The IPL Player Auction to be held in Feb ’08, and will allow each Franchisee to bid for the Indian national team and overseas players contracted by the IPL

A maximum of 8 overseas players will be allowed per Franchisee

The Franchisees in consultation with IPL will finalize the appropriate Names for the Teams

Team Names will be associated with the city or area they are based in

The tournament will begin on 18th April ‘08

There will be 59 matches spread over 44 days, with 2 matches every Saturday and every Sunday

IPL franchisees to get following returns:

1. Central revenues:

a. 80% of TV revenues in Yrs 1-5, and 60% from Yrs 5-10

b. 60% of Sponsorship revenues from Yrs 1-10

2. 100% of Local revenues: Gate revenues, Franchisee Shirt sponsorship, Local sponsorship, Licensing programme, Uniform Merchandising, Hospitality and Premium seating, Match-day Concessions, Match-day promotions, Franchise media platforms.

Till Date IPL has successfully raised a total of USD$ 1.749 billion which is INR 6996 crores.

You bungled the job, Colonel!

I have to admit that I had more respect for Dilip Vengsarkar than anyone who laid his bum on the chief selector’s chair in recent past. But to be honest, the Colonel has looked little confused of late and bungled up a sensitive issue.

The decision to sack Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid has been mind-joggling. We indeed need to look beyond the stalwarts and keep the rookies ready to fill the void once they leave the scene. But there has been an unmistakably ugly effort to shove them out of the stage.

As it has been in the vogue of late to ape the Australians, Vengsarkar and his colleagues could have taken a look at the Aussie team, which has Andrew Symonds (33), Brett Lee (31), Stuart Clark (32), Mike Hussey (33), Ricky Ponting (33), Adam Gilchrist (36), Matthew Hayden (36), Brad Hogg (37) and Chris Rodgers (30) -- all in their 30s.

And thanks to their domestic structure, virtually a conveyor belt throwing up new talents every day, Australia apparently is not losing sleep fearing how to manage once the veterans hang up their boots.

While we need to look beyond the Gangulys and the Dravids, I’m not that optimistic about Suresh Rainas, Rohit Sharmas and Robin Uthappa. My cynicism stems from the fact that they have been hanging around for quite a while and behind the Twenty20 veneer, they still have not been able to cement their place in the side. But then, you have to invest in youth, whatever it may cost.

My sole point, however, is that the senior players – considering the service they rendered over the years – have a right to be treated with some sort of dignity, which has been denied in this case.

If the selectors really wanted to show the exit door to the seniors, there could have been dignified ways of doing it. It seems Vengsarkar and his colleagues in the selection committee felt the old horses had outlived their shelf life and hence lead them to the slaughter house to meet the obvious end.

Instead, Vengsarkar could have taken Ganguly and Dravid to a corner, laid his hands around their neck and told them “Guys, we are proud of you for whatever you have done. But time is changing and new guys are knocking on the door. Why don’t you call it quits and walk out head held high? We would host grand benefit matches for you?”

That would have been a befitting ODI send-off for two of India’s greatest servants.

And if the selectors allowed Dhoni and Yuvraj to call the shots, as reports claim, it was unfortunate and I would say Vengsarkar should now have allowed such interference in what is necessarily a selectorial job.


Thursday, 17 January 2008

Cultural difference and others craps

We would surely love to believe that the Sydney bad blood has been flushed out. Disturbing voices, however, still want us believe Ricky Ponting & Co played the game hard but fair.

“Cultural difference, silly!” Well, that’s pure crap. Hogg…I mean hogwash actually.

Let’s get it right that India lost the Sydney Test but Australia did not win either. If Cricket Australia cares a fig about intangible things like ethics and morality, the Sydney Test, at best, was a Pyrrhic victory. But neither Ponting nor James Sutherland is Pyrrhus and nor do they realize that victories like this would leave their reputation in tatters.

Unmistakably, the Australians are so seduced by success that they bring in a kind of ruthlessness that probably guarantees them silverwares but not admirers. Well, if they are happy with that, congratulations! If cricket is global politics, Australia is its America – the big, brash, bully that boasts of everything but admirers. Likewise, Australia’s cupboard maybe full of trophies but they have hardly won anything else.

Specially under Ponting, Australia has fallen from the grace. They have been disgraceful in triumphs and worse in defeats. Like America, they top the hate-list outside Down Under. Preparing a rap-chart, where India and Sourav Ganguly top the team and individual lists, is an exercise in futility.

For quite a while, Australia has been so unflinching in its single-minded persuasion of the one-point agenda of success that it sacrificed everything else – grace, niceties, sportsmanship – at its altar.

Reared up on a perverse notion that skill alone may not be enough to ensure success, the Australians have been schooled to be crook. Sledging is considered a necessity and grip over a filthy vocabulary has been made to look as important as gripping the ball.

Unfortunately for the game, Australia is the hideous face of cricket. It’s rather an irony that cricket has a team at the top that stands for everything that goes against the very spirit of the game.

Alas, Australia is not aware of the kind of cricket it has been practicing and preaching. Now if they decided to play it the way they wanted, I would have no business criticizing them. But what worries me is the fact that the disease if contagious. Frustrated at Australia’s America-like hegemony, countries like India are trying to blindly ape them, bringing a smug smile to Australia’s face. After all, imitation is the best form of compliment. Therein lies the danger for the game.

Image: Getty Images

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Menace in White?

Detractors in the sub-continent -- and you are tempted to side with them -- call Bucknor a 'Coconut'. The complexion is misleading, for he’s white inside.

While such comments tantamount to racism, the truth is that the trigger-happy Man in White has been a Menace in White and he often rubbed the sub-continent the wrong way by his erratic index finger.

Only Greg Chappell boasts of a more heinous finger – he preferred middle over the index.

It’s indeed a pity that the formerly affable Jamaican would go down to cricket’s annals as the pathetic soul who presided over the outrageously chaotic end to the 2007 World Cup final and how the mere sight of an Indian batsman often prompted him to point upwards.

Even at his best, Bucknor was not among the fastest decision-makers. By the time he raised his finger, the bowler had often returned to his mark and the relieved batsman would have taken guard for the next delivery.

At times, he made decisions dubious enough to give you the impression that it pertained to the previous match he had officiated in.

Well, to err is probably human but Bucknor’s amazing consistency is asinine. These days he looks a man out to erode his own stature as one of the longest serving officials in the game’s history.

And while India can legitimately claim to be at the receiving end of his goof-ups, I think the two worst victims of his tragedy of errors are Bucknor himself and the game of cricket.


Thursday, 3 January 2008

Accommodating Yuvi, but at what cost?

Well, like most, I too sympathised with Yuvraj Singh. I mean what else you wanted him to do for a place in the Test team? Considering his red hot form, denying him a Test berth bordered on felony.

So when the team was rejigged and Yuvi was accommodated, I too felt justice was finally delivered. But now that the India-Australia series is into the second Test, I’m afraid, it was an exercise we should have rather refrained from and my view has nothing to do with Yuvraj’s scores in Melbourne.

To start with, just to accommodate Yuvi, the entire line-up was tinkered with. Rahul Dravid has been our best bet at number three – he would walk in any Test side on an any given day – and we have made him to open the innings! And hats off to the ‘The Wall’, who did not allow his personal preference override team interest.

Those who panned Dravid for rivaling snail with his strike rate, conveniently turned a blind eye to his commitment to the team. Never mind the scores and the run rates, hats off Jammy.

And see what Yuvraj’s inclusion has done to the team. Dravid struggling in his makeshift opener’s role meant we never had the momentum going and I doubt it also affected Yuvraj’s show.

In Melbourne, he walked out under tremendous pressure. He was aware that if the batting order looked jumbled up, it was just to accommodate him. So if his shoulders looked dropped whenever he took guard, it did not surprise me, for here was a man burdened with a sense of guilt at being the reason for the change in the status quo that did not suit the side.

Yuvraj is aware that Dravid has been pushed out of his comfort zone just to allow the team of affording the luxury of having him in the side. That puts Yuvraj too under additional pressure to perform and so if he lingered in the crease after ruled out in both the innings of the Melbourne Test, I was not exactly surprised.

The moot question is accommodating Yuvi is understandable, but at what cost? No individual should be bigger than the team interest. I somehow feel, Dravid has as much right to stick to his number three slot as much Yuvraj has to demand a Test cap. But team interest should have been the guiding principle for the think-tank. It’s harsh on Yuvi but I think he can wait.