Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Eleven days that stirred Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
Eleven one-day matches do not make a captain. If anyone knows this, that would be Rahul Dravid who has declared his manifesto for Indian cricket’s future in tandem with coach Greg Chappell.
Dravid was no stranger to captaincy even in the Ganguly era. Dravid had handled Indian team in the past when Sourav Ganguly chickened out against Australia in Nagpur and in Mumbai. And it was Dravid who led India to their first ever Test triumph in Pakistan by winning the Multan Test. It was entirely a different matter that someone who was nursing his bruised ego in Calcutta rushed to Pakistan to be part of the photo opportunity in the Test series win.
In the last two one-day series, Dravid led India with authority and by personal example. Eight wins and three losses in eleven matches surely is a short term record a captain can take pride of.
Ganguly’s USP as a captain was his arrogance. Many in the media promoted the theory that it was Ganguly’s arrogance that won India the matches though those wins were scripted by VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Dravid’s priceless efforts.
Dravid’s sensible leadership has brought a seminal shift in Indian cricket. He has brought dignity to the office of the captain and punctured the balloon of arrogance to let the hot air drift towards the East. He has proved that to win you don’t have to be crude and rude; only play at your best.
Dravid is aware that being the Indian captain he is his nation’s prime sporting ambassador. Gone are Ganguly’s delaying tactics while fielding. Throughout the series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, Dravid has not given much work for match referees to fine either him or his colleagues.
Even to the nastiest of rivals, South Africans, Dravid was civil. He was honest and candid to admit in Mumbai that his side was able to learn quite a few things playing against South Africans. Despite the two defeats handed out by the Safs, Dravid said the skipper Graeme Smith lived up to the tag of South Africa’s best sporting ambassador.
And among other things the way Dravid supported Yuvraj Singh as he was struggling against Sri Lanka has been noteworthy. Now Yuvraj has emerged as the rescue man of Indian middle order. Dravid has been selfless in going down the order as India’s floating policy gave rest of the players a chance to prove their worth.
He kept his faith in bowlers; inspired the level of fielding to new heights and when chips were down went out to pluck those runs to keep India afloat.
As Dravid said in Mumbai after that stirring series-levelling win against the Safs, Team India is far from finished.

Pawar Play knocks out Dalmiya

By John Cheeran
I can only compare the outcome of today’s BCCI elections to Indian team’s tour to Pakistan in 1989 when Krishanamachari Srikkanth led the side. For the first time India drew a Test series in Pakistan. It was a departure from the past indeed. The reason was neutral umpires.
The single most important thing in today’s BCCI elections was the presence of former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy as the neutral umpire. That ensured that Jagmohan Dalmiya could not get away with his dirty tactics. He could not act as the umpire and bowler during the election and it was reflected when the votes were counted.
Sharad Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture from Mumbai, has beaten Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who acted as soothsayer for a beleaguered Sourav Ganguly, 20-11 to become the president.
Last year Pawar was thwarted in his attempt by Dalmiya’s casting vote. Pawar had said in the aftermath of that defeat that Dalmiya had acted as both umpire and bowler. This time round Pawar lobbyists had brought pressure that neutral umpire was there.
End of Dalmiya and his caucus is good news for Indian cricket. There is no point in wallowing in customary cynicism since a politician has taken over the reins of Indian cricket. As a politician and a Union Minister Pawar, after all, is accountable to common man. To whom were Dalmiya accountable all these days? Not even to his cronies.
Impact of this election result will be felt in Indian cricket team’s rendezvous with future. The first one to realize that will be none other than the deposed Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly.
It would be interesting to see what predictions Ranbir Singh Mahendra and Bejan Daruwala will make now.

No full stops for Dravid’s India

By John Cheeran
We are far from finished,” that’s the message Indian skipper Rahul Dravid has put across after reining in Graeme Smith’s South Africans in Mumbai.
It is an indication that Dravid and Greg Chappell will not waver, and they have no reason to waver, on the new path they have taken Team India to. There will be bouncers on the way, but you need to play your game with the right approach.
India’s five-wicket win has come at a critical juncture. Defeat at Calcutta had given Team India’s critics enough ammunition to fire at coach Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. Ganguly Gang’s criticism, though directed at Chappell, was also meant to disrupt the composure of skipper Dravid.
The whisper campaign against Dravid had already begun in Calcutta but those professional hecklers were waiting for another false step from India. To their chagrin, and to Ganguly’s too, that didn’t come.
The way Team India regrouped after that miserable show in Calcutta signals that this side has steel as well as silk. It was an absorbing tussle. A team’s fighting qualities can be gauged from the way they field and at Mumbai Indian fielding has been truly world class. What a contrast from Eden Gardens!
Eventually it turned out to be a close game but only thanks to a dubious lbw decision against Virender Sehwag by who else, but that self-confessed Ganguly fan Daryl Harper. Harper had already compromised his integrity as an international umpire by telling the media when the series was still alive that he wants Ganguly to come back. An umpire should be having no business to air views on participating teams’ selection priorities.
If not for that finger pointing by Harper, vice-captain Sehwag would have finished the game in the first 25 overs. But then stage was set for captain.
Dravid again proved that captaincy has not burdened his batting with a responsible innings that sealed India’s win.
It would come in handy to remember that it took only two defeats for reactionary elements in Indian cricket to find faults with the new found ways of Indian team. Barbs were flying around against the bold moves and the out-of-the box thinking inculcated by the new team management. A few in the MSM surprisingly wanted to highjack the debate on the Team India from basic cricket issues to such trivia as coach’s finger.
There are, of course, fault lines with in the team, which will be there in any professional team. It is the ability of a side to limit the adverse impact of those flaws that often take them to victory.
And India showed they are capable of doing just that in the last 11 one-day internationals played at home. India lost three, but won eight. And mind you, they did not lose both series. Such a consistent performance in the post-Ganguly era augurs well for Team India. Indian batting was tested to the full against South African pace battery. There were disappointments to a few of the top order of batsman but none of them – Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Kaif and Gautam Gambhir -- looks woefully out of form.
And biggest gain for skipper Dravid has been Yuvraj Singh’s impressive batting against South Africa in crisis hours. It was only a couple of matches earlier Ganguly Gang was suggesting a swap between Yuvraj and Ganguly.
Whether it is a one-dayer or a Test match, fielding should be an asset for any cricketer. And Yuvraj’s Singh’s fielding in the one-day series has been nothing short of a revelation. Dravid will have no option but to include Yuvraj in the eleven for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Chennai.

Monday, November 28, 2005

RD composes a melody in Mumbai

By John Cheeran
Fifty thousand passionate Indians rallied around Team India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai as RD composed a melody; slow, steady and soulful, to put those carping critics to sleep with their fantasies.
This indeed is a victory to savour for India, Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell; carved out against South Africa, really a worthy and nasty rivals in the backdrop of Calcutta defeat.
The enduring image from this absorbing battle came after Mohammad Kaif hit the winning runs to complete India’s five-wicket win. Skipper Rahul Dravid, unbeaten on 78, raising his willow to pay Team India’s respects to the galleries, to those Indians who offered them unstinting support. That image will stay with Indian fans for a lifetime.
May be there is a lesson there for those who heckle through the best part of their lives.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

2, 2, 2, ..what is next for Tendulkar?

By John Cheeran
Sachin Tendulkar is a cricketer who can be, to a certain extent, measured by the numbers.
34 Test centuries, almost the last word in one-day cricket ever since he moved up to the opener’s slot, Tendulkar’s batting has been one of the redeeming features of global cricket. Even Brian Lara’s record of most number of runs in Test cricket, is bound to be overcome by the Indian master sooner or later.
Tendulkar has set high standards for himself. But in a long a career it is not a surprise that there comes a time when one struggles to live up to one’s own exalted norms.
No one is saying it loudly, but let’s come to the point. Tendulkar is under pressure.
Tendulkar celebrated his return to international cricket after a six-month interval against Sri Lanka in Nagpur with an uninhibited exhibition of batting, giving us huge slices of his salad days. An innings of 93 off 96 balls told the world that Tendulkar is approaching the game once again with gay abandon.
In Mohali, Tendulkar followed it up with another quick fire 67 off 69 balls. But after those two half-centuries, Tendulkar’s scoring sequence is this – 11 (19 balls vs Sri Lanka at Pune; he was rested from the Ahmedabad game, 19 (30 balls vs Sri Lanka at Rajkot, 39 (48 balls vs Sri Lanka ), 2 (9 balls vs South Africa at Hyderabad), 2 ( 22 balls vs South Africa at Bangalore), 2 (15 balls vs South Africa at Calcutta).
In the last three games against South Africa, the best batsman in India has not gone beyond two runs. On all three occasions he lost his wicket to Shaun Pollock, one of the finest fast bowlers in contemporary cricket. Above all, Tendulkar has not looked confident at the crease during these three games.
Can there be something wrong with the way Tendulkar is approaching his game now?
Tendulkar is hot property, rightfully so, and the mainstream media (MSM) is playing it ever so late in holding up the mirror to him.
Tendulkar of today is the victim of Tendulkar of yesterday. A mountain of runs in international cricket behind him, Tendulkar is finding it tough to strike gold at each dig.
Is it possible to meet the public demand every time he steps out to bat? It is not.
I can only wish for Tendulkar to regain his touch at his home ground as India host South Africa in the fifth and final one-dayer.

Language of Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
There is great fun in Indian cricket right now.
It is all about Greg Chappell’s right index finger. Chappell’s gesture to a few number of professional hecklers outside the Eden Gardens on the eve of the fourth one-dayer has brought unwarranted pressure on Indian coach.
As is their wont, Calcuttans have felt they have been insulted by an outsider, by an arrogant Aussie.
I completely agree that Greg Chappell is an arrogant Aussie. But there lies the point.
Chappell is no Eastern monk. His combative instincts do not allow him room to recognize that the language of cricket in India has more than one alphabet. I, however, wish Chappell makes an effort to learn it and the best opportunity for that is in the dressing room.
He is a professional coach that’s why Board of Control for Cricket in India brought him to fix Indian cricket. It’s altogether another matter that he quickly moved into fix one of the arrogant cricketers India has produced.
Janata Janardhan have their right to cheer, jeer whomever they wish so. That’s the perils and pleasures of spectator sport. And that’s what Indian skipper Rahul Dravid said. “I am not the first captain to be booed,” he said. “I have been playing for India for the last 10 years, and have received adulation from the same crowd. Sometimes, when you don't play well, you have to accept that and move on.”
Chappell, though do well to remain his natural aggressive, acerbic self, but he can learn more from Dravid. Indian captain has handled the pressure well in public and it counts. India’s obsession with the great game ensures that camera will catch every twitch of your muscles when you are out there.
But to judge Chappell on his finger revealing instinct is ridiculous. I don’t want to bring the fairness of it all argument here. What matters is winning.
If India does not win at Mumbai and square the one-day series against south Africa, that will not be the end of the road for neither for Chappell nor the experiments he has initiated.
But it will definitely give more lung power to those who have suddenly discovered their patriotism at the door steps of Eden Gardens. And in a democratic India, public pressure can always act as the match referee.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Greatness Not Out

By John Cheeran
When you discuss the batting greats of the game, only a few would bring up Allan Border’s name. Despite scoring 11,174 runs in Test cricket, Border never touched greatness; neither did he aspire for that tag.
Brian Lara has surpassed Border’s Test aggregate. Lara is standing at 11,187 not out.
Even if Lara had failed to become the highest scorer in Test cricket, few would have disputed the greatness of this Trinidadian.
Arguments still rage over who is the best modern batsman; if opinion polls were the yardstick India’s Sachin Tendulkar would have won that test.
But I would vote for Lara for the string of defining innings he has played when West Indies were in the doldrums.
I wonder how England or India would have celebrated Lara, had he born there.
I have a feeling that Trinidad has not been big enough for Batsman Lara or Brand Lara.
Lesser batsmen have been glorified elsewhere.
And I dread to raise the question what if Lara had born in Calcutta!
Soon, Tendulkar would catch up with Lara; or someone else.
But the West Indian would always remain one of the finest batsman cricket has ever seen.
Read Tony Cozier on Lara in Trinidad Express.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The distance between Dravid and Ganguly

By John Cheeran
This is a time when you need to point fingers; to point out what separates Rahul Dravid from Sourav Ganguly.
Indian skipper Rahul Dravid did not blame the pitch despite the crushing loss at Eden Gardens against South Africa. He admitted India had played badly.
Dravid had seen the pitch on the eve of the match.
Unlike his illustrious predecessor, Sourav Ganguly, the prince of manipulators, Dravid did not develop an injury on the morning of the match and pull out of the team.
Dravid played, lost the toss, lost the match. Fair enough.
That’s what I call character. A brave man, and a man who never runs away from his responsibility.
How can I compare brave man to a petulant, a coward?
A sense of fair play demands that I should not flinch from telling the truth.
Sourav Ganguly, the then Indian captain, ‘India’s greatest leader’ that he is, chickened out at the thought of playing Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz on a grassy Nagpur wicket during the 2004-2005 Test series against Australia.
Ganguly was unhappy at the wicket prepared by Vidarbha Cricket Association, rivals of Jagmohan Dalmiya in the BCCI politics, and on the morning of the match he had his one of those mysterious injury virus.
Ganguly fell ill knowing that his captaincy record will be tarnished by a heavy loss.
It was then left to Dravid to lead Team India.
India lost the Test by 342 runs.
Now tell me what do you call a general who runs away from the battlefront?
Is that the Dadagiri? Bullshit.
If the Board of Control of Cricket Board had any sense of pride, it should have stripped Ganguly of the captaincy then.
If Ganguly had any pride as a leader, he should never have asked the captaincy back.
And remember that it was only a few days earlier, peeved at losing Indian captaincy, Ganguly refused to lead Bengal against Pune in Ranji Trophy.
So much for a leader’s qualities.
Here are a few links that take you back to Nagpur.




The Gospel at Eden Gardens

By John Cheeran
Love thy enemy.
Calcutta has been home to Mother Teresa, but till today I did not believe that men and women of the City of Joy followed Jesus Christ’s principle in letter and spirit.
They truly loved South Africa; cheered them, applauded them as Indians came to terms with the brutalities of day-night cricket.
From preparing a pitch that spelt disaster for Indian batsmen to booing Rahul Dravid’s trudge back to pavilion to giving centurion Graeme Smith a standing ovation they have lived up to the dictum – love thy enemy.
At least they did not bring down the roof this time at Eden Gardens.
It was an Indian defeat they celebrated.
But a crowd that was livid at Sourav Ganguly’s ouster from the team got what they deserved.
Unfortunately India deserve better.

Calcutta gets what it deserves

By John Cheeran
India were outclassed by South Africa in all aspects of the game in Eden Gardens.
Indian game plan did not succeed on many counts.
First, they were given an unusually green wicket by Cricket Association of Bengal as if Team India were not welcome there. This was done on purpose by Sourav Ganguly’s backers to give South Africa, packed with fast bowlers, an undue advantage over host nation, even before the game began.
Second, Rahul Dravid lost the toss there by getting adverse conditions throughout the match -- both during batting and bowling.
Third, Indian top order, including skipper Dravid, did not succeed in managing the first 12 overs of their innings. They lost cream of their batting; brought pressure on the lower order swingers and made Graeme Smith gloat on the field.
Fourth, Indian batsmen failed to bat the full 50 overs.
Fifth, the bowling conditions were against India. There was no movement for Indian pacers to exploit. Defending 188 was a lost cause with spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik struggling to strike their rhythm in dewy atmosphere.
India should take defeats like these in their stride. Bowlers’ inability to take at least one rival wicket and batsmen’s failure to post a challenging total should not be blamed just on the pitch. A great team should not just bitch about context; they should get the text clean and precise. That must be Rahul Dravid’s pressing job now.
But if anyone thinks that Sourav Ganguly’s presence would have changed Team India’s fortune’s in the given match conditions, he must be living in paradise.
Untouched by the ground rules, I must add.

Why the grass is green at Eden Gardens?

By John Cheeran
Why the grass is green at Eden Gardens?
Well…that’s the way of those fifth columnists in Calcutta to get even with the Team India.
It seems Cricket Association of Bengal has taken orders from Sourav Ganguly to leave the grass on the wicket today that South African fast bowlers can put India on the defensive.
I thought the host nation always prepared wickets to suit their game.
But then again the Bhadralok thinks different from the rest of India.
The reason why grounds man prepared the juicy wicket for the fourth one-dayer was that Ganguly was not playing for India.
Only when the Maharaj wants to play, the Calcutta curator prepares a typical Eden wicket to conceal his weakness against fast bowling.
Doordarshan commentator Arun Lal went on record saying that he has never seen a grassy wicket like the one today at Eden Gardens. That tells it.
It is just as well that Rahul Dravid lost the crucial toss.
This is it.
It is time now that Team India should see it to that fifth columnists do not enter the dressing room.

Make Ganguly a permanent member of Team India

By John Cheeran
Sourav Ganguly has usurped the place of a deserving Zaheer Khan as a batting allrounder purely based on his past and the collective fantasies of Calcuttans on what Ganguly could achieve in his twilight.
I have a suggestion to the national selectors, better still, to the BCCI.
Make Sourav Ganguly the permanent member of the Team India. In one dayers, inTests, in Twenty20.
After all Jagmohan Dalmiya has managed to be the life-time president of the BCCI during the last AGM.
Let Dalmiya anoint Ganguly as the mascot of Indian cricket. Make him the Super Sob of Indian cricket.
Don't let him retire.
I wish Clive Lloyd's fearsome pace battery plied their trade in contemporary cricket. Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, JoelGarner, Wayne Daniel and Patrick Patterson...
May be then, we can bury many of these comeback fantasies in the 22 yards and leave selectors in peace.

What if Tendulkar had born in Calcutta?

By John Cheeran
Just a thought.
What if Sachin Tendulkar had born in Calcutta?
He would never go out of the Indian team. If selectors decided to leave him out of the Test or the one-day squad, let us say, for a variety of reasons, his supporters would be bringing down the roof of Eden Gardens.
May be they would burn Calcutta.
For they had done it for lesser reasons like India on the verge of losing their World Cup semifinal to Sri Lanka in 1996 and when Shoaib Akhtar contributed to Tendulkar's down fall in the Asian Test Championship match against Pakistan in 1999.
Later these 'enlightened' incidents were used as an excuse by Pakistan to brand whole of India as sour losers.
And Board of Control for Cricket in India, run by mobsters, would force selectors to pick Tendulkar even if he comes up with a sequence of scores 0, 1, 0, 9, 0, 0, 0.
Calcutta would reason that he has scored maximum number of one-day centuries; he has broken all records in Test cricket. How can you ask him stop playing cricket for India, they will ask, I'm sure.
If the mob could force a 'has been' player to the current Indian Test squad on the basis of having scored 10,000 one-day runs, that too mostly against weak bowling attacks, what would they do with an icon like Sachin Tendulkar?
How can Calcutta crowd ever digest the thought of a modern cricket colossus being left out of the team? Won't their pride be punctured?
May be this is one of the smaller mercies of life.....
Tendulkar luckily happens to be an Indian first, because he comes from Mumbai.
Hence he could say no to Indian captaincy for a second time. Born in Calcutta, Tendulkar would have been choked to death by his supporters' stubborn demands.
Thank you, Mumbai!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A new low in Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
Sourav Ganguly, I'm told, has undergone a sex change operation yesterday.
From a middle order batsman he has been transformed to an all rounder by the five-man National selection committee.
That has been quite a bold step to play Test cricket, I must say.
But one fact remains. After such an operation, the person can't be productive.
So selectors have given Rahul Dravid an all rounder's effigy along with 14 cricketers to take on Sri Lanka in the first Test at Chennai.
The game is not yet over, mates.
Kiran More flattered Indian cricket followers on Tuesday only to deceive them on the very next day. Sourav Ganguly is back. I'm told he is back in the Indian Test squad as an all rounder.
This should qualify as the biggest joke 2005 has seen. The biggest of them all will be when Ganguly pads up for the Chennai Test.
Now it is clear that which forces were at work to bring Ganguly back. Only on Tuesday chief selector More described Ganguly's performance far from satisfactory.
What forced this volte-face?
My sources indicate that BCCI top brass had briefed the selection committee to bring Ganguly back into the Test fold, though the current team equation does not offer him a place.
Selectors say he is not a batsman good enough to find a slot in the middle order; he is not a bowler who is good enough to walk into the Indian team.
So what do you do?
Accommodate him as an all rounder, who can neither bat nor bowl. Jagmohan Dalmiya's and Ranbir Singh Mahendra's solution offered through the selection committee -meeting in Chennai lasted for four and half hours - is ridiculous at its best.
It is amazing that the man who reduced Sourav Ganguly to a jerk at Ahmedabad during the Duleep Trophy final could not find favour with the National selectors.
Zaheer Khan, who dismissed Ganguly for a duck twice in the Duleep final, is out.
Can there be any more travesty of justice?
More said: "We had to leave out Zaheer Khan although it was a tough call to make. Ganguly was taken as a batting all rounder instead of having Zaheer who is a bowler."
Well, soon Ganguly will be in the Indian team for his wicket keeping abilities.
It clearly emerges that under pressure from the ruling faction in Indian board, may be an offer of another term, selectors stooped to pick Ganguly.
Can there be a better insult to the intelligence of Indian cricket fan?
Ganguly an all rounder!
An idea that was never thought of from 1996 June till 2005 Novermber 22!
And this trick is to deny Zaheer Khan his rightful Test place, who had a rich haul of wickets in this year's Duleep Trophy?
Let me give you an independent perception about Ganguly as a cricketer. The Reuters report from Chennai states thus "the 33-year-old batsman had not made a Test hundred since December 2003 until he scored a laboured 101 in the first match against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in September, increasingly looking shaky against short pitched deliveries."
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has disgraced itself.
Here I'm wrong. They never had any grace to begin with.
But there is no doubt that by picking Ganguly selectors - those who have votedfor Ganguly - have debased themselves. S. Karunakaran Nair, the BCCI secretary, put up a feeble defence when he said,"picking the team was the selectors' prerogative and it would remain that way. No board official has involved in the selection process."
But Nair should realize that picking the final eleven is a captain's prerogative.
The Power Play is yet to begin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Give us more, Kiran

By John Cheeran
Chief selector Kiran More has put Sourav Ganguly's captaincy record straight.
Not a ball was bowled in Chennai on Tuesday but More bowled a yorker at the Ganguly Gang.
The message is loud and clear. Rahul Dravid is the new captain of India. For Tests. For One-dayers.
Hear it. Ganguly was sacked. There is no comeback for Maharaj as Indian captain now. Much had been made about Sourav Ganguly's leadership skills by media, former players, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Ranbir Singh Mahendra and Arjuna Ranatunga.
More, to his everlasting credit, has showed immense courage to rise above partisanship, above his Ganguly-backing colleagues. He sensed the mood of cricketing India to thwart the plot against Dravid.
As selection committee -- with four known Ganguly sympathisers -- met in Chennai, Ganguly's backers had not ruled out the possibility of Maharaj returning to his 'rightful place' as captain. I'm not privy to what happened inside the selection committee meeting. I hope someone will leak the proceedings and let us know.
But More's words' have come as a dampener to those irrational believers in Ganguly. Let me quote More. "We are looking ahead to the future and I must say Rahul is going to be our future captain."
More did not stop there. "Sourav has not performed that well. We do acknowledge that he scored a century against Zimbabwe. But we are not very happy with his performance during the last two to three years."
So chief selector Kiran More says Ganguly's performance in the last three years was not encouraging. Thank you for telling us that truth. But we all knew his performance was far from the best. We also knew that powerful backers, within the selection committee and within in the cricket control board propped up Ganguly every time he was in danger of losing captaincy and his place in the side.
I'm not paying More. But he said: “In contrast, Dravid had performed well. He won matches against Pakistan and Australia as stand-in captain (in Tests). Winning matches against Zimbabwe should not be the criteria. We should be winning our matches and series against teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The fact is that we have not won a series on foreign soil in 19 years. Looking at the overall performance of Sourav, we are not happy."
There was a minority in the media, ready to believe that Ganguly would lose Indian captaincy. But none would have bargained for the kind of plain-speak More indulged in.
Ganguly's Gang would have expected More at least to extol the virtues of Maharaj, to say what a great captain Ganguly has been. He has refused to pay tributes to Maharaj.
So with only one selection committee meeting left to preside, More has gone bold.
One should also remember that it was only Kiran More who brought to light the Abhijit Kale bribery incident.
If anyone thinks that Ganguly's spat with coach Greg Chappell had played a role in Maharaj losing the captaincy, they are mistaken. "We did not discuss the issue. We discussed only cricketing matters."
Finally verdict is out.. Ganguly is not fit to lead India.
Give us more, Kiran.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The plot against Rahul Dravid

By John Cheeran
The Times of India reports that there are three selectors who are known backers of Sourav Ganguly. That itself constitutes simple majority in a five-man selection committee.
Then, I am told, there is one fence sitter. So that means selection committee is full of Ganguly supporters.
Jagmohan Dalmiya runs BCCI by remote control. BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra assures Calcutta that Ganguly can walk into the Indian team, provided Rahul Dravid's India loses one more match.
The board elections will take place only on November 29 and 30 when Sharad Pawar might get a chance to wreck Dalmiya's dirty designs on Indian cricket.
There is not much time left now to ensure that Maharaj returns to his fiefdom. So a selection committee meeting which was initially earmarked for November 28, after the Mumbai one-dayer, has been brought forward.
Now National selectors will announce the captain for the Test series against Sri Lanka tonight -- after the end of the third ODI against South Africa --. And on Wednesday they will declare the team for next two one-dayers and Test series against Sri Lanka.
Take a pause.
Whose idea is it that selectors have to wait till the end of the third one-dayer against South Africa, -- till midnight -- to declare the captain for the Test series?
Can the difference of one run between India and South Africa determine who should lead India into the future? I admire Rahul Dravid for having the courage to deal with the snakes in the Indian cricket control board room.
It all fits neatly into the Ganguly Gang's design. After Ganguly's miserable pair against Zaheer Khan in Ahmedabad, Board President Mahendra makes noises about Maharaj's imminent return in New Delhi.
Then in Calcutta, Ganguly says he is ready to do anything, to play anywhere the team wants him. He declares that he has no problem with Greg Chappell. Oh really...
As for Dalmiya, he consoles Ganguly every night that he will be given his favourite toy, the captaincy soon.
All sorts of theories are floated by the email-leaking media lobby. Separate captains for one-dayers and Tests! Well that idea has been killed even by Australia after Steve Waugh's exit.
So be ready for surprises tonight.
Will Sourav Ganguly be brought back as captain for the Test series against Sri Lanka by a selection committee in which majority root for a man out of form and out of touch with realities?
Can Kiran More-led committee go against the grain? Are they foolish enough for a move that will drag India to the depths of defeats?
It is possible. In fact the only way Ganguly can return to Indian team now is by the privilege of captaincy, especially into the Test team. Everytime Ganguly was left out of the one-day squad, the Calcutta chorus has been singing "He has got 10,000 runs."
The consensus has been that Ganguly is a good one-day player. He can hit out against spinners. The pluses of his batting are neutralized by his lazy attitude on the field.
And Rahul Dravid's Team India has proven that without the burden of Maharaj, they can win in a much more authentic fashion. So a good one-day player was ignored during the ODI series. Nothing happened. Except, India’s wins.
So why should he play in Tests at the cost of youngsters like Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif? Should India leave out VVS Laxman and bring in Ganguly?
As the final card, Ganguly Gang has even issued an empty threat to find Maharaj at least a place in the Test side, if not in the ODI squad—Calcutta would erupt when Dravid’s India play South Africa at Eden Gardens on November 25.
Who knows, this may be the first time mobsters will be selecting an Indian team.
There may not be a match in Chennai today. But there will be enough drama when Kiran More opens his mouth.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dravid deconstructs 'brave cricket'

By John Cheeran
It was a reassuring win in Bangalore, an effort that signals that Team India is on the right path to success.
India needed to bounce back quickly in this series against South Africa, a much stronger rival than Sri Lanka and the world number two side. And India have done it in style.
It was a confidence trick.
South Africa’s much touted unbeaten streak –20 games – has been broken. The credit for it fully goes to skipper Rahul Dravid and his boys.
The Bangalore win now should act as the turning point for Team India.
Even the defeat in Hyderabad, however, had illustrated the resilient qualities of this fighting side. At Bangalore, more than the mere six-wicket win, the manner in which it was achieved holds hope for the future.
India, given the opportunity by the toss, proved their bowlers can too expose the chinks in the South African batting armour to great effect.
In the post-Ganguly era, everyone has chipped in with decent and creditable performances for this Indian team. That had left Sourav Ganguly Gang, in the aftermath of Hyderabad defeat, to point fingers at opener Virender Sehwag. Sehwag has been playing his shots all the while but a half century had eluded him in the recent past.
One more Sehwag failure at the top of the order, they were ready to ask for his head when the selection committee sits together in Chennai to identify the team for the last two day-nighters – at Kolkata and Mumbai.
An unbeaten 77 has been Sehwag’s answer.
Well. It also shows skipper Dravid’s ability to understand his colleagues’ needs and the room he creates for those who are in need.
Dravid protected Sehwag from the fury of Shaun Pollock and Ntini by keeping the Delhi Dazzler down the order to let him regain his taste for the big innings.
That in effect rules out Ganguly’s comeback for Kolkata and Mumbai matches. If one batsman who had struggled in Bangalore as well as in a few earlier matches that was none other than Sachin Tendulkar. Do Ganguly Gang have the guts to ask for Tendulkar’s head so that Maharaj can laze around in the Eden Gardens?
Even if India go down with a whimper in Chennai on Tuesday I can’t see More and friends daring to upset what Ranbir Singh Mahendra had described as a “winning combination.”
Bangalore was just not Sehwag half-century.
Murali Kartik was a revelation to South Africans. In his ten overs, Kartik yielded 16 runs, throttling Justin Kemp and company. Kartik didn’t buy wickets but he didn’t let them breathe either. Their much vaunted ‘brave cricket’ was no where to be seen against Kartik and Harbhajan Singh.
Graeme Smith must be realizing now what they missed in Hyderabad.
If India want to win the series against South Africa, Kartik and Harbhajan will have to play stranglers’ role to perfection.
Now, the Man-of-the Match.
Irfan Pathan found his rhythm as bowler to knock the stuffing out of South African top order but later played a superb innings when the match still could have turned the other way. Pathan cleared the cobwebs of doubt from the batting crease after Tendulkar’s dismissal with some swift blows.
True, for India, these days there are Men-of-the-Match.
See you in Chennai.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sudarshan's vision

By John Cheeran
If you can't beat them, join them.
That seems to be the sentiment that is driving Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) supremo K S Sudharshan these days.
Otherwise he would not have bothered to tell his brethren to quicken the Hindu rate of growth. Reports say that RSS Chief K S Sudarshan in Delhi asked Hindus to produce not less than three children and called for an end to the majority-minority concept.
He has expressed serious concern over India's changing demographic profile. I don't know about the changing demographic profile. It must be changing, but the only question in whose favour.
Whichever community stands to benefit in the body count, I'm not greatly interested.
I, however, have some interest in what Sudarshan said.
Here are the quotes: “Don't get into the trap of two child or one child norm. If you go by the one child norm, in the next 120 years, there won't be any successors in your family. You should not have less than three children and if you have more, the merrier it is,” he said after releasing a publication 'Religious Demography of India 2001' brought out by the Centre for Policy Studies in New Delhi.
I can't agree with Sudarshan more.
But Congress spokesperson Ambika Soni, UP Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and a host of others have ridiculed Sudarshan for making such an appeal. Ambika said such sentiments have no relevance in a modern India. She feels Sudarshan's opinion is too conservative.
Some others point out Sudarshan's appeal is in opposition to Indian state's declared family planning programme which gives stress not to overshoot the two children norm.
TV channels that make Sania Mirza turning 19 their lead story have reacted in predictable fashion. So are rest of the media.
I ask what do they know about life?
I believe 40 per cent of Indian couples battles infertility. Leave alone three and two, they can't have one. So what's the harm in Sudarshan urging those who can, really go for it? More the merrier is not a bad idea at all.
I salute Sudarshan especially in the aftermath of devastating tsunamis and earthquakes which have left many childless. I think natural calamities are taking care of population explosion much better than India's family planning.
At the other end of the spectrum we have female infanticide and foeticide.Would you call it family planning? If not, what's the harm in having three or more children, Congress Party?
So if you are a conscientious objector to foeticide, aren't you opposing family planning?
If you are campaigning against the trend to kill the girl child, aren't you at some level agreeing with uncle Sudarshan?
Yes, you are.
Those who can afford it, let them do it.
Fuck the family planning.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Running backwards made simple

By John Cheeran
Sourav Ganguly has broken his vow of silence.
But that comes only after Ranbir Singh Mahendra looked into the future for him. It is bright, Mahendra has assured him.
May be, Mahendra can peep into the future better than Bejan Daruwala, especially at a time when the Indian cricket board elections are coming closer.
The time these two great men in Indian cricket have chosen to speak their mind is crucial. Both of them spoke after Indian top order’s meltdown in Hyderabad and India lost the opener in the one-day series to South Africa.
Mahendra with his perspicacity as an observer has hit on the nail.
Ganguly’s is out just because selectors do not want to disturb the winning combination now. In Mahendra’s opinion, Ganguly is fit and in form.
I have great pleasure to quote Mahendra on Ganguly. ‘‘He is a great player, he has also been a great captain. We are proud of him and he will definitely make a comeback to the team.“I don't think anybody believes that Sourav does not deserve to be in the team. His performances in Zimbabwe and in Duleep Trophy have been good. I think he'll make a comeback.”
Does he know how Zaheer Khan exposed Ganguly, the batsman, in the Duleep Trophy final last week?
Is that an indication of Ganguly’s form? If he can’t handle Zaheer, can he handle Shaun Pollock?
Much has been made by Maharaj’s PR network of the century Ganguly hit in Bulawayo Test. Against a dispirited and depleted Zimbabwean bowling attack Ganguly had to labour six hours for his unforgettable ton.
And the series gone before that? Ganguly contributed just 48 in three home Tests against Pakistan. Is that the yardstick for greatness for Mahendra?
Then what about attitude?
Let me quote coach Greg Chappell on the subject. In his interview to cricinfo.com he said: “As a coach, one thing that I do know is that you can’t teach anything to anyone who doesn’t want to be taught. These young guys…They want to know more and are trying to fund out what they can do to be better. That’s the attitude that makes coach’s life much easier.”
Apparently, Mahendra has developed amnesia about the tumultuous weeks preceding the one-day series against Sri Lanka.
One should spot the note of desperation in both Mahendra’s and Ganguly’s statements. So far Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell has kept the winning combination intact. At the first hint of trouble Ganguly Gang are swift to redraw the selection equations.
And look the humble cloak the Lord Snooty is wearing now. “I’m willing to play at any position, am prepared to perform any role that team wants me to.”
Circumstances have forced Ganguly to pretend that has not lost anything. “Rahul is doing a great job as captain.”
Is he telling Kiran More that he will not have any problems in playing under Dravid?
Keep this in your calculations. Which way the BCCI elections go on November 29 will have implications on Ganguly’s future. If Dalmiya camp wins, Ganguly will sneak into Team India. If not, former Indian captain will have to let his bat do the talking.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ranatunga has Indian media in a spin

By John Cheeran
I'm not surprised at former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga batting for an out-of-form Sourav Ganguly. Ranatunga has been supporting former Indian captain for reasons best known to him for the last couple of years.
What has surprised me is this -- why do Indian media -- newspapers, television channels, websites, magazines -- treat the opinion of such a biased individual as the most important item of the day.
I was shocked to see Ranatunga's abuse distributed through Press Trust of India becoming the lead in the main sports page of Hindustan Time's Delhi edition on November 15, 2005.
All of them - Times of India had limited the trumpeting to single column in Mumbai – had allowed Ranatunga to highjack the debate on Indian cricket. Support for Ganguly coming from Ranatunga?
Why do our celebrated sports writers go on vacation and let the likes of Ranatunga hold the reader to ransom? Who is ghost writing for Ranatunga?
When not a single former Indian cricketer -- except Sambaran Banerjee, a former national selector from East Zone -- did not find fault with Kiran More-led current selection committee, this gentleman from the island nation is allowed to pour scorn on the way India play and plan its cricket?
Can't some of Indian sports journalism's best minds can't see through this worst spin?Throughout the Ganguly In, Ganguly Out debate I have come across opinions from such greats MAK Pataudi, himself former editor of Sportsworld, Bishan Singh Bedi, Ajit Wadekar, Mohinder Amarnath, Syed Kirmani, Anshuman Gaekwad, Madan Lal and Chandu Borde.
They all were unanimous in their opinion that Ganguly did not deserve a place in the Indian side in the current scheme of things.
Even Salim Durrani, a self-proclaimed Ganguly fan, agreed with the situation. Now lo, behold, comes Ranatunga, who had identified Ganguly as the best captain in the world, singing Ganguly's trumpet.
Who is Ranatunga to deride Indian cricket officials? He had indulged in enough politics in an attempt to share the spoils of Sri Lankan cricket control Board. Let me quote from Ranatunga's wisdom which has appeared in HT, Indian Express Times of India, Asian Age, etc.
"His (Ganguly's) exclusion and the manner of it is unbecoming on the part of Indian cricket officialdom. I wonder if he has received any phone call from selectors, captain or coach; or even seniors like Tendulkars and Sehwags. It is one thing to believe that he does not have anything to offer, it is quite another to act as if he was just an illusion all these years. “Wish as anyone might, nobody can take away his record or the esteem in which he is held worldwide. India must learn to respect its heroes lest they look like pirates who can only destroy a legacy."
Who are the pirates?
Why should a known Ganguly-backer's opinion, which goes against Indian cricket's larger interest, deserve such loud, uncritical space in Indian media?
I’m sure you have the answers.

Hyderabad Blues

By John Cheeran
Let's accept defeat.
After all it was an honourable defeat.
South Africa's 'brave cricket' gave a shock and awe treatment to Indian batsmen at Hyderabad. On the day, visitors played better cricket and have extended their unbeaten one-day international record to 20 games.
Can India break South African's invincible aura now? We will get the answer soon as remaining four day-nighters wait to rush past us.
India almost had a brush with glory in Hyderabad.
After tottering at 35 for five in 11.1 overs, setting the No.2 one-day squad 250 runs as winning target illustrates this side's fighting qualities. From there --35 for five -- winning would have been delicious. I would have traded rest of the four matches to South Africa for a win at Hyderabad. For Hyderabad was more than a match.
Winning there would have meant coming back from the dead, a trick Team India still not mastered.
Look at these factors. India lost a toss which they should have won while playing against a very strong fast bowling attack. They had worthy rivals this time. Rivals who represent an entirely differernt culture from that of India.
In attire and attitude India and Sri Lanka are not poles apart; shades of blue run through them. Not Graeme Smith's men in green. This has been truly the point of departure. Their bellicose approach to all aspects of the game does not augur well for India. Despite the big margin of defeat -- five wickets-- India's spirit should remain buoyant.
As skipper Rahul Dravid pointed out, it is heartening that India managed to stretch the match into the 99th over. On a day when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif and Gautam Gambhir failed to reach double digits, India posted a decent total; though not a safe one.
But let's be honest. 249 for nine in 50 overs is much better than 125 all out in 25 overs. Yuvraj Singh played a tantalising innings; taking his chances and repaying Rahul Dravid for sticking with him during the Sri Lankan series.
An innings such as Yuvraj played under pressure holds greater meaning for India's future battles. Not often do ODIs throw up such golden opportunities for a batsman to reveal his mettle. Yuvraj did grab his chance, and Lion of Punjab will hopefully roar for India again.
Irfan Pathan had a forgettable day as a bowler but batting alone should seal his place in the side.
The grit and gumption showed by Pathan and Harbhajan Singh at the batting crease should keep India's hopes and spirit alive for the rest of the series.
There is no excuse for top order's failure in the first ten overs, though context mattered in this contest. What mattered in the end was batting failure. Indian batsmen's lack of ability to negotiate the disciplined and aggressive fast bowling, backed up by athletic and alert fielding has had tragic results in the past.
Yuvraj made amends for his predecessors' sins. But the Morning Mayhem had forced team management to use Gautam Gambhir as Super Sub, which left India with just four regulars as bowlers. Now, that was a gamble Dravid and Greg Chappell had to make; it backfired on two counts. Gambhir himself failed with bat and the move deprived India the services of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.
But, then, you shouldn't expect all experiments to succeed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let's run with Team India

By John Cheeran
MK Gandhi had his enlightenment in South Africa.
South Africans and Indians have shared ideas when it came to fixing cricket matches in the past. They are no strangers at all when it comes to cricket.
So is there anything that separates now Graeme Smith’s South Africa from Rahul Dravid’s India?
South Africa have come to India with an impressive one-day record which Dravid can only envy at the moment. They are on a roll. South Africans have extended their unbeaten streak in one-dayers to 19 matches. Only Australians have done better.
That bit of statistics should give some sense of proportion for Indian fans rooting more wins from Dravid.
When Sri Lanka came to India for the Videocon Cup series, they were the No.2 ranked one-day team in the world. A 4-0 thumping of New Zealand has taken South Africans to No.2 slot.
So South Africans must be worthy rivals for India to carry out their experiments.
India, curiously, remain at the No.7 spot.
Can the No.7 pummel No.2 as in the Sri Lankan encounter?
India enjoy the home advantage. As for the confidence level, both team are on a high.
South Africans have come prepared and come with three spinners ready to take the battle into Indian camp.
But if Graeme Smith believes he can tie down Indian batsmen with his spin trio -- Justin Ontong, Robin Peterson and uncapped Johan Botha -- that would prove to be a folly. Four out of the five matches are day-nighters and bowling in the second phase of the game would present spinners with gripping problems.
Well, India have in their ranks only Harbhajan Singh and Murali Karthik.
South Africa would do well to play to their strength, which is pace.
In one sense, this series hold much less meaning for Dravid and Chappell, compared to the Sri Lankan affair.
Whatever the reverses in this five-match series, which are bound to come, India cannot afford to change the direction of its path to future now.
Let us walk with Team India.
Or better, run, as they say in cricket.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Of rectitude and Presidents

By John Cheeran
What exactly is rectitude? Moral uprightness is the toughest of business calls.
I was watching Rajiv Mehrotra’s interview with late former Indian President K.R. Narayanan on Doordarshan last Sunday.
There is no need to list Narayanan’s achievements here.
During the interview Mehrotra quite interestingly brought to Narayanan’s attention the citation of the Rajiv Gandhi International award committee which spoke about late President’s moral rectitude, great quality if you actually possess it.
The Rajiv Gandhi award committee’s reference was Narayanan’s intervention during the Gujarat riots in 2002.
But I always had doubts on the rectitude part. Was it rectitude or was it diplomacy or was it helplessness?
Let me quote former President from his interview on DD.
“People were watching the Gujarat events and were not intervening at all.” So that’s why President spoke to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on the riot management.
President’s helplessness comes through in these words. “Most of the times I had to keep my anguish to myself.”
Narayanan spoke to Mehrotra without rancour, without bitterness. “I told Prime Minister that military should be introduced. PM almost always agreed with me during the conversation. But agreements did not follow up with action.”
Context matters here. Gujarat was ruled by a BJP Chief Minister, the Centre had a BJP Prime Minister and President was former Congress MP.
I thought if you had praiseworthy rectitude, you would have gone beyond diplomacy. Narayanan could have resigned as President; but he chose otherwise.
There were not many, however, there were a few who said what they believed and took orders from their conscience during the Gujarat riots.
And as for rectitude, temptations of a possible second term at Rashtrapathi Bhavan took care of it all.
May his soul rest in peace.

What now for Sourav Ganguly?

By John Cheeran
What now for Sourav Ganguly?
One cannot evade this question any longer.
The former skipper’s absence has proved to be a blessing for Team India as the resounding 6-1 series win over Sri Lanka shows.
As Rahul Dravid’s India was conducting its experiments against Sri Lanka, Ganguly was having his own experiments in Duleep Trophy.
Only difference was this – Ganguly’s experiments with bat have backfired and National selectors are justified in ignoring the Maharaj for the entire Sri Lankan series.
Kiran More has retained the same squad which completed the series win against Sri Lanka at Baroda for the first three one-dayers against South Africa.
More, however, has left enough room for drama.
Selectors are due to announce the squad for the last two one-dayers – Kolkata and Mumbai—at Chennai on November 22.
At the moment my bet is that Eden Gardens won’t get to see Maharaja in his pomp.
Will there be another riot at Eden?
It would be a pity, I must say.
The clamour for Ganguly’s inclusion is not yet over; its tone has however turned from demand to wailing.
Look at what happened in the first two days of the Duleep Trophy final which is being played out at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad.
What Vikram Rajvir Singh and Amit Bhandari failed to do in Rajkot, Zaheer Khan has done in Ahmedabd. Zaheer has put Ganguly in his place.
In East Zone’s first innings Ganguly was clean bowled by Zaheer for a duck. Ganguly’s innings lasted seven balls.
How unsuitable Ganguly is for competitive cricket right now was proved in East Zone’s second innings. This time Ganguly couldn’t survive the first ball he faced from his former colleague Zaheer. Zaheer trapped him lbw.
These two dismissals are clear proof that Ganguly is out of touch with cricketing realities. The sooner Ganguly realizes that he can’t claim a place in the Indian side on his past glory, the better for him.
I believe Zaheer was desperate to get the prize wicket of Ganguly at Motera. His earlier show in the Duleep Trophy semifinal against Central Zone at Aurangabad was ignored by selectors when they announced the one-day squad to take on the South Africans.
Now by giving Ganguly a Duleep Pair, Khan can be positive that More will turn towards him when he next sits together with Dravid and Chappell.
But nothing is certain in this world.
The likes of Zaheer Khan must be watchful. After his failure to win back a place in the Indian side as a batsman, Ganguly is now retrofitting himself as a bowler. Throughout the Duleep Trophy contests, Ganguly, ever the shirker, has grabbed the ball to transform himself as a bowler.
Delusions can have no limits, I presume.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Let there be more experiments!

By John Cheeran
The biggest gain for India from the one-day series against Sri Lanka is the increase in their confidence level. Some times score lines do matter. Especially if it is a tennis score (6-1) in a cricket series.
The series was a story of experiments that worked; experiments that did not turn into disasters. With a new captain showing the resolve to bring in the necessary changes, and players responding in splendid fashion, India, the No.7 team in One-Dayers outclassed and out-thought the No.2 side in the world. It really is an achievement.
One shouldn’t grudge skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell their success.
Dravid was willing to experiment; Team India was determined to execute it.
Dravid’s and Chappell’s approach to the team composition had some thought behind it, which was revealed as the seven-match series unfolded.
The one-day series began in Nagpur with Irfan Pathan coming in as No. 3.
As the series finished off at Baroda, Pathan was brought back to No. 3 and youngster affirmed his potential as an all rounder. The team management has convinced fans, critics and most crucially, the players themselves, that changes are part of a grand design.
This is in sharp contrast with some of the desperate ploys employed by Sourav Ganguly in the past such as Parthiv Patel being made an opener in the Rawalpindi Test just to ensure that skipper played the match!.
Now Pathan knows he will be there as an all rounder in the team; not just as a bowler.
Same goes for Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni, pushed up to No. 3 at Jaipur, found himself at the same spot on quite a few occasion as the series progressed. As it all ended in Baroda on a happy note Dhoni, though lower down the order, underlined his batting prowess.
Yet I feel there is more room for experiments.
Now Indian batting has enough catalysts to quicken the scoreboard. There is a scramble outside the batsmen’s tent to get in. That’s quite a positive sign.
We have bowlers who are capable of manipulating the 50 overs to bring success. But I believe for a long time bowlers in one-day cricket have been doing just the secondary role; defending the batsmen’s effort.
India should add variety and depth to its arsenal so that Dravid could dictate terms to the Goliaths of the crease as the battle scenes differ.
The South Africans are here for the five-match series, for of them day-nighters, and I expect Dravid and Chappell to infuse some bold thinking into our bowling.
Young pacer Rudra Pratap Singh has taken wickets and his chances. Sreesanth has showed promise but India still need bowlers with big heart.
The invitation is out. Please join the Team India.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Opinion and the other opinion

Al Jazeera is the biggest and loudest thing that has happened in the Arab media. Hugh Miles, a British journalist, has written Al Jazeera which claims to be the inside story of the Arab news channel that is challenging the West.
Miles has succeeded in his work; a great PR job for the Doha-based TV channel.
Miles says in the acknowledgements section of Al Jazeera that he has never received any payment from Al Jazeera in connection with this book.
If Miles’ book had taken a critical look at Al Jazeera, he would not have attempted to assert his independence as a journalist.
There is no doubt that author’s sympathies lie with Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, definitely, is a big thing in Arab world. It merits a book. The question is does the book Al Jazeera sound like Al Jazeera, the channel?
Al Jazeera has kept its journalism simple. It gives everyone air time. And if it is to spew venom at the US it gives you unlimited hot air.
You can say anything on the channel as long as you haven’t got anything to say on Qatar’s rulers. Sorry, I meant if you haven’t got anything negative to say on Qatar.
Al Jazeera first talks to A, who has an axe to grind against B. A says all sorts of things about B. Then Al Jazeera goes to B, says that A has said all these things about you, what have you to say now? Another round of unbridled opinion.
Al Jazeera, and many of its viewers take this for balanced journalism. As the channel proudly proclaims in their logo, it is the opinion and the other opinion.
It does not hurt Qatar or Al Jazeera but this brand of journalism irritates all involved parties. Hence the all round condemnation of the channel by those who control the levers of power in Arab nations, and also by the United States.
Miles brings attention to the point that it was Al Jazeera who first let the Arab world hear the Israeli point of view through their channel. Much has been made about that. But to rest of the world who are not obsessed with Israel, it matters little.
But Al Jazeera’s USP is that it has proved to be a megaphone for Osama Bin Laden. A star Al Jazeera reporter – Taysir Alluni – is still awaiting trial in Spain for being an active member and recruiter for a Spain-based Al Qaeda cell.
I believe you are free to make your own inferences.
Miles makes much noise about Al Jazeera’s independent mode of journalism. It means letting involved parties to hurl accusations against each other. Miles is reluctant to state that Al Jazeera is owned by Shakih Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who practically owns Qatar.
But on Page 337 of Al Jazeera he admits
“Not one Arab satellite channel, including Al Jazeera could survive without political and financial support either from an Arab government or from a wealthy member of the Arab elite who has close ties to its government.”
So tell me Miles, where is the free speech?
How free, how intrepid is Al Jazeera’s journalism? They can rail against Saudi Arabia, they can rail against the US. But how deep Al Jazeera want to look within, look inside Qatar? Al Jazeera, of course, has to be and is reverential towards Qatar government.
On another front, Miles is all sympathies for the Arabs in the US. They (Arab-Americans) are feeling like second class citizens in the post-9/11 atmosphere. Miles talks about his visit to Detroit to gauge the impact of Al Jazeera’s telecast among the Arabs in the US.
In a chapter called “Watching from the West” Miles writes:
“ Citizenship, I was told, had now been subdivided into grades and Arab-Americans had become something less than full citizens. People had been picked up at bus stops and deported without a trial or even the chance to make a single phone call or collect their belongings from home.”
Sad, indeed.
But I assume as part of his Al Jazeera project, Miles would have spent time in quite a few Arab nations. Did he see any non-Arab faces there? Did they have any tales to tell him? I wonder why didn’t those faces interest him?
Is it because they are the Asian coolies serving the Arab agenda?
Do Asian coolies abroad have any human rights?
Unlike those Arab-Americans, these Asian coolies can’t claim even a hyphen to their status.
They can’t be interesting subjects to journalists like Miles, when there are no petrodollars to oil their agenda.
Certainly there are Miles to go before things can change.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The vanishing smile

Once upon a time Rajkot used to be a land of Kings. Someone in the Indian dressing room might have reminded Yuvraj Singh about the place.
On Wednesday Yuvraj ensured that he will not lose his place in the Team India, with a glittering all-round display.
Young pacer Rudra Pratap Singh took four wickets, but to me the biggest performer of the day was Yuvraj. It was not his unbeaten 79 that mattered most; it was the approach he brought on to the field.
Though Sri Lanka had lost wickets, they were not really struggling. The way Tillakaratne Dilshan batted, he could have turned to naught all the good work done by Indian bowlers. He was scoring run-a-ball, Indian bowling had realized his explosive finishing off abilities at Ahmedabad and now appeared bereft of ideas.
Then came Yuvraj Singh’s direct hit that went swifter than Dilshan to the stumps. Sheer opportunism and athleticism were the factors that terminated the most threatening innings Sri Lankans dared to produce in Rajkot. And the fact that it came from Yuvraj, a young man struggling to regain his batting touch, a man not riding on the highest levels of confidence, tells it all. Such an attitude to survival fits best in the scheme of things of any winning team. And you just imagine Sourav Ganguly coming up with that kind of plebeian effort!
After such a bright, swift, show of his commitment to Team India’s cause runs were bound to come for Yuvraj. That Yuvraj outpaced Mohammad Kaif at the batting crease was not a surprise at all.
Kaif appeared solid; Yuvraj beaming.
The smile and swagger must be vanishing from Sourav Ganguly’s mien.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Yuvraj stays, Maharaj stays outside

Sourav Ganguly must have realised by this time that the door to Indian team does not open if he knocks with his reputation.
National selectors have kept Ganguly sulking again. Selection Committee chairman Kiran More was at his ambiguous best when asked about former Indian skipper’s future.
He wasn't willing to let us know if the selectors had discussed Ganguly's future and added, “Any cricketer can make a comeback and we haven't ruled anyone out.”
It is as candid as your weekly horoscope can get.
Please take note, Mr Bejan Daruwala.
It is not that More did not disrupt the Indian side at all. At Ahmedabad, after burning the midnight oil, More opened the door only to let in Mohammad Kaif and Vikram Rajveer Singh, the rookie fast bowler from Chandigarh.
Now Kaif has proven his form and fitness much after Ganguly did so, in the Duleep Trophy semifinal against West Zone. Kaif managed 54 in Central Zone’s first innings on a terrible track at Aurangabad.
Sunil Gavasakar in his column last week had talked about National Selectors’ double standards. Now as far as the comeback procedure is concerned I can’t spot any double standards by the More-led committee. Selectors have waited, and watched Kaif in action in Duleep Trophy.
If selectors have decided that Kaif’s half-century is better than the century Ganguly scored against North Zone in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal, I can’t quarrel with them.
It’s their prerogative to decide between them. I’m sure, compared to Maharaja, Kaif’s athleticism would have persuaded the selectors to go for the Uttar Pradesh youngster.
And it’s quite obvious that Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell would like to have Kaif’s dynamism rather than contend with Ganguly’s arrogance.
Though India lost Ahmedbad match, the happenings there also went against Ganguly. A glorious innings from Gautam Gambhir makes comeback all the more difficult for Ganguly. When Sachin Tendulkar returns, Dravid must be keen to accommodate the flamboyant Delhi youngster in the middle order in one-dayers. With a fit Kaif back in the fold, skipper has more selection options.
The Ganguly Gang was building their case for a swap between a struggling Yuvraj and the Maharaj. But skipper Dravid has decided to back his players on their bad days. It indeed is an effective of dose Ganguly medicine, to assure the seniors that they will get justice in the New Order.
Now remember Dravid’s words, post-Ahmedabd. “We have a young batting lineup and we need to give them some time and chances.”
Even Venugopala Rao, who has lost his so-called protection, can take heart from Dravid’s words. But not for the Maharaj. Not certainly.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Where are our spinners?

The defeat at Ahmedabad is the best thing that has happened to Team India in recent times. This is a defeat – by five wickets – India can take in its stride and think about the positives of the outcome.
Victories often conceal the cracks and repairmen never arrive on the scene.
India should use the Ahmedabad defeat to rectify its fatal flaws.
India lost because it did not have adequate bowling resources. India missed Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh while defending 285.
And it was such a pity that two brilliant centuries – from Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir, of same value but that came in contrasting styles -- went in vain.
More about Dravid's batting, at another time.
Skipper Rahul Dravid, however, has backed his boys. He did not blame his bowlers but was all praise for the job on the field.
“It's not easy to say what went wrong but I think we were 25-30 runs short. I thought we had a lot of positives form the game - the attitude and the fielding were good and the young boys did a great job.”
Well, it is a great approach from a captain to his teammates in the aftermath of a 'soft defeat'.
Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell were right to make the changes to the squad that played in Ahmedabad. Since series victory has been achieved there was no harm in disrupting the winning combination.
After all, if we did not try out players now, then when?
Of the three changes effected, one clicked while other two may lead to more churning of the bowling options.
Giving Sachin Tendulkar time to breathe did not affect the content of Indian batting. I feel Gautam Gambhir, Tendulkar’s replacement, played a better knock than Mumbai Master tend to play now.
Indian batsmen played out one of their plans to perfection –they denied Muralitharan wickets. But that was little consolation as Gambhir, Rao, Raina and Agarkar perished to super-sub Maharoof who should have been blasted out of the Moetra Stadium on Sunday to give the Indian total an imposing look.
Reining in Sri Lankan batsmen without Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan was tough for stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag. Though India succeeded in prising out the so called Lankan dangermen, they missed the kind of pressure tactics Harbhajan could have applied in the middle overs.
It also brings in the big question. Where are our spinners?
Those who know the answer should contact Dravid immediately.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Future..It is very exciting!

It wasn't easy.
It took effort. It took team effort.
Very rarely has India outclassed its rivals in a one-day international series in such a convincing manner. A new captain, a new order. And world's second best one-day team.
The manner in which Rahul Dravid has led India to an unassailable 4-0 lead is impressive to say the least.
Skipper Dravid's words during the presentation ceremony shall set aside the worries of many a doubting Thomas. "That (Dhoni's innings) was simply brilliant. In the last two games in Dhoni, Venugopala Rao and Raina we have seen the future of Indian batting. It is very exciting." Indeed! May not be, for a few.
Pune was the toughest Test Sri Lanka put India through so far in this One-day series for the Videocon Cup.
Winning the Pune match was vital for Sri Lanka to keep the seven-match series alive. This was supposed to be the turning point of the series.
In sharp contrast from the first three matches, Indian batting was asked some searching questions, first by pacers Chaminda Vaas and Ranjit Fernando. As Muttaiah Muralitharan gleefully applied the brakes on Indian chase, suddenly 261 looked a tantalizing score.
The early loss of Tendulkar and a sedate Virender Sehwag were not the things Indian management was looking for. The usual No-3 experiment did not work either as Yuvraj Singh perished in his attempt to quicken the chase.
Time had come for Dravid to lead from the front. Pressure was building and captain had to build his side's innings. He did an admirable job by putting India on the right track.
Yet neither Dravid nor Venugopala Rao could finish off the chase on their own.
How lucky that eventually proved for the Indian team. Crisis situations provide the stage for the unsung to have their say.
At Pune, Rao and Raina grabbed their chances. The ease and élan with which Raina and Mahendra Dhoni scripted the win augur well for India.
Dhoni showed he can read the game and play accordingly. Here was Mr Sixer urging Raina to steal singles and keep the scoreboard moving. Such a long distance from Jaipur to Pune!
Many were convinced that the young man at the crease with flowing mane was Dhoni only when he hit Russel Arnold for two consecutive sixes in the 46th over, to seal the win.
Victory has many facets, victors have many faces.

An SMS to Mr Ganguly

I'm just curious.
What was Sourav Ganguly doing when India played Sri Lanka in Pune on Thursday?
For that matter, what what was he doing when India played Sri Lanka at Nagpur, Mohali and Jaipur?
Was the former Indian skipper watching the match on TV? I wish he was. Because more than anyone in India -- there, I include both Rahul Dravid and GregChappell -- Ganguly has reasons to be interested in what happens out there in the middle when Indians are sweating it out.
The shape of former Indian captain's future depends on how good or how bad India performs. So Ganguly, definitely, is a party keenly interested in the proceedings. Living through these four days, away from the Indian dressing room, would have been more harrowing to Ganguly than facing up to some of the fastest bowlers in world cricket. Against bowlers he could have walked away to square leg.
Now there are no such luxuries. At its best he could switch TV channels. India, the Team India that is, did not miss Ganguly at all. I have no reasons to believe that even his thickest buddy in the dressing room - Harbhajan Singh -- would have missed his former skipper.
A lot has happened in these four match days.
The so-called weakest links in a performing -let me put it winning -team proved too strong against Sri Lankan assault in Pune.Venugopala Rao, whom Ganguly was desperate to ease out, came good on the right time.
I hope Sunil Gavaskar did watch Venugopala bat out there.
So did the left-hander Suresh Raina, who displayed his mettle, in a very crucial juncture.
For Ganguly to sneak back into the Indian team now seems a tall order. But he is a brave man.
I know. But does he really have the courage to ring up Rahul Dravid and tell him "Rahul, you have done a fabulous job. Indian cricket will be safe in your hands. All of you have performed so well so that I don't think Indian cricket needs me any longer. I wish all the best for you guys."
I have just sent an SMS to Ganguly.
I have wished Ganguly all the best for his future.
I wish he does the same to Rahul Dravid and his colleagues.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Thus wrote Sunil Gavaskar

When Sunil Manohar Gavaskar talks about double standards, one should listen.
Former Indian cricket captain, who thought it fit to keep quiet when Shiv Sena hoodlums ransacked the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s office in Mumbai in 1990s, preaches about double standards!
I reckon SMG as one of the finest batsman India has produced. I think SMG is a much better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar.
Gavaskar, though he hasn’t entered politics, remains an ace manipulator of men and media. He knows pretty well where is the epicenter of power in Indian cricket. He only wants a slice of it in the form of a few committees. A small man with a smaller agenda.
So I wasn’t surprised when he wrote in his syndicated column about National selection committee’s double standards. SMG is well qualified to talk about double standards, indeed.
His problem is Venugopala Rao.
Let me quote from SMG’s column that Hindustan Times’ New Delhi edition carried. “The start that the openers gave meant (in Mohali) the time was ripe for Venugopala Rao to be given a promotion, for there was no pressure and to be able to bat along with little champion would be a great learning experience. Instead, it was JP Yadav who was sacrificed, and at this rate it looks Rao will make it to the 2007 World Cup without batting for India, for he seems a protected specie.
“The form he showed in the Challenger means he (Rao) does not need the protection, but it may have been the worry that if he failed then there could be a case for a change in the team. The selectors have decided not to change a winning combination, but would they have done that if Kaif had been declared fit?”
Now we know. SMG’s problem is not Rao but Sourav Ganguly.
Had Rao failed at No.3 slot in the first two one-dayers, Gavaskar could have advocated Ganguly’s cause. Gavaskar, rightly or wrongly feels, Rao gets protection.
First, he says batting along with Tendulkar would have been a great learning experience for Rao at No.3. But if that is really the case, why does SMG write that JP Yadav was sacrificed at no. 3? What then about the learning experience? Should we leave JP Yadav uneducated?
SMG, with all his experience, should have known that national selectors don’t play dice with batting order. It is clear that captain and coach, in this instance, Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell, push the men up and down. That’s their prerogative.
Venugopala Rao is protected by Dravid and Chappell. Why doesn’t SMG say it so? Say it. Say it loud.
If you believe in the cause you want to espouse, you will have the guts to say it so.
It is safe to rail against National selectors who remain faceless to the large number of Indian cricket fans. There are five of them and SMG can always say I didn’t mean you. Not so if you train your guns at Dravid and Chappell. SMG jumps his gun in Mohammad Kaif’s case. He brings in the quite useful ‘if’ to buttress his point there. If Kaif had been declared fit. Let’s wait for him to regain the fitness.
Why the hurry? A man who waited throughout his cricket career for the suitable ball, can’t wait for Kaif to regain fitness?
Is there any crisis in the team?
It is SMG’s prerogative, if he thinks so, to bat for his friends. May be Sourav Ganguly is SMG’s friend.
I just wanted to add that when Rohan Gavaskar could not find a place in the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad it was Cricket Association of Bengal who opened the doors for SMG’s son. Ganguly and Dalmiya even made room at the top for Gavaskar junior in the ODIs. Well, how can I blame Gavaskar, if he decides to bat for his friends in their hour of distress?
To their credit, Dravid and Chappell seem to have ignored SMG’s barbs. They apparently read SMG’s outpouring of grief and worsened it by protecting Rao at Jaipur too.
Gavaskar should advise Ganguly and Rohan to drink more milk.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well begun, half done

The best troops are the winning ones, said Napoleon.
If someone had told Indian skipper Rahul Dravid about the French emperor's comment he would have no choice but to agree at the moment.
Seizing a 3-0 lead in a seven-match one-day international series is no joke. That too, when you are just starting out as the leader of the side. That too, when you know that Establishment is just waiting for its chance to pounce on you.
No doubt if India has excelled against Sri Lanka, the credit goes to the team. Captain played his role, but so are others. To pretend otherwise would be acting as the Maharaj.
Jaipur was indeed a close encounter.
If not for Dhoni's promotion and the eventual success, things would have gone Sri Lanka’s way. In hindsight, Tendulkar's first over dismissal proved to be a blessing in disguise for India as well as for Dhoni. But then the credit for pushing Dhoni into No.3 goes to skipper Dravid.
In the first three matches we have had three different No.3s. Pathan and Dhoni proved to be resounding successes. JP Yadav will have his day , may be another time.
But there were moments of exasperation on the field for India when Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene held the whip.
In the coming days, Dravid will have to do much more than mere No.3 experiments.
But the key is, the spirit. The spirit to ask fresh questions and look for answers all the time. To India’s credit, Dravid and Chappell are doing just that.

Dhoni proves Charles Darwin right

Another match, another win.
Except that Mahendra Singh Dhoni played an innings of a lifetime.
Dhoni's ability to smack the bowlers around was never in doubt. That was evident when he hit 148 against Pakistan in April, 2005, at Visakhapatanam to script the Indian win.
But that he can go beyond what Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist and Sachin Tendulkar has done in international cricket, was a revelation.
Dhoni, it seems, can hit far into 2007.
After the deed has been done, it looks awfully simple. Dhoni just couldn't get a single hit wrong in Jaipur. A chanceless innings.
Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, the man who promoted the wicketkeeper to No. 3 slot, said it all. "Anyone who watched this game on television has been privileged to see one of the great one-day innings of our time. Words can't describe what a great innings that was."
Dravid had decided, as the skipper himself admitted after the match, to field Dhoni as No. 3 on Sunday morning.
He could only plan. Dravid and Greg Chappell could not have visualised the theatre that awaited Dhoni in Jaipur.
On Monday afternoon, the Indian No. 3 had to transform himself into an opener. Dhoni had to walk in earlier than usual as India lost Tendulkar in the first over itself. It was not the easiest of situations. India had to score run-a-ball to beat Sri Lanka. Dhoni had kept wickets in the first half of the match and here he was opening the Indian batting.
Yet Dhoni lived up to the challenge. He carried the bat through the Indian innings. He moulded and delivered India's victory when Sri Lankans gave them a teasing total.
Dhoni proves Charles Darwin right.
Indian batsmen have evolved over the years. The pressures of batting crease have made Indians fine-tune their aggressive instincts. So in the beginning we had a Mushtaq Ali, then we had Krishnamachari Srikkanth.
Sachin Tendulkar came along in the early 90s. A more explosive version you got in Virender Sehwag. Now you have Dhoni.
I'm sure Indians will invent more belligerent versions soon. Already boys at Indian homes will be demanding more. More milk, rather than Pepsi.
The race is well and truly on to become the first man to crack the double century in one-day internationals.
John Cheeran at Blogged