Sunday, December 31, 2006

Welcome 2007, happy new year!

By John Cheeran
A day ends, another begins.
Another year, but the usual men, women and children.
Make it a better world in 2007.
Happy New Year to all of you, including Sourav Ganguly!

Durban: Chronicle of a defeat

From Durban
Makhaya Ntini bowled South Africa to victory in the second test against India on Saturday.
South Africa won by 174 runs to level the series at 1-1 with one match left to play.
Fast bowler Ntini took five for 48 to help dismiss India, who needed 354 to win, for 179 in the seventh over after tea on the fifth day.
South Africa were dismissed for 328 in their first innings, to which India replied with 240.
South Africa declared their second innings closed on 265 for eight.
Bad light delayed the start of play by 55 minutes and allowed just 4.3 overs to be bowled before lunch.
Ntini made good use of his limited opportunity in the morning, however, when he claimed two wickets for one run in the 15 deliveries he bowled before bad light ended the session.
Ntini struck with the fifth ball of the day's play by trapping Sachin Tendulkar in front for a seven-ball duck with a delivery that would have hit the top of middle stump.
Nine balls later Wasim Jaffer, who batted patiently for his 28, attempted to pull a short delivery from Ntini and top-edged a catch to Andre Nel at mid-on.
Sourav Ganguly was dismissed for 26 in the 10th over after lunch when he steered a delivery from Ntini to Herschelle Gibbs in the gully.
Fast bowler Andre Nel reduced India to 85 for six when he speared VVS Laxman's guard to bowl him for 15.
Anil Kumble, who scored 11, was undone by a bouncer from medium pacer Andrew Hall that he fended to Hashim Amla at short leg.
Mahendra Dhoni and Zaheer Khan slowed South Africa's progress with a defiant stand of 59 for the eighth wicket.
India might have slipped to 132 for eight but Gibbs at fourth slip dropped a catch offered by Zaheer Khan on eight off a no-ball from fast bowler Morne Morkel.
Nel ended the partnership two balls before tea when Dhoni, who hit 10 fours in his 47, flashed outside his off-stump and was well caught by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher diving in front of first slip.
Khan, who scored 21, became Nel's third victim by edging to Hall at third slip in the sixth over after tea.
The match ended two balls later when Shanta Sreesanth was given out caught behind by Boucher off Hall for 10.
Nel took three for 57.
India won the first test in the three-match series by 123 runs in Johannesburg.
The third test starts in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Scoreboard in Durban, South Africa
South Africa 1st innings 328 (A. Prince 121, H. Gibbs 63, M. Boucher 53; S. Sreesanth 4-109)
India 1st innings 240 (S. Tendulkar 63, V. Laxman 50no)
South Africa 2nd innings 265 for 8 (S. Pollock 63no, G. Smith 59; S. Sreesanth 4-80)
India 2nd innings (Overnight: 38-2; Target: 354 runs)
W. Jaffer c Nel b Ntini 28
V. Sehwag c Smith b Ntini 8
R. Dravid c Boucher b Ntini 5
S. Tendulkar lbw b Ntini 0
V. Laxman b Nel 15
S. Ganguly c Gibbs b Ntini 26
M. Dhoni c Boucher b Nel 47
A. Kumble c Amla b Hall 11
Z. Khan c Hall b Nel 21
S. Sreesanth c Boucher b Hall 10
V. Singh not out 0
Extras (b-2 lb-1 nb-4 w-1) 8
Total (all out, 55.1 overs) 179
Fall of wickets: 1-14 2-34 3-38 4-45 5-83 6-85 7-101 8-160 9-179 10-179
Bowling A. Nel 16 - 4 - 57 - 3 M. Ntini 19 - 6 - 48 - 5 S. Pollock 9 - 4 - 21 - 0 M. Morkel 6 - 0 - 24 - 0 (nb-3 w-1) A. Hall 5.1 - 1 - 26 - 2
Result: South Africa won by 174 runs

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dream is over: South Africa beat India by 174 runs

By John Cheeran
Yes, it is back to Down Town defeat in Durban for skipper Rahul Dravid and India.
India lost the second Test in Durban by a huge margin -174 runs to let SouthAfrica level the three-Test series 1-1. It is disappointing that Indians have wasted a great opportunity to win the Test series in South Africa through some inept batting from their experienced batsmen.
Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly all failed to occupy the crease during the last four sessions. It took the gutsy effort from Mahendra Singh Dhoni (47 with 10 boundaries) and Zaheer Khan to delay the inevitable on the final day.
Not only the frontline batsmen let India down so did the weather. There was no rain that could have washed off the proceedings in India's favour.
Instead cloudy weather helped South African fast bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel as they swung the ball around the Indian bats.
Now what happens to the school of experience? If our experienced batting line-up (yes, including Dravid) cannot play out time in a critical situation they are not worth much.
Had the team management been bold enough to drop wanton Sehwag and played Irfan Pathan as a batsman things would have been better. A conservative approach of not disturbing the winning combination, championed by the that wooly Chairman of national selectors Dilip Vengsarkar, meant that India were burdened with Sehwag for Durban.
It is high time gallows are readied for the dazzler from Delhi as it was done in Baghdad, for another bully, Saddam Hussain.
Well, South Africa and Graeme Smith deserve their success though it has to be mentioned that they were hugely benefited from the outrageous decisions by Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf. Indian skipper Dravid was given out in both innings (first innings lbw, second innings caught behind) which had a remarkable unbalancing effect on the way the Indian innings shaped up. Dravid's absence spelled disaster for India. In the second innings Tendulkar too got a highly debatable lbw verdict from Rauf.
And with light fast receding, the caught behind decision against Sreesanth, again by Rauf beggared belief.
There should have been no ambiguity when the ball bounced off Sreesanth's right shoulder.
Such stupid decisions from any umpire should enrage Indian cricketers and their supporters. Coming from a Pakistani it makes a bitter pill to swallow.

For the record: Day four in Durban

From Durban
Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini struck twice before bad light took another huge chunk out of play on the fourth day of the second Test between South Africa and India at Kingsmead on Friday.
India were 38 for two after being set to make 354 to win.
Ntini dismissed Virender Sehwag before tea and then claimed the key wicket of Indian captain Rahul Dravid after the interval, just eight balls before play was called off early for the fourth successive day, with 35 overs still due to be bowled.
Dravid, the victim of a dubious lbw decision in the first innings, appeared to be unlucky again. He was drawn forward by Ntini and was given out by umpire Asad Rauf, although replays suggested his bat had made contact with his pad and not the ball.
South Africa's declaration left India, leading the three-match series 1-0, with a nominal 146 overs to make the runs or keep out the bowlers but given the weather pattern it seems unlikely that a full day'splay will be possible on the final day Saturday, when 98 overs are scheduled to be bowled.
It was the fourth successive day on which bad light cut significantly into playing time. A total of 102 overs have already been lost -more than have been required for any of the three innings so far. More cloudy weather is predicted for Saturday with possible showers.
Needing a win to have a chance of taking the series, South Africa batted aggressively despite losing six wickets for 44 runs at one stage before lunch. Shaun Pollock made a stroke-filled 63 not out to enable South Africa to declare their second inningsat 265 for eight.
Pollock shared quick-scoring half-century stands with AndrewHall and Morne Morkel as South Africa recovered from a top order collapse. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, India's exciting young fast bowler, took three of thewickets as South Africa collapsed from 99 for no wicket to 143 for six.
Sreesanth finished with four for 79, taking his tally for the series to 16. VRV Singh made the first breakthrough, dismissing AB de Villiers for 47, before Sreesanth, 23, took three wickets in eight balls to plunge the home team into trouble.
One of Sreesanth's victims was South African captain Graeme Smith, who emerged from a batting slump to make 58. Smith made his runs off 81 balls andhit 11 fours before trying to whip a straight ball through the leg side and having his off stump knocked back. But Pollock regained the initiative for South Africa in a 99-ball innings which included 10 fours.
Hall (21) helped him put on 70 in 68 minutes for the seventh wicket before Morkel (27) shared in a52-run stand in 50 minutes for the eighth wicket. The floodlights were turned on soon after India started their second innings. Both Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer edged balls which fell short of the slip cordon and Sehwag edged one for four atcatchable height through a vacant fourth slip, only to be caught off the nextball when he played forward defensively.
Dravid edged Andre Nel just short ofAndrew Hall at third slip before he had scored. But his luck ran out in thefourth over after the interval when he was given out. Replays suggested the ball had passed close to his bat without actually making contact. Jaffer, showing his best form of the tour, batted soundly to reach 22 not out.
Ntini took two for 14.
Scoreboard South Africa 1st innings 328
(A. Prince 121, H. Gibbs63, M. Boucher 53; S. Sreesanth 4-109)
India 1st innings 240 (S. Tendulkar 63,V. Laxman 50no)
South Africa 2nd innings 265 for 8
(S. Pollock 63no, G. Smith59; S. Sreesanth 4-80)
India 2nd innings
(Target: 354 runs)
W. Jaffer not out22 V. Sehwag c Smith b Ntini 8 R. Dravid c Boucher b Ntini 5 S. Tendulkar notout 0 Extras (b-2 lb-1) 3 Total (for 2 wickets, 13 overs) 38Fall of wickets:1-14 2-34To bat: V. Laxman, S. Ganguly, M. Dhoni, A. Kumble, Z. Khan, S.Sreesanth , V. Singh Bowling A. Nel 5 - 1 - 17 - 0 M. Ntini 6 - 2 - 14 - 2S. Pollock 2 - 1 - 4 - 0 8 R. Dravid c Boucher b Ntini 5 S. Tendulkar notout 0 Extras (b-2 lb-1) 3 Total (for 2 wickets, 13 overs) 38 Fall of wickets:1-14 2-34 To bat: V. Laxman, S. Ganguly, M. Dhoni, A. Kumble, Z. Khan, S.Sreesanth , V. Singh Bowling A. Nel 5 - 1 - 17 - 0 M. Ntini 6 - 2 - 14 -2 S. Pollock 2 - 1 - 4 - 0 2 - 1 - 4 - 0

A prayer for a rain of runs in Durban

By John Cheeran
Saturday is going to be en extremely worrying day for India.
Graeme Smith has given them a target of 354 to win the second Test at Kingsmead, Durban. They have already lost that listless opener Virender Sehwag and skipper RahulDravid.
It has to be said that Dravid was given caught behind off the bowling off Mkhaya Ntini by Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, a stupid decision at its best.
Dravid's innings was cut short at 5, and he was given out lbw in the first innings for 11, another dodgy decision by the same umpire, if I remember the events correct. Dravid's ill luck twice over has put India under tremendous pressure at Kingsmead.
The AFP report says thus on Dravid dismissal. "Dravid, the victim of a dubious lbw decision in the first innings, appeared to be unlucky again. He was drawn forward by Ntini and was given out by umpire Asad Rauf, although replays suggested his bat had made contact with his pad and not the ball."
The lone bright spot in the Indian second innings so far is opener Wasim Jaffer's grit and gumption.
And among all other things it is important to discuss weather.
The fourth day's play was cut short and it can be said that South Africa is the biggest gainer from that development. With 98 overs possible on the final day India still need 316 runs to win the Test.
India do not have enough overs now to go for runs. Victory is pretty much out of the cards, having lost skipper Dravid and given the hostile SouthAfrican bowling.
Let's face it, from now on there can be only winner, and that is South Africa.
But the lost time should make India's vision much clearer. They should not be nursing any hopes of victory and it will be suicidal to go for runs at any cost at this juncture. Indian batsmen should focus on frustrating South African bowlers by denying them wickets. Dravid's presence would have helped India a great deal for such a task and except VVS Laxman, rest of the batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, are unfortunately not up to the challenge of keeping vigil at the crease.
It is in such a scenario that weather forecast attains importance.
Cloudy weather is predicted for the final day and South African fast bowlers should relish such a prospect. With aerodynamics coming into full play, it will be a tough task for the Indian batting to guard their wickets.
In such circumstances Dravid's best ally should be rain, if not Sourav Ganguly.

Friday, December 29, 2006

For the record: Day 3 in Durban

From Durban
Opners AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith shared an unbroken half-century stand to increase South Africa's lead on the third day of the second Test against India on Thursday.
South Africa were 64 without loss in their second innings, a lead of 152 runs, when bad light ended play 30.3 overs early.
De Villiers was 31 not out with Smith on 28.
India were dismissed for 240 in reply to South Africa's first innings of 328.
Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman resumed on 103 for three and took their partnership to 64 before Tendulkar attempted to cut an angled, short delivery from fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and was caught behind by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
Tendulkar, who was dropped on 21 on Wednesday, hit 11 fours in his 63, India's top score.
Three balls later Sourav Ganguly fended a rising, short delivery from Ntini to Herschelle Gibbs in the gully to be dismissed without scoring
Debutant fast bowler Morne Morkel took his first test wicket when Mahendra Dhoni, who scored 34, edged a drive to AB de Villiers at second slip.
The dismissal ended a steadying partnership of 54 that Dhoni shared with Laxman.
Morkel claimed his second victim in his next over when Anil Kumble drove wildly and was caught behind by Boucher for nought.
Zaheer Khan skyed what became the last ball before lunch, bowled by Morkel, to Hashim Amla at short leg to be dismissed for two.
Free-scoring number 10 Shanta Sreesanth helped Laxman add 52 runs in fluent style for the ninth wicket.
Medium pacer Andrew Hall ended the partnership when Sreesanth, whose 28 included five fours, swung across the line and edged a catch to Boucher.
The innings was over an hour after lunch when medium pacer Shaun Pollock had Vikram Singh caught behind for four.
Laxman batted for almost three hours for his unbeaten 50, which he scored off 156 balls with just three fours.
Ntini took three for 41 while Morkel claimed three for 86.
De Villiers and Smith were able to score comfortably on a sound pitch, although De Villiers was fortunate to survive after edging a rising delivery from medium pacer Singh just over the slip cordon when he was 25 not out.
Umpire Mark Benson left the field in the fifth over of the day's play because of heart palpitations, Cricket South Africa media liaison officer Gordon Templeton told reporters.
Templeton said Benson was taken to hospital and his condition would be monitored overnight. Benson was replaced on the field by third umpire Ian Howell.

Plot gets thicker in Durban

By John Cheeran
South Africa definitely has the advantage over India in this Test. But they need to do lot of hard work if they are to defeat India in Durban.
India, despite VVS Laxman's marathon innings of an unbeaten 50 could not quite close in on South African first innings. In the end, it is a achievement of sorts that India managed 240 in their first innings with 28 invaluable runs coming from the Kerala pace sensation S Sreesanth.
I have been hoping for percentage play from Indian batsmen but they failed to do that. Sachin Tendulkar having proved that he is in form, beat a hasty retreat.
Knowing Sourav Ganguly very well over the years, I'm not at all disappointed that the Bengal Tiger was defanged in the space of a mere two balls.
It is a pity that five of the Indian batsmen (Virender Sehwag 0, Sourav Ganguly 0, Anil Kumble 0, Zaheer Khan 2 and VRV Singh 4) could not even score five runs in the first innings. How do you then overhaul South African total 328?VVS Laxman might have had a strategy worked out for the first innings. His role was to occupy the crease and remaining unbeaten on 50 he succeeded in it. Rest of the side was supposed to go for the runs.
Except in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's and Sreesanth's case the ploy did not succeed.
Cricket is as much about weather as it is about runs and wickets. When India resumed their first innings on Thursday morning in Durban overcast conditions made batting an arduous task.
South African skipper Graeme Smith was looking for a much bigger lead than the 88-runs India eventually conceded. And with the hosts requiring quick runs to put pressure on Indian batsmen the lack of light has come as divine intervention at Durban.
This Test is now about next two days only.
Time would be a crucial player in the next two days. South Africa already have a gross lead of 152 runs and 10 second innings wickets in their hand. They need minimum 150 runs to give India a fourth innings target of 300 runs.
A lot will depend on how fast they can declare their intent. It is very important they have the force with them and it has showed they way they have gone about their second innings.
The next 180 overs will be a test of character for Indian bowlers as well as batsmen. Sreesanth and Zaheer should strike killer blows to take out the momentum from the South African second innings which will give Indian batsmen a chance to hunt down the runs needed for a win or play out the time for a draw.
Much different in substance compared to the first Test in Johannesburg, Durban is going to be thriller that is going to keep you and me on the edge of our seats.
Enjoy the cricket.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

For the record: Day 2 in Durban

From Durban
South Africa missed an opportunity to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar and take control of the second test against India on the second day on Wednesday.
When bad light ended play 34.2 overs early, India were 103 for three in reply to South Africa's first innings of 328, which had been anchored by Ashwell Prince's 121.
At the premature close, Tendulkar was 46 not out with Vangipurappu Laxman on 10 in an unbroken partnership of 42.
South Africa squandered a chance to dismiss Tendulkar for 21 when medium pacer Andrew Hall found the outside edge of the Indian stalwart's bat. South Africa captain Graeme Smith at first slip dropped what should have been a regulation catch.
South Africa resumed on 257 for eight, and Prince, who was 98 not out, reached his century in the third over of the day when he drove Shanta Sreesanth through the covers for four.
Prince and debutant Morne Morkel added 39 for the ninth wicket before Sreesanth had Prince smartly caught by Vangipurappu Laxman at second slip, reaching above his head to take the catch.
The patient Prince, who took guard after South Africa were reduced to 28 for three on Tuesday, was ninth out after batting for five hours during which he faced 212 balls and hit 16 fours.
Morkel, who scored a polished unbeaten 31, and Makhaya Ntini shared another 32 runs in a useful partnership for the last wicket.
Leg spinner Anil Kumble ended the innings when he trapped Ntini in front for 16. Sreesanth took four for 109 while Kumble claimed three for 62.
Fast bowler Andre Nel struck with the fifth ball of India's reply when Virender Sehwag edged a drive to second slip, where AB de Villiers dived backward and to his right to take a spectacular catch. Sehwag had faced just the one ball and Iindia had only five runs on the board.
Opener Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid were separated in the third over after lunch, when Nel trapped Dravid in front for 11.
India were 61 for three an hour later when fast bowler Ntini had Jaffer caught by De Villiers at second slip for 26.

Runs to score for India

By John Cheeran
There are miles to go but India certainly is keeping the fight alive in the Durban Test.
It is gritty percentage game out there at the wicket. With Sachin Tendulkar showing the resolve for a big innings (unbeaten on 46) India should match SouthAfrica in the first innings.
It is not easy, but it is very much possible for India to bolster their first innings which will ensure a draw at Durban. The first priority for Indian batsmen is to ensure that we do not lose this Test from now on.
The bad light interruptions should frustrate South African bowlers more than the Indian batsmen.
Skipper Rahul Dravid again fell for a low score but the lbw decision that went against him should be taken with a pinch of salt. Conversely, Tendulkar was extremely lucky to be dropped by South African skipper Graeme Smith in the first slip. All these are part of the long-drawn out war of attrition.
Dravid will definitely get his chance to redeem himself soon.
As I have been stressing, more than a scintillating knock or two, what India require in Durban and Cape Town will be percentage game from everyone who can hold a bat.
And Virender Sehwag failed to do just that when he was out for the very first ball he faced.
It is a pity that team management has decided to sent home IrfanPathan, who has had an excellent run with the bat, instead of a man who refuses to learn from his repeated failures. If Sehwag is fit for hangman's noose, Wasim Jaffer gamely tried to live up to the opener's role.
He again fell short of his responsibility but lasted 79 balls in the Indian innings, an achievement of sorts if you consider the immediate history of Indian batting in South Africa.
If the next five batsmen in the Indian dressing room can each hammer 30-odd runs, overcoming the South African innings should be within India's reach.
And if that happens pressure will be on South Africa to score quick runs in their second innings which will give Indian fast bowlers Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan an ideal opportunity to rip their rivals apart.
May be I'm thinking far ahead.
Let's wait and watch how Indian first innings unfold in the middle.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

For the record: Day one at Durban

From Durban
An unbeaten 98 from Ashwell Prince helped South Africa post 257 for eight after the first day of the second Test against India on Tuesday.
Prince, who came to the crease after South Africa had been reduced to 28 for three, batted for four-and-a-half hours before play was halted for the day 17 overs early due to bad light.
India wasted a chance to dismiss Prince for 41 when a delivery from medium pacer Vikram Singh was edged to first slip but Sachin Tendulkar spilled the chance.
Tendulkar injured his hand in attempting to take the catch, and was taken to hospital for x-rays. He remained off the field for the rest of the day.
Left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan struck in the third over of the match when Graeme Smith, who scored five, top edged a pull shot and fell to a well judged catch by Tendulkar running back from first slip.
Hashim Amla became Khan's next victim when he was trapped in front for one, and South Africa lost their third wicket when AB de Villiers edged a drive off fast bowler Shanta Sreesanth to Tendulkar at first slip to be dismissed for nine.
Herschelle Gibbs and Prince consolidated in a partnership of 94 that lasted until an hour after lunch.
Sreesanth ended the stand when an increasingly aggressive Gibbs, who hit 13 fours in his 63, slashed at a short delivery and was spectacularly caught behind by wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni, who dived full length to take the catch in front of first slip.
Mark Boucher and Prince took South Africa to the 13th over after tea, when Sreesanth sent two of Boucher's stumps cartwheeling.
Boucher's 53 was part of a fifth-wicket stand of 100 he shared with Prince in which the runs flowed faster than at any other stage of the day's play.
Shaun Pollock scored 11 before cutting hard at a delivery from Singh and being smartly caught by Virender Sehwag at point in the over before the enforced close.
Five balls later a googly by Kumble dismissed Andrew Hall leg-before for a duck.
Three balls after that Kumble bowled Andre Nel with a top-spinner, also for nought.
Debutant Morne Morkel, who was not out on nought, faced one ball before the players left the field.
South Africa suffered a setback before the start when key allrounder Jacques Kallis was ruled out with a painful back. Kallis was replaced by allrounder Andrew Hall.
India retained the team that won the first test by 123 runs to record India's first test win in South Africa.

Indian hopes on slow burn in Durban

By John Cheeran
An interesting battle is going on at the middle in Durban.
India could take heart from the fact that they have succeeded in putting South Africans on the back foot on the first day of the second Test.
After winning the toss, South African skipper Graeme Smith has adopted a defensive approach by opting to bat first. This is, hardly, their celebrated 'brave cricket'.
It only goes to show that even brave men must go hiding when things go out of hand.
Indian fast bowlers Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan struck early again. It is Ashwell Prince who has remained defiant on the crease, the very same prince who delayed the Indian win at the Wanderers.
South African innings was bolstered by significant contributions coming from Prince, Lance Gibbs and Mark Boucher. These three cracked half-centuries but others failed abjectly.
And it will not be easy when the Indian batsmen put on their pads tomorrow.
Captain Rahul Dravid would do well to remember that good teams win Test matches by the strength of their first innings batting. If you take correct steps in the first innings, it is then difficult to go wrong.
And for that to happen, the Indian first innings should take a different path from South Africa's. Instead of waiting for someone else to play the big innings and shore up the side, each one should come up with scores that can be described as decent.
Contributions in the range of 30-40 runs should be the minimum the lean-patchers such as Wasim Jaffer should offer to the collective kitty.
For Jaffer, this is turning out to be a make-or-break series.
Even the policy of perseverance has its end of tether, and the case of Irfan Pathan should be a pointer for Jaffer.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Life begins all over again for India at Durban

From Durban
Pacee Munaf Patel is likely to win back his place in the India team for the second Test against South Africa in Durban on Tuesday after recovering from an ankle injury.
Patel missed the last three one-day internationals and the first test in Johannesburg after injuring his ankle in the second one-dayer in Durban on Nov. 23.
He bowled in a match for the first time since hurting his ankle in a drawn two-day practice game against a KwaZulu-Natal Invitation XI in Durban on Saturday, taking two for 25 from eight overs.
India coach Greg Chappell said he had been heartened by Patel's performance.
"He's one of our top bowlers, so if he's fit he'll play," Chappell said.
"He seems to have pulled up all right today (Sunday), so it looks promising."
India will also consider selecting Gautam Gambhir to strengthen their top order.
Gambhir was not in the team who won the first test by 123 runs in Johannesburg last Monday, India's first test win in South Africa.
But after top-scoring with 79 in the practice match, Gambhir seems an appropriate replacement for the struggling Wasim Jaffer.
South Africa beat India by 157 runs in the one-day international in Durban on their way to a convincing 4-0 series triumph.
But India turned the tables dramatically with their win in Johannesburg and another victory in Durban would hand South Africa a third home series defeat in as many seasons following losses to England and Australia.
South African captain Graeme Smith acknowledged his team were feeling the heat.
"Our performance at home is something we really pride ourselves on, so not performing in a home test match is always going to create pressure," Smith told a news conference.
"The public are quite demanding, which shows that they care. They want results."
Smith said he wanted an improved performance from spearhead Makhaya Ntini, who looked lacklustre in the first test despite taking six wickets.
"He (Ntini) would probably say that he wasn't at his best at the Wanderers," Smith said. "He's also a guy who needs to bowl a lot, and in one-day cricket he doesn't really get overs under his belt
But towards the end of our bowling in Johannesburg he was starting to hit his straps.
"He's a professional and he's come back from an ordinary test match a few times, and there's no doubt in my mind that he will bounce back."
Smith said South Africa were likely to replace Herschelle Gibbs with AB de Villiers at the top of their batting order with Gibbs moving to number six.
Teams (from):
South Africa - Graeme Smith (captain), Paul Adams, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn.
India - Rahul Dravid (captain), Mahendra Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Vikram Singh, Shanta Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas...Santa Claus lives for ever....

Editor's note: Here I reproduce what is considered as one of the best editorials ever written.....
By Francis Church in New York Sun 1897
Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.
All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a SantaClaus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!
It would be asdreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You mightas well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?
Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairiesdancing on the lawn?
Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.
Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.
Is it all real?
Ah,Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No SantaClaus?
Thank God he lives and lives forever.
A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Low life, high life!

By John Cheeran
It cannot be simply serendipity that two Dalits who have been elevated to Indian Republic's highest chairs come from that tiny southern state Kerala.
K.R. Narayanan became India's first Dalit President. Now Justice K. G. Balakrishnan is set to become India's first Dalit Supreme Court Chief Justice.
May be something has got to do with Kerala's social environment that helps the lower strata to move forward with dignity.
Human interventions were, indeed, needed to arrive at this happy state of affairs and Communists to Christian missionaries to enlightened Maharajas all had played their roles in making education available to all sections of the society in Kerala.
It is often asked in such instances as this, why the fact that Narayanan and Balakrishnan are Dalits need to be brought up and highlighted.
Why can't we just say Narayanan and Balakrishnan achieved their exalted status just being themselves, and just based on their competency. Why bring up the point that they are Dalits?I remember K.R. Narayanan telling a few months prior to his death in an interview to Rajiv Mehrotra that when he visited France as Indian President, the newspaper Le Figaro reported his visit with a front page headline "An Untouchable in Elysee Palace."
This is quite like Lady Macbeth complaining that not all perfumes of Arabia can sweeten her little hand.
I, for one, believe none should be ashamed of being born low. And I'm against reservations based on caste and religion.
If you can exploit the system, by accepting what it offers, then one should not have any quibble with being what you are. The fact that Dalits can occupy high chairs in India should act as inspiration for India's millions of benighted Dalits.
They should be at least free to think without fear and take what the system offers.
It is really interesting to know how street smart Gopinathan, father of India's new Supreme Court Chief Justice, K. G. Balakrishnan, was in exploiting the opportunities he had during his time.
India's Supreme Court Chief Justice's father embraced Christianity and became Joseph so that he will not be denied entry to schools and colleges.
In the Kerala of those times, the low-born, were denied access to education.
Balakrishnan's father abandoned Hinduism so that he can learn. After studies and getting a government job, he returned to the Hindu folds, observing all the necessary rituals.
If this is not being street-smart, I don't know what else is. Ambedkar achieved everything, all his high points, technically remaining in the folds of Hinduism.
But he did not want to die as Hindu. No one can control the way we come into this world. But it is possible to decide how you want to die. Ambedkar did not want to die as a Hindu. So he embraced Buddhism.
At least Ambedkar was truthful to his self.
There was no trickery in what he did or spoke. Today, India has changed.
And it has really changed for a majority of the low-caste too.
Today it pays to be street smart. Today the only conversion that matters is rupees to euro or rupees to dollars.
Long live Indian Republic.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Indian women clinch Asia Cup

Blog Report
Indian women whipped Sri Lanka by eight wickets to clinch Asia Cup for the third consecutive year at the Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur on Thursday. Sri Lanka elected to bat first but the move back-fired as they were all out for 93 in 44.1 overs against the accurate bowling of the Indians.
The Lankans recieved an early setback when D de. Silva fell to seamer Jhulan Goswami in the third over. Then Rumeli Dhar accounted for Lankan skipper Shashikala Sriwardane (1) and IGalagedra (4) to keep up the pressure.
Opener C Polgampala (22) put up some resistance at one end as Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals. Later, tailender S Weerakoodey (17) defied the Indian attack to help her team reach nearer the three-figure mark
For the hosts, Jhulan, Rumeli and D Palshikar claimed two wickets each. In reply, India lost both their openers, S Naik (16) and Tirush Kamini (13), early. But unbeaten knocks by S Paranjpe (35) and skipper Mithali Raj (17) helped the hosts cruise to victory in 27.5 overs.
Paranjpe was declared player-of-the-match.
Young Indian opener Kamini and D de Silva of Sri Lanka shared the player of the tournament award.
Indian captain Mithali Raj said the victory has given them more confidence. "We know that the quadrangular series in February would not be that easy. But we will face the Australians, New Zealand and England with more confidence," Mithali said.
"Asia Cup was a good learning experience. We could experiment and I am happy with the way youngsters like Tirush Kamini, Rajeshwari Goyal and a few others performed. I am happy with Kamini who has shown much promise," she said.
The Indian captain said the women's team needed a fielding coach and a computer analyst to improve their performance. "I would appreciate if the BCCI provides us with a computer expert. That will be of great help. Apart from this, we also feel that a fielding coach would also be helpful," she said.
"India are almost on par with the Australians. I think the only difference between them and us is fielding. Being runners-up at the World Cup, I think we are the second best. But, we have to improve our fielding," Mithali added
The Hyderabad girl said under coach Sudha Shah the team is doing well. "For the past couple of years our coach Sudha Shah is doing a fine job. But if BCCI decides to provide an additional coach it will be welcomed," she said.

Sreesanth is Indian cricket's energy, says Kapil Dev

By John Cheeran
Kapil Dev says he is comfortable with Sreesanth's cricket dance in the Wanderers Test.
Kapil, who knows a thing or two about energy, once being the brand ambassador for BOOST.
"The youths are full of energy. I may not like Ganguly for taking off his shirt and swirling it or the way Sreesanth came out to whirl his bat. But at the end of the day, it probably gives them the passion and if that is a pre-requisite for Team India's win, I have no problems with that."
"For me, aggression lies in your performance. (John) McEnroe was aggressive in the court, showing full range of his emotions. But (Bjorn) Borg was a champion too, despite being a quiet person on court. I guess we are in an entertainment industry where people like to see the anger."
The oracle of our cricketing times, Navjot Singh Sidhu feels there are double standards.
"I don't know why pacers like (Glenn) McGrath or Andre Nel get away with abuses, why the match officials always haul up an Indian pacer for the same act. I mean if McGrath can do it, why not Sreesanth?" Sidhu asks.
"It was a great sight. Sreesanth was fighting fire with fire, and this is the reason why you admire people like Ganguly. He matched Steve Waugh's verbal ding-dong and the result was before us to see."

A backgrounder to Sreesanth's career

The exclusion of S. Sreesanth from the 14-member Indian team for the Champions Trophy was not well received by three former Test bowlers Kapil Dev, Madan Lal and Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
The shocking omission of Sreesanth was the only change the National selectors made from the team that went to Sri Lanka for the Unitech tri-series last month.
The selection committee cited his higher economy rate in comparison to Rudra Pratap Singh, ignoring the Kerala speedster's excellent strike rate and the ability to make crucial breakthroughs. Kapil had words of encouragement for Sreesanth.
"If they can exclude Anil Kumble and (V.V.S.) Laxman, they can drop anyone. I would advise Sreesanth to concentrate on his bowling. He is an excellent bowler and still very young.
There is no reason for him to lose heart because such things have happened in the past. The experience should help him become a better bowler, " said Kapil,who did not believe in economy rate being the lone factor in deciding the ability of a bowler. Difficult job Giving the selectors the due for handling a difficult job quite well, Kapil observed,
"There are so many competent young bowlers and sadly some would have to sit out. But I know Sreesanth has the passion to bowl and he can take inspiration from someone like Mohinder Amarnath who kept coming back because very exclusion made him work all the more harder. "
R.P. Singh's performance in his last four matches hardly pushes his case - 169 runs without a wicket at a rate of 6.5.
"You can't always be driven by statistics. I would back a bowler who takes wickets, earns crucial breakthroughs, than someone who just bowls economically. A team needs bowlers who can take wickets too. I like Sreesanth for many reasons. He is aggressive, has a good run-up and action, and the most importantthing is that he has a good out-swinger. As far as I am concerned, he has the right attitude for a fast bowler and is the most ideal to lead the Indian attack," said Madan Lal.
Sandhu said "They know what they have been doing and what they need to do. Sreesanth has been given a specific role and he has performed creditably. Now the selectors want to test R.P. Singh too. There is nothing wrong in it. The selectors probably want to see which bowler can bowl better under pressure. They are still trying to identify the right combination for the World Cup and Sreesanth need not feel disappointed. Even Zaheer Khan is bowling so well but it is not enough to gain him a place."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chappell's medicine works for Ganguly!

Editor's note: Sourav Ganguly's supporters have found this blog biased against the cricketer. This blog has consistenly infuriated Ganguly's supporters, in other words, Bengalis.
Like the maxim, all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims, all West Bengalis are not Ganguly supporters but all Ganguly supporters are West Bengalis.
Let me point out you guys an interesting piece that newspaper with gravitas, Telegraph, Calcutta, carried on Ganguly's comeback. It was not written by John Cheeran but Uddalak Mukherjee. I hope the Mukherjee byline will not enrage Ganguly's friends..

By Uddalak Mukherjee in Telegraph, Calcutta
Moments after India won its first test match on South African soil, a television channel showed the footage of an interview with a Bengali sports journalist. The man, teary-eyed and hysterical, was bawling that SouravGanguly had won his duel against Greg Chappell, who should now be relieved of his coaching responsibilities.
There is no doubt that Ganguly has won. But what the delirious journalist failed to realize is that the former captain had not won a personal battle against the coach. Far from it. Ganguly, with the help of his good showing in the test match, has won for himself the confidence of a strict and demanding coach.
A gritty fifty under immense pressure showed that the elegant left-hander was willing to stand up and be counted. Ganguly has also worked hard on his fielding (he took a blinder in the slips to dismiss the dangerous Jacques Kallis in the second innings) and his fitness, long considered to be his Achilles heel.
Commitment and hard work, incidentally, are the two qualities that are close to Chappell's heart. Some people seem to think that the triumphant return of players such as Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman and Zaheer Khan has discredited Chappell's 'look to the future' policy, which saw young players replacing older, experienced cricketers.
The truth, however, is that Chappell has emerged the real winner in the plot.
The contribution of the old guard to India's victory at Johannesburg, ironically, confirms what the coach has been preaching all this while. In Ganguly's case, Chappell has always maintained that the pressure of captaincy was taking a toll on his batting.
Ganguly's poor form just before that ill-fated tour of Zimbabwe lends credibility to this theory. He had scored a paltry 927 runs in 20 tests prior to that tour. Critics may point out that Ganguly had a century to his name against Zimbabwe. But scoring runs against one of the weakest bowling attacks in international cricket, experts will agree, does not mean that a struggling batsman has rediscovered his golden touch.
What Ganguly needed to do then was take Chappell's advice and return to domestic cricket, correct the flaws and then come back to the side. That would have shortened his stay in cricketing wilderness. The wisdom of Chappell's words has been reflected in Ganguly's recent performance.
Shorn of the burden of captaincy, he has looked far more composed in South Africa. Significantly, Chappell had never questioned Ganguly's potential even while he was out of the side. He had only pointed out that Ganguly, like many players before him, had merely slipped in the course of a long and difficult career, and that it was time to make corrections. It must also be remembered that Chappell had been forced to turn to the youngsters after poor showing by some seniors.
Laxman and Zaheer Khan, like Ganguly, had also suffered a slump and they too found themselves out of the side. That they have benefited from this experience is evident from their contributions in India's historic win.
And it is not as if Chappell's faith in youngsters has been misplaced.
S. Sreesanth, India's hero inthe first test, has fulfilled the coach's expectations. Come to think of it, the only people unhappy with the turn of events would be the shrieking journalist and his kind.
With Ganguly now firmly entrenched in a happy Indian dressing room, the pot that has been kept boiling by the rumours will run dry soon.

When Ganguly Ban Gaya Gentleman!

Editor's note: It is important that I record what Sourav Ganguly said on his comeback in Johannesburg.
This is how Ganguly's unabashed supporter, Telegraph, Calcutta, reported his famous words.

On his comeback:
I haven't done anything different. I worked on my fitness and playeddomestic cricket when I wasn't with the team.... Life has come a full circle.
On teammates: They were outstanding when I was captain, they were outstanding when I wasn't in the team and they've been outstanding now.
On the reception from coach Greg Chappell: Everyone has been outstanding.
On whether the period after the Karachi Test was tough: It wasn't... I realised cricket wasn't everything. I played for Bengal and enjoyed being in the dressing room with some very talented players. I didn't know I would be picked, so it's not that I waspreparing for (conditions in) South Africa.
On staying mentally tough: After playing for so many years, one has to be tough.
On whether this comeback was his biggest challenge: No. The time I was out, my mindset was if it happens, then it happens. Of course, I never stopped believing I was good enough. I believed that instead of thinking about giving it up... I still want to play both forms.
On his game plan at the Wanderers: My experience helped. This is my fourth trip to South Africa and I've also been to Australia a few times. Having played earlier, one can visualise grounds... visualise conditions.
On whether his performance here will facilitate a comeback in the ODIs as well: I know I'm good enough. It's (the next set of ODIs) still some way off....Performance counts everywhere. I've batted well. Today, the challenge for me is to be consistent in the next two Tests. I'm going to judge myself at the end ofthe tour.
On India being in such a strong position: The bowlers have kept a fantastic length and Rahul has set outstanding fields. I'm around if advice is needed, but one doesn't have to complicate things.... Rahul has his way of thinking.
Our performance in Tests overseas has been on the up from 2001 and beating South Africa in South Africa has to be great.
On his arrival as a Test specialist changing India's fortunes: (Laughs) Hope it remains that way. People have been making too much of somebody being dropped and too much of somebody being recalled. Emotions don't matter.
On shouts of "Come on Dada" at the Wanderers: Has become a fashion, like Levi's jeans!
Finally, his message for fans: It's good to have such support, but I would like them to support everybody. In the past, Rahul has been dropped (from ODIs), Anil Kumble....Sachin (Tendulkar) is the only one who hasn't been dropped. (Adds laughing) But Sachin will never be!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In Praise of Bipasha Basu

By John Cheeran
If men are the salt of the earth, women are the salt of West Bengal.
God must be a Bengali, for he always moulds Bengali women the most gorgeous. From Suchitra Sen to Sharmila Tagore to Moon Moon Sen to Kajol; from Aparna Sen to Sushmita Sen to Rani Mukherjee to Tanushree Duttas.
And, the biggest of them all is Bipasha Basu.
Beauty may lie in the eyes of the beholder, but in Bipasha’s case what you see is what you get.
Rest of India should burn in the fires of envy, while beholding Bengal’s pride and joy.
Beauty lies in the eye of beholder (hang John Keats for having wrote it), beasts lie between the legs, but there can be no debate about the mesmerizing hold Bipasha has over Indian men.
Men can be dissatisfied with Sourav Ganguly’s figures, but Bipasha’s figures have stood up to the Tests of time, and tests of all tastes.
One should admit that Ganguly plays anything below the waist brilliantly, but Bipasha’s ability to meet challenges head on is legendary.
West Bengal has many virtues; West Bengal has many virtuous men. What it lacks right now is heroes.
Ganguly was the first macho hero West Bengal found since Subash Chandra Bose went missing on air.
The desperation with which West Bengal clings on to its last hero, Ganguly, can be considered only with pity.
In football, Calcutta’s last son-of-the-soil hero was Kishanu Dey (my Bengali friends emailed his name) and then they were left to wonder at the feets of guys such as IM Vijayan and Baichung Bhutia.
Sprawling Eden Gardens and Salt Lake Stadium should have supplied India many heroes; but heroes these days come from outposts such as Baroda, Cochin and Ranchi.
No wonder then that Bipasha met her match in John.
As they say in Bible, she lies in the laps of Abraham, John Abraham.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Breakdancer Sreesanth enjoys breaking ICC rules!

Blog Report
Indian pace ace S Sreesanth was fined 30 per cent of his match fee on Monday after being found guilty of two offences during the first Test win over South Africa.
Sreesanth was docked 20 per cent of his match fee for unsportsmanlike conduct after he ran towards Hashim Amla having dismissed the batsman in South Africa's second innings.
"We do not want robots out there but we do want players to control their emotions once they get on to the field because they have to realise they are role models for all those watching," said ICC match referee Roshan Mahanama in a statement.
"Sreesanth, by his actions, showed a lack of respect for the departing batsman and to his credit he acknowledged that by pleading guilty to the charge."
The Indian paceman was fined a further 10 per cent of his match fee for breaching the International Cricket Council's logo policy.
"Policy states that all garments worn under the playing shirt...must be plain white," the ICC said.
"Contrary to that instruction, Sreesanth wore a black garment under his shirt while batting and then later in the day...(his) white garment under his playing shirt displayed a commercial logo."
Mahanama added: "The fact that Sreesanth breached the policy not once but twice showed a lack of respect and although he once again pleaded guilty it was still appropriate he was fined for his actions."

For the record: India's 1-2-3 in Johannesburg

From Johannesburg
Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan bowled India to their first ever test victory in South Africa when they won the opening match of the series by 123 runs shortly before lunch on the fourth day.
South Africa, who needed 402 to win, were dismissed for 278 in their second innings. Leg-spinner Kumble took three for 54 and left-arm fast bowler Khan claimed three for 79.
Ashwell Prince stood firm for more than five hours for his 97, South Africa's top score.
Khan struck the first blow for India with the 15th ball of the day, trapping Mark Boucher lbw for 23.
Prince and Shaun Pollock held up India's progress with a brisk partnership of 67 for the seventh wicket.
Kumble ended the stand by bowling Pollock for 40, an innings that included six fours and a six.
Kumble reduced South Africa to 245 for eight when he dismissed Andre Nel lbw for six and took his third wicket when Prince advanced down the pitch and was bowled.
India captain Rahul Dravid took the new ball in the fourth over after it was due, and 10 minutes before the scheduled lunch interval Makhaya Ntini, who scored eight, slashed a delivery from Khan to point.
Virender Sehwag took the catch to end the match, and the Indians celebrated their historic win.
The match was India's 10th test in South Africa since their inaugural series in the country in 1992-93.
The second test in the three-match series starts in Durban on Dec. 26.
India 1st innings 249
South Africa 1st innings 84
India 2nd innings 236
South Africa 2nd innings
(Overnight: 163-5; Target: 402 runs)
H. Gibbs c Tendulkar b Khan 0
G. Smith c Sehwag b Sreesanth 10
H. Amla c Dhoni b Sreesanth 17
J. Kallis c Ganguly b Sreesanth 27
A. Prince b Kumble 97
A. de Villiers run out 17
M. Boucher lbw b Khan 23
S. Pollock b Kumble 40
A. Nel lbw b Kumble 6
D. Steyn not out 6
M. Ntini c Sehwag b Khan 8
Extras (lb-8 nb-19) 27
Total (all out, 86.5 overs) 278
Fall of wickets: 1-0 2-22 3-34 4-84 5-120 6-164 7-231 8-245 9-264 10-278
Z. Khan 22.5 - 5 - 79 - 3
S. Sreesanth 25 - 8 - 59 - 3 (nb-5)
V. Singh 18 - 4 - 67 - 0 (nb-8)
S. Ganguly 1 - 0 - 11 - 0 (nb-2)
A. Kumble 20 - 4 - 54 - 3
Result: India won by 123 runs

Let's celebrate Sreesanth, says skipper Dravid

By John Cheeran
However unpalatable the truth may be, in this case an historic Indian with cruical contribution coming from fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth, you have to accept it.
Some of them, who thinks the sun rises from Sourav Ganguly's posterior, wants to give the credit for India's 1-2-3 win to the Bengali left-hander.
Indian captain, and the Indian nation, do not think so.
Let's hear what skipper Rahul Dravid had to say on on Sreesanth, the man of the match.
"He bowled brilliantly for us. Obviously, he's a character, but he needs to be a bit careful. We wouldn't want him to miss a game."
Dravid chuckled when asked to comment on Sreesanth's celebrations after whipping Andre Nel for a straight six.
"I'd rather have him do what he did with the bat than what he did later. But I enjoyed his six. I enjoy everything when Sreesanth bowls well. He's a great character. A player like him, a character like him, needs to be celebrated and enjoyed."
Yes, you said it Dravid.
India must celebrate and enjoy its new heroes and send back old ghosts to graveyards as soon as possible.
Thank you Sreesanth for the wonders at the Wanderers.
Thank you Team India.

Monday, December 18, 2006

When Dravid and India did the 1-2-3 over South Africans

By John Cheeran
One. Two. Three. 1-2-3.
Yes, India's margin of victory could not have been better conceived than that.
Let this be the 1-2-3 into a great pilgrimage for Indian cricket.
When India did the 1-2-3 over South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, it, indeed, was a historic moment. Not because Sourav Ganguly came back into international cricket but for the first time India crushed South Africa in a Test on South African soil.
It is remarkable that Rahul Dravid, the man who fashioned India’s first Test triumph in Pakistan, has inspired his humiliated troop to reinvent themselves and produce a stunning performance, sustained over four days in an alien atmosphere.
Those who were – make no mistake, the Bengali and North Indian lobby -- baying for Dravid and coach Greg Chappell’s blood must flee the scene for the time being.
Dravid has pulled off what the highly over-rated Ganguly could not deliver in 2001. And this 1-2-3 over an arrogant bunch of South Africans had Dravid’s deft touches all over it right from the moment he chose to bat first in, what was intimidating conditions, after winning the toss.
To be honest, I was surprised when Dravid chose to bat. But of course being the 24x7 cricketer that he is, he knows best.
Dravid is the boss.
"Whether we bat or bowl first, or who plays in the XI, is going to be my call," Dravid said after India routed South Africa by 123 runs in Johannesburg on Monday. "I do discuss things in our team meetings and with some of my senior players but at the end of the day, it always starts and ends with me. I felt that batting first was the way to go on this pitch."
And now Dravid stands vindicated for having cautioned us on the eve of the match that Indian cricketers are too dangerous to be written off. None expected this incredible turn around in Indian fortunes.
"I don't blame the people for criticizing us," Dravid said after the refulgent moment. "South Africa were always going to be favourites heading into this Test, but I knew there was a lot of quality in this team. We showed that in the last few days. We had players who stood up and were counted."
Let me allow Dravid to hold forth on the victory.
"This victory is great because this is the first time we have done it in South Africa in four visits over the past 14 years. As a cricketer, your special moments are the ones that you share with the team; the celebrations, the joy you get from winning and just being a part of the group that has stood by you for three-and-a-half days and put in everything they've got to come out victorious."
"It's not that we haven't done this before. "We lost the one-day series in West Indies but came back to win the Test series. I think it was nice to get away in Potchefstroom and hang in together.
"The team was pretty hurt with the one-day defeat and we just got together and said whatever happens, we'll try and put in a better performance. We came here with a bit of confidence having won the warm up-game. I'm glad the boys displayed a lot of fighting spirit and character."
And unlike the snooty lordship from Calcutta, the gentleman that he is, Dravid did not ignore Ganguly’s life-saving efforts during the Test.
"The way Sourav Ganguly batted with the lower order to get us to 250 and his partnership with VRV Singh was crucial too. Sreesanth and Zaheer coming out and bowling out the opposition for 84. Laxman did a great job with the tail in the second innings and his stand with Zaheer. Sreesanth picking up three wickets in the second innings, including the important wicket of Kallis. These were the crucial moments that eventually helped us win."
"It's nice to have boys who have performed well in situations like this before," said Dravid.
"To be honest, this Test team has been the same for some time now, except for one or two players here and there. We had the same group in Pakistan, [against] England and West Indies."
It was interesting to listen to Dravid’s comments on a repentant Ganguly. "He's really playing well. There's no doubt about that. His performances in Potchefstroom and in this Test have been really good. It's great to see him batting well. He's a proven and experienced performer and when he bats well, it's going to make a big difference to the side. I hope he keeps continuing because we'll need good performances from people like him, Sachin, Laxman and myself to have the right results."
Dravid put the victory in perspective when he observed that: "Unfortunately, we tend to focus a lot on individuals in success and defeat. But at the end of the day, victories and defeats are not about the captain or the coaches or one or two individuals. It's always about the team. I've always believed that it's the performances that you put in as a team that helps you win matches."
"The team was pretty hurt with the one-day defeat and we just got together and said whatever happens, we'll try and put in a better performance. We came here with a bit of confidence having won the warm up-game. I'm glad the boys displayed a lot of fighting spirit and character.
"The senior guys in the side were pretty keen to remind me and everyone else, saying: 'Let's get this done. They are a very good side, we need to be professional and get the job done'. It's a good group of senior boys in the team and the support they've given me is fantastic. A lot of things I don't even need to say, it just comes from the group and they handle a lot of things themselves."
The most heartening thing is that Dravid has got his fundas right even at the hour of glory. Dravid has reminded everyone that South Africa will come back hard at India. “We have to soak up a lot of pressure and respond adequately."

The meaning of Sreesanth's sixer!

Editor's note: It gives me immense pleasure as an Indian to celebrate India's 123-run triumph over an arrogant South African side, made sweeter by the calamities of the Champions Trophy and the recent one-day series.
I had written the post, The meaning of Sreesanth's sixer, on Sunday but it is worth a second reading as India pulled off a most memorable win in South Africa.

By John Cheeran
Indian fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth has taken eight South African wickets in the first Test at the Wanderers.
Sreesanth took five wickets for 40 in the first innings and in the second he has dismissed South African skipper Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis and there by taking India closer to the win.
Sreesanth, however, has scored only six runs, the first and second innings taken together.
The young man from Kerala was out for a duck in the first innings. It was in the second innings that Sreesanth scored six runs.
And why should I attach any significance to six runs scored by a fast bowler when the same bowler has taken eight wickets already in the match.
Just consider this. When Sreesanth came into bat in the Indian second innings as VVS Laxman fell after making a splendid 73, by far the best innings in the Johannesburg Test, bowler Andre Nel cannot contain his rage at the tiny bomber that wrecked South Africans for 84 in their first innings.
After sending the first ball of a new over to Sreesanth, Nel uttered some nasty words at young sreesanth and the bowler was seen thumping his chest.
Sreesanth did not react but just looked back at Nel and waited for his next ball.As Nel sent down the next ball, Sreesanth moved to square leg and thumped the ball striaght back over Nel's head for a huge sixer. That was the six runs scored by Sreesanth.
And things did not end when the ball landed beyond the boundary. Sreesanth, a former break dancer from Kerala, pranced around the wicket with twirling his bat and celebrating as if he had hit India the winning runs in the match. That was some reply to the ferocity and nastiness of Andre Nel. Giving it back to opponents, and fiery Sreesanth always look for such opportunities.
To me that sixer by Sreesanth was the most interesting symbol of Indian cricket team's resurrection after the crucification in the one-day series and the tragedy in the Champions Trophy.
I remember that India has not won the Johannesburg Test.
India still need five wickets.
But Rahul Dravid's India have redeemed themselves with a collective display that has left the nation and Indian Parliament shell shocked.

India's Sree; God's Own Fast Bowler!

By John Cheeran
Yes, make no mistake, India's 123-run win over South Africa was shaped and scripted by Sreesanth, and Sreesanth only.
And not for nothing this breakdancer from Kerala has won the Man-of-the-Match award in the first Test in Johannesburg.
Hail India's Sree; hail God's Own Fast Bowler.
Sreesanth's five for 40 annihilated South Africa (84 all out) in the first innings. In the second innings Sreesanth took three for 59 and those first three wickets -- Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis -- gave the levers of the match to Indian skipper Rahul Dravid's hands.
Those who are desperately trying to give Sourav Ganguly's blind batting in the first Test undue importance have always been the fifth columnists in Indian cricket.
Those who cannot see beyond Calcutta should be hanged.
The Rest of India has seen the refulgent batting of VVS Laxman in the second innings and gritty efforts of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VRV Singh in the first innings that bolstered the Indian total.
The win at the Wanderers is not for the ghosts that return from the past; it is for the Generation Next; it is a tribute to the raw courage of youth, exemplified by Sreesanth.

India kill and bury South Africans at the Wanderers

By John Cheeran
The agonising wait of a billion people is over with Indian cricketers completing their hunt at the Wanderers, led by an unflappable Rahul Dravid. India mauled South Africa by 123 runs despite a defiant 97 from Ashwell Prince.
Once Anil Kumble sent back Prince for 97, victory was certain.
The blind batting indulged by Shaun Pollock, imitating Sourav Ganguly, of course helped South Africa to reduce the margin of defeat.
Captain Dravid has inspired his colleagues to pull off a coruscating moment in Indian cricket history -- India's first Test triumph on South African soil.
It is no surprise that the same man - who else but Rahul Dravid -- who master minded India's first Test win in Pakistan has also crossed the Rubicon in South Africa.
After the brickbats of the last three months and relentless sniping from a desperate Bengali Broherhood, this must be the sweetest moment in Dravid's cricketing life.
Dravid has achieved what the media darling Sourav Ganguly failed to achieve in his five-year reign.
Finally, Indian cricketers have proved that they are not Wanderers but fighters on the cricket field.
And most importantly, Dravid has proved that you don't have to be snooty and ugly and strip your shirt to defeat rivals.
Credit goes to the entire team and coach Greg Chappell and captain Dravid.
And who can forget Shantakumaran Sreesanth's heroics with bat and ball.
You must remember not just Sreesanth's eight wickets but the mighty sixer he blasted off Andre Nel a feat that symbolized the indomitable spirit of the Generation Next in Indian cricket.
Those who are trumpeting Ganguly's return should do well to listen to the message from Johannesburg.
This is the victory of the Generation Next. This is the victory of the youth brigade.
It is a victory made possible only by the dare-devilry of a young Sreesanth.
And India's 123-run victory over South Africa is a vindication of Dravid's and Chappell's experiments with youth.

Brain Test: (Not for Sourav Ganguly)

Editor's note: While you are waiting for wickets to tumble at the Wanderers...
It's that time of year to take our annual test.
Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it's important that we keep mentally alert. The saying; "If you don't use it, you will lose it" also applies to the brain, so...
Below is a very private way to gauge your loss or non-loss of intelligence. So, take the following test presented here and determine if you are losing it or are still "with it."
The spaces below are so you don't see the answers until you have made your answer.
OK, relax, clear your mind and... begin.
1. What do you put in a toaster?

Answer: "bread." If you said "toast," then give up now and go do something else.
Try not to hurt yourself. If you said, "bread," go to Question 2.
2. Say "silk" five time! s. Now spell "silk." What do cows drink?

Answer: Cows drink water.
If you said "milk," please do not attempt the next question. Your brain is obviously over stressed and may even overheat. It may be that you need to content yourself with reading something more appropriate such as Children's World. If you said "water" then proceed to question 3.
3. If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a green house made from?

Answer: Greenhouses are made from glass.
If you said "green bricks," what the devil are you still doing here reading these questions????? If you said "glass," then! go on to Question 4.

4. It's ! twenty years ago, and a plane is flying at 20,000 feet over Germany.
If you will recall, Germany at the time was politically divided into West Germany and East Germany.) Anyway, during the flight, TWO of the engines fail. The pilot, realizing that the last remaining engine is also failing, decides on a crash landing procedure.
Unfortunately the engine fails before he has time and the plane fatally crashes smack in the middle of "no man's land" between East Germany and West Germany
Where would you bury the survivors? East Germany or West Germany or in "no man's land"?

Answer: You don't, of course, bury survivors.
If you said ANYTHING else, you are a real dunce and you must NEVER try to rescue anyone from a plane crash. Your efforts would not be appreciated.
If you said, "Don't bury&! nbsp; the survivors", then proceed to the next question.
5. Without using a calculator - You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven in Wales. In London, 17 people get on the bus. In Reading, six people get off the bus and nine people get on. In Swindon, two people get off and four get on. In Cardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get in. In Swansea, three people get off and five people get on.
In Carmathen, six people get off and three get on.
You then arrive at Milford Haven. What was the name of the bus driver?

Answer: Oh, for crying out loud! Don't you remember your own name?
It was YOU!!......
Now pass this along to all your "smart friends" and hope they do better than you did.

Ass You Like It!

Editor's note: In case you need jokes apart from Sourav Ganguly, read this..

The young couple is on their honeymoon. After a few hours of exhausting great sex he says, "Now you won't see me for a while."
We're on our honeymoon!" she exclaims.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Nowhere, Sweetie," he says.
"Please turn over."

For the record: Day 3 at Wanderers

Day Three report from the Wanderers
Pace ace Shantakumaran Sreesanth bowled India closer to winning their first Test in South Africa in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Fast bowler Sreesanth took three for 47 as South Africa, who require 402 to win, reached stumps on the third day on 163 for five in their second innings.
India scored 249 in their first innings, and Sreesanth took five for 40 in South Africa's reply of 84.
The visitors were dismissed for 236 in their second innings on Sunday.
Ashwell Prince stood firm for South Africa with an unbeaten 54.
India resumed their second innings on 146 for five, and South Africa began positively by dismissing Mahendra Dhoni and Anil Kumble in the first five overs of the day's play.
Medium pacer Shaun Pollock had Dhoni caught behind by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for 18 with a delivery that swung late before finding the edge, and Kumble miscued a drive off fast bowler Andre Nel to Ashwell Prince in the gully to be dismissed for one.
VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan stopped the slide with a stand of 70 for the eighthwicket that was ended when fast bowler Makhaya Ntini had Laxman well caught lowdown by Graeme Smith at first slip
Laxman scored a disciplined 73 off 154 balls with 12 fours. Two balls later Ntini had Khan caught behind for 37, reducing India to 219 fornine.
Sreesanth, who scored 6 not out, and Vikram Singh, who made 11, shared abright stand of 16 for the last wicket in which Sreesanth smashed Nel for a straight six and celebrated by whirling his bat in the air repeatedly.
Pollock took three for 33, while Ntini and Nel also claimed three wickets each.
South African openers Herschelle Gibbs and Smith came out to face one over before lunch, and with the fourth ball of the over left-arm fast bowler Khan had Gibbs caught by Sachin Tendulkar at first slip.
Smith and Hashim Amla held the fort for seven overs before Smith, who scored 10, drove at a wide delivery from Sreesanth and was caught by Virender Sehwag at point.
Sreesanth struck again four overs later when he had Amla caught behind by wicketkeeper Dhoni for 17.
Kallis and Prince consolidated with a partnership of 50 that took South Africa to the fifth over after tea, when Kallis, who scored 27, steered another of Sreesanth's deliveries to Sourav Ganguly at third slip.
Prince and AB de Villiers seemed to be guiding South Africa towards stability in their stand of 36 for the fifth wicket.
But they were separated an hour before stumps when De Villiers drove a delivery from fast bowler Vikram Singh and was run out at the non-striker's end for 17 by Khan's direct hit on the stumps.
India 1st innings 249
South Africa 1st innings 84
India 2nd innings
(Overnight: 146-5)
W. Jaffer c Smith b Nel 4
V. Sehwag c Gibbs b Nel 33
R. Dravid c Boucher b Pollock 1
S. Tendulkar b Pollock 14
V. Laxman c Smith b Ntini 73
S. Ganguly c Boucher b Ntini 25
M. Dhoni c Boucher b Pollock 18
A. Kumble c Prince b Nel 1
Z. Khan c Boucher b Ntini 37
S. Sreesanth not out 6
V. Singh run out 11
Extras (b-2 lb-10 w-1) 13
Total (all out, 64.4 overs) 236
Fall of wickets: 1-20 2-37 3-41 4-61 5-119 6-147 7-148 8-218 9-219 10-236
Bowling M. Ntini 15.4 - 2 - 77 - 3 (w-1), A. Nel 19 - 4 - 58 - 3, S. Pollock 16 - 4 - 33 - 3, J. Kallis 11 - 2 - 30 - 0, G. Smith 3 - 0 - 26 - 0
South Africa 2nd innings (Target: 402 runs)
H. Gibbs c Tendulkar b Khan 0
G. Smith c Sehwag b Sreesanth 10
H. Amla c Dhoni b Sreesanth 17
J. Kallis c Ganguly b Sreesanth 27
A. Prince not out 54
A. de Villiers run out 17
M. Boucher not out 23
Extras (lb-3 nb-12) 15
Total (for 5 wickets, 58 overs) 163
Fall of wickets: 1-0 2-22 3-34 4-84 5-120
To bat: S. Pollock, A. Nel, M. Ntini, D. Steyn
Bowling Z. Khan 17 - 4 - 44 - 1, S. Sreesanth 17 - 6 - 47 - 3 (nb-2), V. Singh 12 - 3 - 27 - 0 (nb-4), S. Ganguly 1 - 0 - 11 - 0 (nb-2), A. Kumble 11 - 2 - 31 - 0

When Sreesanth rocked at the Wanderers: For the record, Day two

From Johannesburg, December 16
A maiden but brilliant five-wicket haul by fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth led to South Africa being dismissed for 84 and put India firmly in control of the first Test on Saturday.
South Africa, replying to India's first innings of 249, were skittled for their lowest total against India. Their previous lowest score against India was 105 in Ahmedabad in 1996-97.
With 20 wickets tumbling on the second day the visitors reached the close on146 for five in their second innings, a lead of 311.
The display would have come has a huge relief to the Indians after they were whitewashed 4-0 by South Africa in the one-day series. The only silver lining for South Africa came when Shaun Pollock become the first South African to claim 400 test wickets.
The seamer went into the match with 395 wickets and after picking up four wickets in India's first innings, he reached the landmark with the prized scalp of Indian captain Rahul Dravid (1) in the second innings.
Saurav Ganguly had earlier justified his recall to the national side following an 11-month exile with a gritty half-century in the first innings. Former captain Ganguly, who was making his test comeback after being dropped following the Pakistan series in January, top scored for India with 51 not out.
Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini struck the first blow when Pollock pulled off a spectacular diving catch to dismiss Mahendra Singh Dhoni for five. Ganguly struggled to find support until he was joined by number 11 VikramSingh after Indian had slumped to 205 for nine.
The last pair added 44 off 35 balls in a bright partnership in which the free-hitting Singh smashed six fours in his 29. Sreesanth put India into the driving seat by maintaining a probing length and found movement off the seam to take five for 40 from 10 overs.
With four batsmen failing to add any runs, Ashwell Prince top scored for South Africa with 24 as their innings lasted just 25.1 overs. Prince and Andre Nel (21) added 39 for the eighth wicket, the most lucrative partnership of the innings.
Captain Graeme Smith (5), Hashim Amla (0), Jacques Kallis (12), Mark Boucher (5), Pollock (5) all failed to handle the pace generated by Sreesanth.
South Africa suffered their first setback with the 12th ball Smith was trappedin front with a delivery from Sreesanth that straightened after pitching.
Four balls later Herschelle Gibbs edged a drive off left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan and was well caught by Virender Sehwag in the gully for nought. South Africa crashed to five for three in the fourth over when Sreesanth found the edge of Amla's bat and had him caught by Vangipurappu Laxman at second slip.
Leg-spinner Anil Kumble hastened the end of the innings when he had Prince caught behind by wicketkeeper Dhoni and bowled Ntini for nought with consecutive deliveries.
India also struggled when they went out to bat for a second time and slipped to 41 for three after Nel had opener Sehwag caught by Gibbs in the gully for 33, and the visitors were 61 for four when Sachin Tendulkar was bowled for 14 after dragging a Pollock delivery on to his stumps.
Laxman and Ganguly (25) stabilised the innings with a stand of 58 that was ended just before the close when Ganguly edged a ball from Ntini to wicketkeeper Boucher.
Laxman continued to bat patiently and was 42 not out with Dhoni on 17.

India 1st innings (Overnight: 156-5)
W. Jaffer lbw b Ntini 9
V. Sehwag c Boucher b Pollock 4
R. Dravid c Smith b Kallis 32
S. Tendulkar c AB de Villiers b Kallis 44
V. Laxman c Boucher b Ntini 28
S. Ganguly not out 51
M. Dhoni c Pollock b Ntini 5
A. Kumble c Kallis b Nel 6
Z. Khan lbw b Pollock 9
S. Sreesanth c Amla b Pollock 0
V. Singh c&b Pollock 29
Extras (lb-15 nb-6 w-11) 32
Total (all out, 79.5 overs) 249
Fall of wickets: 1-14 2-14 3-83 4-110 5-156 6-167 7-188 8-205 9-205 10-249
Bowling D. Steyn 10.1 - 3 - 26 - 0 (nb-2), M. Ntini 18 - 1 - 57 - 3, S. Pollock 17.5 - 7 - 39 - 4, A. Nel 18.5 - 5 - 45 - 1 (nb-1 w-1), J. Kallis 15 - 0 - 67 - 2 (nb-3 w-2)
South Africa 1st innings
G. Smith lbw b Sreesanth 5
H. Gibbs c Sehwag b Khan 0
H. Amla c Laxman b Sreesanth 0
J. Kallis c Laxman b Sreesanth 12
A. Prince c Dhoni b Kumble 24
A. de Villiers c Sehwag b Khan 6
M. Boucher b Sreesanth 5
S. Pollock lbw b Sreesanth 5
A. Nel c Khan b V. Singh 21
M. Ntini b Kumble 0
D. Steyn not out 0
Extras (b-2 nb-1 w-3) 6
Total (all out, 25.1 overs) 84
Fall of wickets: 1-5 2-5 3-5 4-21 5-33 6-38 7-45 8-84 9-84 10-84
Bowling Z. Khan 10 - 3 - 32 - 2, S. Sreesanth 10 - 3 - 40 - 5 (nb-1 w-2), V. Singh 3.1 - 0 - 8 - 1 (w-1), A. Kumble 2 - 1 - 2 - 2
India 2nd innings
W. Jaffer c Smith b Nel 4
V. Sehwag c Gibbs b Nel 33
R. Dravid c Boucher b Pollock 1
S. Tendulkar b Pollock 14
V. Laxman not out 42
S. Ganguly c Boucher b Ntini 25
M. Dhoni not out 17
Extras (b-2 lb-7 w-1) 10
Total (for 5 wickets, 35 overs) 146
Fall of wickets: 1-20 2-37 3-41 4-61 5-119
To bat: A. Kumble, Z. Khan, V. Singh, S. Sreesanth
Bowling M. Ntini 9 - 0 - 56 - 1 (w-1), A. Nel 11 - 2 - 38 - 2, S. Pollock 9 - 2 - 24 - 2, J. Kallis 6 - 2 - 19 - 0

For the record: Day one at Wanderers

Jacques Kallis claimed the crucial wickets to help South Africa put India under pressure on the first day of the first test onFriday.
India, who won the toss and chose to bat, reached stumps on 156 for five on aday's play that was truncated to 56.5 overs by a damp pitch, lightning and badlight.
Pace bowler Kallis dismissed both Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, who stood firm in a stand of 69 after India had slipped to 14 for two.
Dravid scored 32, Tendulkar made 44 and Kallis took two for 37 from nine overs.
Shaun Pollock, who went into the match needing five more victims to become the first South African to take 400 wickets in tests, took one for 14.
Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini made the initial breakthrough for South Africa whenWasim Jaffer offered no stroke and was trapped in front for nine with an inswinger that hit the flap of his pad.
Six balls later Pollock had Virender Sehwag caught behind by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for four. Dravid and Tendulkar batted conservatively together until Tendulkar pushed forward to an away-swinger from Kallis and edged a catch to AB de Villiers at second slip.
Kallis struck again six overs later when Dravid drove limply and was caught by Graeme Smith at first slip.
Vangipurappu Laxman and Saurav Ganguly seemed to be guiding India towards the close without further loss, but with what became the last ball of the day Ntini found the edge of Laxman's bat and Boucher took the catch.
Laxman was dismissed for 28 and before Mahendra Dhoni faced a ball, bad light ended play.
Ganguly was 14 not out.
Play started 90 minutes later than scheduled because of damp patches on the pitch caused by groundsman Chris Scott's decision to lay wet hessian between the surface and the covers on Thursday.
A statement from the home union, the Gauteng Cricket Board, said Scott did so because he feared the cracked pitch would deteriorate too quickly.
Lightning hastened the tea interval by 15 minutes, and held up play for 45minutes.

The meaning of Sreesanth's sixer!

By John Cheeran
Indian fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth has taken eight South African wickets in the first Test at the Wanderers.
Sreesanth took five wickets for 40 in the first innings and in the second he has dismissed South African skipper Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis and there by taking India closer to the win.
Sreesanth, however, has scored only six runs, the first and second innings taken together.
The young man from Kerala was out for a duck in the first innings.
It was in the second innings that Sreesanth scored six runs.
And why should I attach any significance to six runs scored by a fast bowler when the same bowler has taken eight wickets already in the match.
Just consider this. When Sreesanth came into bat in the Indian second innings as VVS Laxman fell after making a splendid 73, by far the best innings in the Johannesburg Test, bowler Andre Nel cannot contain his rage at the tiny bomber that wrecked South Africans for 84 in their first innings.
After sending the first ball of a new over to Sreesanth, Nel uttered some nasty words at young sreesanth and the bowler was seen thumping his chest. Sreesanth did not react but just looked back at Nel and waited for his next ball.
As Nel sent down the next ball, Sreesanth moved to square leg and thumped the ball striaght back over Nel's head for a huge sixer. That was the six runs scored by Sreesanth.
And things did not end when the ball landed beyond the boundary. Sreesanth, a former disco dancer from Kerala, pranced around the wicket with twirling his bat and celebrating as if he had hit India the winning runs in the match.
That was some reply to the ferocity and nastiness of Andre Nel. Giving it back to opponents, and fiery Sreesanth always look for such opportunities.
To me that sixer by Sreesanth was the most interesting symbol of Indian cricket team's resurrection after the crucification in the one-day series and the tragedy in the Champions Trophy.
I remember that India has not won the Johannesburg Test. India still need five wickets.
But Rahul Dravid's India have redeemed themselves with a collective display that has left the nation and Indian Parliament shell shocked.

When Ganguly builds his second innings

By John Cheeran
If Sourav Ganguly's supporters expected him to score a half-century and India to lose the first Test at the Wanderers, things have not gone the expected way. There is a little joy in Calcutta but fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth's inspired bowling has given India the decisive edge in the first Test against South Africa.
For once, instead of salivating on a mediocre innings, Sreesanth has given Indian cricket fans the real stuff. The fast and furious and bundling out SouthAfrica for 84 in their own den. Ganguly, coming lower down the order at No.6, must thank skipper Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar for making things easier on his comeback into Test cricket.
Yes, Ganguly has lived up to the challenge in a modest way. And after all, Indian cricketers, including Ganguly, are picked to perform only.
Gone are the days when Ganguly could have clung on to the side by his captaincy tag and helped on his godfather Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Indian skipper Rahul Dravid had told Ganguly in no uncertain terms that he will have to perform to stay in the side, without wasting any chances. Like a boy eager to impress his elders, Ganguly has scored some runs to survive the initial tests.
And being one of the staunchest critics of Ganguly, I should say admit that I'm impressed by his blind but gutsy approach to scoring runs. Blind batting will have its own rewards as Ganguly and later Virender Sehwag showed in India's second innings.
Those who are wondering at Ganguly's half-century should pause and consider the question that why he is not opening India's innings. If Ganguly is the finest batsman India have now, why he is not opening the Indian innings.
If not, why he is not coming at the most challenging Number 3 position, a slot where Rahul Dravid has excelled time after time. Why not at No. 4 and No. 5?
Ganguly is Ganguly, an average player who charges against tiring fast bowlers and spinners and medium pacers.
By the way, to bring some perspective to Ganguly's half-century, the most brightest effort in the Indian first innings came from VRV Singh who blasted 29 from a mere 19 balls, slamming six boundaries. How about that?
How about the experience VRV Singh brought to the batting crease?
It is important to realize that there should be no place for shirkers of responsibility in the Indian side. And Indian skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell stand vindicated, even former chairman of selectors Kiran More, that their medicine has worked wonders for Ganguly's ills.
A tough stint at the domestic cricket has revived Gnaguly's hunger for runs, if not it has improved his inherent weaknesses against quality bowling. Ganguly will not have any easy time in his second innings. He will have to perform on each occasion he goes out to bat.
And that applies to the rest of the Indian cricketers too.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Indian cricketers: Are they Wanderers or fighters?

By John Cheeran
The Test has begun for India. But how long the agony will continue at the Wanderers?
So Irfan Pathan, the most succesful batsman on the tour so far, is out of the team. India's biggest hope, Sourav Ganguly is in.
It is quite surprising that Rahul Dravid chose to bat first after winning the toss. If I were the Indian captain, I would have let my bowlers make use of the damp conditions on the wicket. As you say, thank God, I'm not Indian team captain.
If India could take this Test into the third afternoon, Dravid and Greg Chappell should claim a moral victory for living up to the South African challenge.
And as I write these lines, Dilip Vengsarkar's trusted openers Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag have rushed back to the dressing room leaving India at happy state of 14/2.
Are these guys fighters or Wanderers?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Selection games for Johannesburg Test

By John Cheeran
Interesting stuff this is.
I'm being told that skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chapell are unlikely to include Irfan Pathan in the XI for the first Test in Johannesburg.
The reason is Pathan, the bowler, is being walloped all around the park. Fast bowlers Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and VRV Singh, along with leg-spinner Anil Kumble, are India's likely bowlers in Johannesburg.
Traditionally, away from home, India prefer to beef up its batting with seven batsmen. So that does not leave space for a fifth bowler and hence Pathan is out of the scheme.
Well, Pathan's form a bowler has dipped alarmingly, but the youngster has done impressively with the bat on the tour. In fact Pathan is the only Indian batsman to have struck a century (unbeaten knocks of 111 and 40 against the Rest of South Africa in Potchefstroom) on the tour so far. Pathan had in fact saved his skin by batting sensibly in the last one-dayer too.
At a time the experienced and established worthies have failed on a grand scale, why not play Pathan purely as batsman?
That's what I would call brave cricket, something South Africa has been pioneering under the leadership of Graeme Smith. But the hard blows of the recent times have crushed the adventurous spirit of both Dravid and Chappell. If they include Pathan and leave out a batsman from the edgy list of Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, I'm sure, hell would break loose on television channels and blood will seep out from the column inches of newspapers in India.
Let me try to count the Indian XI for Johannesburg.
Since Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of the National selection committee, has declared that a settled pair of openers should open the Indian innings, that opens the doors for Jaffer and Sehwag.
You cannot drop Sachin Tendulkar because he is the master blaster and no one knows when the master decides to be back in form.
You have to play VVS Laxman for he is on a rescue mission and he is the future of Indian cricket what with being the vice captain of the side.
May be since Rahul Dravid, being the captain, you cannot drop him too. And who can drop Sourav Ganguly now after his epoch-making comeback innings of 83 against the Rest of South Africa? Unless Dravid decides to keep wickets or Ganguly offers to return the favour to Dravid by keeping wickets, Mahendra Singh Dhoni should play.
So the top part of the Johannesburg XI reads...Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Now only four spots remain, for bowlers, to be picked by Kumble, Zaheer, Sreesanth and VRV Singh.
So in an effort to bolster its batting, India will have to leave out its most improved batsman on the tour from the first Test team.
What, then, would be the price Indian cricket paying for such folly?
Defeat or disaster?
Old tales from Brisbane and Bloemfontaine will not bring comfort to the Indian camp.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who owns Che Guevara?

By John Cheeran
Who owns Che Guevara?
World over Che is the poster boy for the youth. Che is the revolutionary parexcellence, a few notches below Jesus Christ.
Jesus and Che both died young and they were spared the decay in death. Look at Fidel Castro, it has become difficult to tell apart whether he is awarrior or dictator. Revolutionaries should not grey, they should leave thestage as quickly as possible so that they do not degenerate into cutouts.
In Che's case, it is cool to be associated with the Argentinean. Communist organizations all over the world appropriate Che's images to boosttheir cadre. In this age of image rights, comrades may have a right to use Che's image.
Look, Sachin Tendulkar holds billions in his bank by selling his image rights todeal makers such as Iconix and World Sports Group.
And how many can recognize the little Indian's face in global pool of images?
Che is big, real big.
I was shocked to see Che's face dominating the hoardings of a real estate company the other day. The advertising agency had no qualms to prostitute theidea of revolution by using Che's image to push brick and mortar.
The copy said "revolutionary idea in property...
The irony is that such an ad was thought out to push the product in a placewhere workers are denied even their basic rights.
Leave alone revolution, there is no democracy and where immigrant workers aretreated worse than cattle especially in the booming construction field. If only these Che hoardings sparked off a revolution in that El Dorado.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weather, wickets, wickeds and World Cup in 2007

By John Cheeran
Once in every four years, the Class of 1983 gets the opportunity to hold forth on how they did it at Lords.
As the leader of the Class of 1983, Kapil Dev is the most qualified to comment on India’s chances in the 2007 World Cup.
And Kapil, who does not write columns but often shares his opinion with television channels and news agencies, has said that on current form India is not a strong contender for the World Cup.
Kapil has pointed out that the team should be instilled with confidence. World Cup winning skipper says that efforts should be there to boost the players’ confidence.
And how do you do that?
You cannot inject confidence. Confidence is what you feel and think about. Players, and team management, should hold a dialogue so that the cobwebs of performance anxieties are cleared but stern reminders of responsibilities are put forth.
In cricket, players are defined by their playing fields. Only a few, touched by greatness, can conquer playing fields. Others beat their momentary opponents.
It is a pity that a mortal like me should point it out to the legendary Kapil Dev. Weather changes, wickets change, and heroes become zeroes and zeroes turn into heroes.
This applies to World Cup too. World Cup is to be held in the West Indies and the South African virus is unlikely to catch the Indian players there. World Cup will be a test of skills, but it will be conducted in a different lab with different catalysts employed.
Bottom line is this. Except for the composition of the team, a few tweaks here and there, South African one-day disaster (at this moment) will not have an impact on India’s World Cup campaign.
Meanwhile let Kapil Dev and his illustrious XI ring the alarm bells.
John Cheeran at Blogged