Friday, March 31, 2006

Sehwag fails India again

By John Cheeran
Faridabad offered Indian opener Virender Sehwag a perfect opportunity to regain form.
A wicket without bounce and his nemesis Matthew Hoggard not there to trouble him, Sehwag should have prospered.
Even England captain Andrew Flintoff allowed the Indian opener enough room to play a few rasping shots by holding back himself from the attack initially.
But he prospered not to the extent that his team can breathe easily. If he survives fast bowlers, then he throws away the wicket to spinners!
It is puzzling that Sehwag should get out to England’s left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell, sweeping and not connecting bat with ball properly. I admit he was a bit unfortunate in the sense that, the ball hit wicket keeper Geraint Jones’ boot and hit the stumps.
That was pathetic.
It only shows that Sehwag lacks confidence and is far from the batsman, who was feared by new ball bowlers. And his repeated failures at the top has thrown the Indian batting out of gear, whether it is in Tests or one-dayers.
It is high time skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell had a session with our once mercurial opener so that Team India prospers.

Krauthammer nails Fukuyama’s lie

By John Cheeran
In contemporary American journalism, there is none clearer in thoughts than Charles Krauthammer.
His column in Washington Post is a delight to read and must provoke those liberal woolies not just in the United States, but in India too.
I have read Krauthammer, a die-hard conservative, quoting Leon Trotsky in the past to prove his point. “Everyone has a right to be stupid, but don’t abuse that right.”
Karuthammer could well have told these lines to Francis Fukuyama.
Apparently, Fukuyama has fabricated a few lines to attribute it to Krauthammer in the preface to his new book, "America at the Crossroads."
Fukuyama writes that Krauthammer called Iraq war a unqualified success in 2004 during a lecture.
Krauthammer, in his Washington Post column, has exposed Fukuyama’s allegation in his usual, blunt manner. But it does not cease to amaze me that why on earth men such as Fukuyama, in order to bolster their grand designs, commit such basic sins.
How long anyone can hang onto a lie, a printed lie that is, in this digital age?
Krauthammer rightly points out that his argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, (Iraq war) never its ensured success.
“And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of Sept. 11: "The cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism."
You said it, Krauthammer.

Dravid throws a lifeline to Ganguly

By John Cheeran
India’s inconsistent batting efforts this season has been a source of worry for skipper Rahul Dravid.
We all know vice-captain Virender Sehwag is out of form after he feasted on the flat tracks in Pakistan.
Sehwag is still part of the team, a luxury that was denied to Sourav Ganguly.
Sachin Tendulkar is out of form and his shoulder surgery resolved a selection problem for India.
But are the replacements ready to grab their chances in the batting lineup?
They better should.
Opener Gautam Gambhir refuses to learn from his mistakes and Suresh Raina should display the guts and gumption to soar over the pedestrian stuff that he has dished out so far.
Now, the most important question.
Could Ganguly have stabilized the Indian innings?
The Bengal player’s supporters would believe so, but take it from me, Ganguly would have struggled against the kind of quality bowling attack presented by England.
Old problem persists.
Except a few, Indian batsmen are not capable of taming consistently good pace bowling.
Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff, at their best, do not offer batsmen freedom to play carefree shots.
Test defeats in Mumbai and Karachi amply illustrate this point.
To gloss over incompetent batting, it would be silly to blame toss and its consequences.
Indian batsmen’s woes against fast bowling, quality fast bowling, is a problem that is not going to vanish soon. Even the presence of a batting great such as Greg Chappell has not improved matters.
The lack of consistency of Indian batsmen, however, has made the life difficult for Ganguly.
Every time an Indian wicket falls, Ganguly must be thinking that he has only a little way ahead to sneak back into the team.
It is a terrible thought that has the potential to wreck Ganguly’s life, beyond cricket.
Ganguly does not have it in him to stage a comeback into Indian team on honourable terms.
And I’m sure, Bengal’s hero, will lament the conspiracies to keep him out of the team, despite Dravid making it clear that “We are not writing off anyone- irrespective of whether it is a Ganguly or a Kumble—Anyone could be in the team if you are playing domestic cricket, and if you are doing well (and) as long as there is a place for you in the team.”
Is there a lifeline for Ganguly in those lines?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NYT on the plight of Asians in Dubai

Editor's note: Here I reproduce the New York Times story published on March 26, 2006

Dubai UBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 25 - For Rajee Kumaran, this was the city of dreams.
Many workers, at sites like this one in Dubai, paid corrupt recruiters high fees to get to the emirates, ending up in cramped camps earning low pay. Dubai's gleaming high rises, idyllic beaches and seemingly limitless opportunities glittered on the pages of brochures and in the stories told by laborers returning home to his native Kerala, India.
But after five years here, surviving in squalid conditions and barely making ends meet on less than $200 a month, Mr. Kumaran, 28, says his dream has long since faded.
"I thought this was the land of opportunity, but I was fooled," he said Thursday, as he stood with several other construction workers outside their workcamp in the desert on the outskirts of the city. When hundreds of workers angered by low salaries and mistreatment rioted Tuesdaynight at the site of what is to become the world's tallest skyscraper, not only were they expressing the growing frustration of Asian migrants here, they offered a glimpse of an increasingly organized labor force.
Far from the high-rise towers and luxury hotels emblematic of Dubai, the workers turning this swath of desert into a modern metropolis live in a Dickensian worldof cramped labor camps, low pay and increasing desperation.
For years, workers like Mr. Kumaran have done whatever they could to get here, often paying thousands of dollars to unscrupulous recruiters for the chance towork at one of the hundreds of construction sites in the emirates. Of the 1.5 million residents of Dubai, as many as a million are immigrants who have come here to work in some capacity, with the largest subgroup being construction workers, said Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who covers the United Arab Emirates, citing government statistics.
A vast majorityof the immigrants come from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines. With the cost of living rising, many have abandoned dreams of returning with a fortune. The construction workers' camps, in particular, have been set up ever deeper in the desert. That adds an hour or two just to get to the job site every morning, in addition to the workers' 12-hour shifts.
A growing number have resorted to suicide rather than return home with emptypockets: last year, 84 South Asians committed suicide in Dubai, according to the Indian Consulate here, up from 70 in 2004.
Mr. Kumaran, who earns 550 dirhams every month, or about $150, as a laborer, sends home almost half his earnings and lives on the equivalent of roughly $60 a month. That is barely enough to pay for food and cigarettes and using his cellphone from time to time. But he is not sure how he will repay the loan he took to get here.
"If I'd stayed in India and worked just as hard as I do now, I could have made the same money," he said. "And I wouldn't have needed to get a loan to come here."
Since last September, when 800 workers staged a protest march down a main highway in the heart of the city and set off a national debate about the treatment of foreign workers, laborers have held at least eight major strikes to demand their rights and get their pay, which is sometimes withheld.
But the mass action on Tuesday was the most significant of its kind. Hundreds of workers building the Burj Dubai skyscraper chased security guards and broke intooffices, smashing computers, scattering files and wrecking cars and construction machines. When they returned to work the next day, demanding better pay and improved working conditions, thousands of laborers building an airport terminal across town also laid down their tools, demanding better conditions, too. Theworkers also halted work on Thursday, until a settlement was negotiated.
"It was a watershed moment in coordination and organization," Mr. Ghaemi said."It started with increasing numbers of strikes, and has now evolved into very organized and coordinated activities. If these grievances are not addressed quickly by the government they are sure to begin hurting the economic growth of the country."
Those workers have few rights.
Visa sponsors and employers typically confiscate their passports and residency permits when they sign on, restricting their freedom of movement and their ability to report abuse. Most pay money to recruiters to find work here, a practice that the U.A.E. government has sought to stop. When they get here, few can leave the country without the permission of their employers, who can block them from working elsewhere in the country if they resign or are fired.
Unionizing is forbidden, too, and most workers have no recourse other than the Labor Ministry. Denial of wages is the most common abuse of workers, as contracting companies typically wait to pay their workers until they themselves get paid. In the worst cases, workers have been denied wages for more than 10 months, only to lose the entire salary when the contracting companies go bankrupt, leaving the men destitute and with few options.
The U.A.E.'s Ministry of Labor has tried to tackle the problem in recent months,making changes meant to allow workers to change employers more easily and imposing strict penalties on employers that do not pay their workers.
Workers can call a toll-free hot line to the ministry to lodge complaints, whichare investigated. And ministry inspectors do travel to work camps to inspect them. "We always support the workers and want to protect their rights, but we must protect employers' rights as well," said Ali al-Kaabi, the labor minister in the U.A.E.
"As long as these three factors are in place, the workers have no reasonto protest. If they have any problems or complaints they should speak with asupervisor, who should come to the ministry. Then if we don't act they have theright to protest."
But the sheer number of workers who have poured into the country over the past two years and inadequate staffing at the ministry have meant that many problems slip through, some officials and human rights workers say.
Only 80 government inspectors oversee about 200,000 companies and otherestablishments that employ migrant workers, Mr. Ghaemi said, citing government figures. The inspectors also look at labor camps: of the 36 camps inspected from May through December last year, the ministry ranked 27 well below government standards.
"There's such a boom and so many laborers required here that the government isbringing measures which are not entirely adequate," said B. S. Mubarak, labor and welfare consul at the Consulate General of India in Dubai.
"Neither we nor the ministry can cope with the growing number of laborers and growing number ofcomplaints."
As he boards a bus to his construction site every morning but Friday, Mr. Kumaran says he looks up at Dubai's skyline of gleaming high rises with a degree of sadness. "I wish the rich people would realize who is building these towers," Mr. Kumaran said, flanked by his co-workers.
"I wish they could come and see how sad this life is."

British scribe heaps scorn on Dravid

By John Cheeran
A gentleman by the name of Simon Briggs has heaped scorn on Indian captain Rahul Dravid in Daily Telegraph, London, on the very day India played England in New Delhi in the first of a seven-match one-day international series.
And this is the same paper which has Geoff Boycott as columnist, who is a well-known apologist for Sourav Ganguly. No wonder that the paper decided to malign Dravid.
Briggs's argument is that Dravid can't handle the perils and pressures of captaincy.
Aha... In the vast country that is India, except the parochial Bengalis, none has doubted Dravid's ability to lead the Indian side. He has led the Test and one-day sides to wins in Pakistan and at home.
In fact he is the first Indian captain in Indian cricket history who has not suffered a loss of form by the burdens of leadership.
And that's quite an achievement when Sourav Ganguly used to hang on to the Indian side by virtue of his captaincy. If you needed any more evidence it came by Tuesday evening. Defending a below par total of 203, Dravid's astute handling of Harbhajan Singh and power play triggered the England collapse for an emphatic win by 39 runs.
But, then, if you are swayed by parochial but powerful lobby groups in Calcutta, any Briggs can lose his balance.
The Daily Telegrapher came to the conlusion that Dravid is losing his cool by a loss in Mumbai, a few weeks ago. He links Dravid's walkout during the Delhi pressconference to his uneasiness in handling the national team!
Briggs also has discovered that Dravid "seems out of place, like a civil servant trying on the Emperor's purple."
But Board of Control for Cricket in India has decided that Dravid is doing a fine job and only last week they coronated Dravid as the emperor of Indian cricket by announcing him as the captain till the end of the World Cup in 2007.
A reognition that was not bestowed even on Jagmohan Dalmiya's poodle in the past.
And you know who is that left-handed poodle!
But Briggs issued a warning on Tuesday!
Read this from Daily Telegraph. "If Dravid should slip up in this one-day series, as he did with his bizarre decision to bowl first at Mumbai, India's huge and fanatical crowds will turn on him faster than a Shane Warne leg-break. In contrast to his predecessor, Sourav Ganguly, he has never quite captured the popular vote. The players' nicknames are instructive here. Sachin Tendulkar is"the Master Blaster." Ganguly is "Dada," which translates as elder brother. Dravid is "the Wall" - a player admired for his discipline and patience, but hardly one to inflame the passions."
Oh my god!
What a great piece of analysis by the Englishman!
If only nicknames could win World Cups!
And more from Mr Briggs' brief for Ganguly.
" Neither of the two biggest names in Indian cricket are present for this one-dayseries. Tendulkar booked into a London hospital yesterday for an operation on his shoulder. Ganguly has dropped out of contention for the team, and now his only high-profile appearances are on an administrative committee charged with reforming Indian cricket. It is not just the absence of Ganguly and Tendulkar that gives it an unfamiliarlook - though they do happen to be the two leading century-makers in one-day international history. VVS Laxman has gone too, and neither Zaheer Khan nor AnilKumble can be found among the bowlers."
Now I must educate Mr Briggs, a poor understudy to Derek Pringle, on Indian cricket. For the last five years, Dravid's has been the hero No.1 in Indian cricket whether you like it or not. Ganguly has been a wreck at the crease, at his best. Ganguly is dead and buried as far as international cricket is concerned and Indian cricket is better off for getting rid of him.
So why bemoan the absence of Ganguly in the side?
Dravid's India goes by the dictum that if you are not fit, you should stay away from the team. So the absence of Tendulkar is not Dravid's fault (as the writer suggests ) and every kid in India knows that Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan does not figure in the one-day scheme of things.
Briggs is unhappy that he can't find Anil Kumble among bowlers! Why? And to remind Briggs, Dravid and Kumble are thick friends and they support each other and their unshakeable bond goes all the way back to Bangalore.
VVS Laxman does enjoy skipper Dravid's confidence and only a cretin would suggest that Hyderabadi will not regain his rightful place in the side.
Briggs has also discovered that Dravid is not capable of inspiring his side. Does he understand inspiration as feigning injury on the eve of the match after having a look at the grassy pitch and running away from his reponsibilities as Ganguly did in Nagpur against Australia?
In that case Briggs should quit journalism.
In the last decade India was inspired and well served by Dravid. After getting rid of Ganguly, Dravid has encouraged Irfan Pathan as a bowler and played a big part in the evolution of the pacer into a dependable allrounder.
Dravid has supported youngsters such as RP Singh, Sreesanth and gave the big break toMunaf Patel. Dravid has stood by Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif and it is no wonder that team displays its resilience to bounce back from set backs.
Meanwhile, Briggs can travel to Kolkata for a free meal at Ganguly's home.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The devil and Paulo Coelho

By John Cheeran
Is Paulo Coelho a great writer?
The Brazilian novelist is something of a rage, even in India.
I must admit that I was quite impressed by his The Devil and Miss Prym.
But I’m quite puzzled where to place this hugely popular writer.
I think it would be better to call Coelho a brand rather than a writer.
Translations of Coelho’s novels from Portuguese to English are simple, straightforward but touching.
Coelho’s stuff is a cross between Mills and Boon and Richard Bach.
Middleclass all over the world, man and woman, are always interested by such entry points as dream, soul, heart, love etc.
But none knows what exactly these are supposed to be.
Realize your dream, chase your goals are some of the things anyone falls for these days.
Coelho has positioned himself as a healer and spiritual guide to those who are maimed by the modernity.
But his Eleven Minutes, by any yardstick, is utter trash.
There are very few passages that lift it from the depths of pornography.
May be that is natural when he tells the story of a young woman from Brazil who finds true love as a whore in Geneva.
Let me quote a few lines that I liked from the book.
“Absurd though it may seem, do you know what is more important than sex for a man?
I (Maria) thought it might be money or power, but I said nothing.
“Sport. Because a man can understand another man’s body. We can see that sport is a dialogue between two bodies that understand each other.”
Now let me give you a hint of what makes Eleven Minutes so popular.
Read this passage.
“Maria waited for the light to change, she crossed the road and paused in front of the floral clock; she thought of Ralf, saw again the look of desire in his eyes on the night when she had slipped off the top half of her dress, felt his hands touching her breasts, her sex, her face, and she became wet; and as she looked at the vast column of water in the distance, without even having to ouch any part of her own body, she had an orgasm, right there, in front of everyone.
Not that anyone noticed; they were all far too busy.”
Coelho is the new age Vatsyana and Eleven Minutes is the modern Kamasutra.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Was Tendulkar hiding his shoulder injury?

By John Cheeran
Was Sachin Tendulkar hiding his shoulder injury prior to the England Test series?
Was the team management aware of the delicate condition of Tendulkar’s right shoulder before the series began?
Why did the decision come only after Tendulkar failed in India’s first innings in Mumbai?
Selection committee chairman Kiran More had explained at the time of the injury announcement that
“He is fully fit to bat in the second innings.”
So what exactly is the problem?
Is the injury and surgery a big PR stunt in the wake of that jeers and boos at the Wankhede Stadium?
Tendulkar is fit to bat but he has a shoulder problem.
Many would point out that shoulder hampers only throwing but then it was only Tendulkar’s throw that dismissed a key England batsman in their second innings.
Wouldn’t it have been better for Tendulkar to stay away from the England series all together and treat his right shoulder at the earliest?
Not only Tendulkar would have been benefited but Team India too.
In place of an out-of-form Tendulkar VVS Laxman or Mohammad Kaif could have delivered the goods for India.
But when it comes to icons, Indians go dumb.
It amounts to blasphemy to question Tendulkar’s motive to stay in the team.
Instead we prefer to boo our icons!

Blessing in disguise, a cricket story

By John Cheeran
It often happens that a patient dies not getting correct treatment at the right time.
England was lucky during the Test series against India that their players’ injuries were not concealed. Injury and some other circumstances denied England four of its senior players and many feared that England would be weakened for it.
But that, then, was England team management’s fortune.
Things quite often do not happen the way we think or plan.
If England was not beset with injuries, poor form would have caught up with players such as Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones and Ashley Giles. And team management would have been tempted to keep them in the side, taking into account of their former glory.
And what happened?
All their replacements came good.
Alastair Cook scored a century, Owais Shah played two crucial knocks to set up the Mumbai win while seamer James Anderson and unheralded spinner Shaun Udal took crucial wickets.
It was the misfortune of Indian skipper Rahul Dravid that some of his players were not replaceable for being fit! Injuries to them would have been a blessing.
So Sachin Tendulkar admits his shoulder injury only after the writing on the wall became crystal clear to him. If not, VVS Laxman or Mohammad Kaif could have played in Tendulkar’s place and who knows, India could have won the series.
I’m sure, in any case, the disgrace of 100 all out would not have happened.
India would have been blessed if opener Virender Sehwag were to sit out of the Tests series with an injury. Someone else eager to get into the Indian team would have given his life while fielding and batting which would have been a relief for a harried skipper Dravid.
The same goes for off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Harbhajan was thoroughly out of form during the series and his absence would have served team’s cause of series triumph.
As Indian batting collapsed on the last day of the Mumbai Test, VVS Laxman and Kaif were chewing their nails. They should have been out there in the middle but India did not have England’s luck of injuries!
And I will think about Yuvraj Singh’s contribution as a batsman and fielder for quite some time in the series. To drop more than four crucial catches and a dismal run with the bat are not the qualities required to keep one’s place in the India team.
Kaif, please take note.

Boycott and syndicated lies

By John Cheeran
Geoff Boycott, commentator and former England cricketer, is a well-known attention seeker.
Boycott, an unabashed apologist for Sourav Ganguly, has used the Mumbai Test defeat to discredit Indian skipper Rahul Dravid.
I was surprised to read his column in Indian newspapers where he said that Dravid ought to give an explanation to the nation for choosing to field first, and he suggested that Dravid is refusing to do so.
As you all know, that was total rubbish and a pathetic performance from a sycophant.
Dravid had already said after the Test that his decision turned out to be a mistake and it was said with the advantage of hindsight.
So what was Dravid hiding then?
It amuses me that Indian newspapers are taken for a ride by the syndication agencies.
Boycott column is syndicated by an agency run by two Bengali journalists from Calcutta and it is no wonder that a Ganguly supporter finds fault with Dravid’s decision. And that should not be worthy of newsprint.
It should not surprise anyone, in the backdrop of Ganguly exit, that Calcutta syndication agency’s offering tries to tarnish the image of a selfless cricketer, a rarity in Indian cricket.
But why don’t the sports editors trash such rubbish instead of offering a lifeline to the column racketeers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

India's collapse in Mumbai is disgraceful

By John Cheeran
The way India collapsed on the last day in the Mumbai Test was disgraceful.
Winning the toss and fielding turned out to be the original mistake committed by skipper Rahul Dravid.
It is a pity that mistakes did not stop there.
Sloppy fielding and wayward bowling allowed England to touch 400 in the first innings.
And instead of giving a rousing reply to England, we had stalwarts such as Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar fumbling at the crease.
I will not buy the argument that batting second led to India’s 212-run defeat. There is no point in blaming Dravid for fielding first.
Batting first or second, you got to apply yourselves to the task at hand.
Poor batting was the cause of Indian defeat.
India could not get their first innings right. Conceding a lead of 121 runs in first innings was giving the advantage to the rivals.
And admit it, England has the best pace attack in the world on current form and on a wicket that offered plenty of assistance to seamers it was a test of character and technique for Indian batsmen.
And Indian batsmen have failed that test.
For Tendulkar giving his wicket to off-spinner Shaun Udal in the Indian second innings was shameful indeed.
In Mohali too, the Indian batting was brittle.
It will remain the same if the team management bail out the suspects again.
Mind you, the team management had to leave out VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif to accommodate Sehwag and Tendulkar, two players who quite do not deserve a place in the side on the basis of their current form.
I would also like to remind those who are condemning skipper Dravid and coach Greg Chappell that a week ago India had defeated England by nine wickets in Mohali.
The team that played in Mumbai was the same except for Sreesunth replacing Piyush Chawla.
England, after all, is the number two side in Test cricket and showed us why they are rated so.

Can India win the Mumbai Test?

By John Cheeran
Can India win the Mumbai Test?
As I write this, Anil Kumble has walked back to the pavilion and India still need 292 runs to win.
Everything points towards an England win.
India was dismissed for 279 in the first innings when pressure was less compared to what is now. Can they now chase 313 successfully?
This morning England has succeeded in their initial plan. They sent back Kumble, who scored some runs in the first innings, in double quick time. That has brought skipper Rahul Dravid to the crease.
With Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff in full flow, Dravid and Wasim Jaffer will have torrid time out there.
Sachin Tendulkar is out of form and now, as we know, requires shoulder surgery in London. Virender Sehwag can bat only ant number seven, a real setback for India, since he was not on the field during England second innings for a long, long time.
Things never looked tougher for India.
In such circumstances, if India can hang on for a draw, even for the loss of nine wickets, it will be a victory.
Every ball that has been safely seen through, every over that has been played out without losing wickets should strengthen the spirit in the Indian dressing room, and it should be an encouraging thought for the next batsmen to come in.
Just fight it out guys.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Is Tendulkar on trial?

By John Cheeran
In the last 10 Test innings, Sachin Tendulkar has not touched the 30-run mark. I would call it poor form.
On Sunday, at his home ground in Mumbai, Tendulkar failed again. Miserably, I add.
He took 14 balls to steal a single and when India required him to play a positive role in this Test, he threw away his wicket. Or was forced to.
India has only five specialist batsmen in Mumbai and the No.1 batsman who occupies the No.4 slot is unable to negotiate some disciplined, quality fast bowling from the Ashes conquerors.
Indian selectors have a problem here.
Time is running out for Tendulkar to regain form. It is not an easy decision to drop Tendulkar but reputation should not be the yardstick to pick your XI.
The truth is, Tendulkar has declined as a Test batsman. Someone has to break the news to the Little Master and carry on with the game.
In my book, he will retain his spot in the one-day XI, which should work well for India’s World Cup ambitions as well.
Much the same is true of opener and vice-captain Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag was hardly tested in the second innings at Mohali, which might extend his life in Tests, and in Mumbai, he was exposed again by Matthew Hoggard.
India’s batting woes begin at the top.
Sehwag’s failure to blunt the cutting edge of rival fast bowlers, leave alone scoring, is putting enormous pressure on the shoulders of skipper Rahul Dravid at a time when VVS Laxman sits out of the team.
Tough choices are ahead of Team India.
Tough choices are ahead of Dravid and coach Greg Chappell.

Hoggard proves Dravid right

By John Cheeran
I was about to write an apology for Indian skipper Rahul Dravid’s decision to bowl first.
But Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff have proved Dravid right by destroying the Indian top order.
Also events on the second morning, when Indian seamers improved their wayward ways to dismiss England for 400, explain Dravid was not wrong in his move.
With three seamers at his disposal, one of them the most quickest of recent times, and two seasoned spinners, and given the Mumbai wicket conditions, the Indian skipper should be pardoned for choosing to bowl first.
Had India batted first on the first morning of the Test, who could have guaranteed a solid start?
On the second day, between tea and close of play, England fast bowlers made Indian batsman dance to their tunes.
India lost both their openers at 24. They had lost Virender Sehwag very, very early to an awkward bouncer from Hoggard.
Mind you, this was on the second day, after Andrew Strauss and Owais Shah pounded the pitch.
The mere fact that Sachin Tendulkar took 14 balls to steal a single to open his account tells its own story. And what he did later, throwing away his wicket by fishing outside the off-stump, was unpardonable.
Clearly, he is a man on downhill.
In hindsight, critics go after Dravid for electing to field first.
But, in hindsight, I’m convinced that Dravid took a correct decision in his team’s cause.
Any fool could choose to bat after winning the toss in a Test. But to go against the grain, you should have a thinking mind and an awareness of cricketing realities.
It boils down to this. Winning and losing toss are quite incidental. What matters is quality of play whether you bat or bowl.
Mumbai Test has already showed that Indian pacers need to learn a lot and put in a lot more hard work to measure up to world’s best.
Now is the time for Indian batsmen to show that they can live up to the challenge of facing, disciplined and aggressive fast bowling. Outcome of this Test depends solely on that.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dravid’s decision defies conventional wisdom

By John Cheeran
If I were in the shoes of Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, after winning the toss, I would have batted first in the Mumbai Test.
Dravid has made a mistake by asking England to bat first.
I’m sure, he will cone under fire as captain, justifiably so, from all quarters.
Dravid’s move has opened up an excellent chance for a struggling England to defeat India and level the Test series.
What, then, must have been the reasons for Dravid opting to field first?
He apparently placed unreasonable faith in his pacers – Irafan Pathan, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel. He also may have thought to break from the tradition, to adopt an aggressive approach rather than play for a draw.
Dravid’s intention is praiseworthy, but Indian bowling has been patchy at its best over the years. Indian bowlers, including spinners, failed to respond to captain’s call when it mattered most.
Dravid took what should have been a fifth-day decision, on the morning of the match.
Had India batted first, the traditional route, things could have been definitely safer and better. With England missing fast bowler Steve Harmison here, their bowling would have come under tremendous pressure from the Indian batting.
Now onus is on Dravid to justify his bold move.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Keep walking, Dravid

By John Cheeran
Rahul Dravid missed a century in Mohali.
But the Indian skipper will complete a bigger century in the Mumbai Test against England, starting on Saturday.
Dravid, who began his Test career playing against England in 1996, will play in his 100th Test in Mumbai. Dravid has missed only one Test since his debut, that too recently against Sri Lanka, hard hit by a viral fever.
Another batsman who debuted along with Dravid has fallen by the wayside. He is Sourav Ganguly.
Much as there are no takers for an out-of-touch Ganguly, the Indian cricket now revolves around Dravid.
Dravid has led Team India with courage and imagination setting an example for the youngsters in the side.
Dravid has not let the pressures of captaincy affect his batting.
His batting has improved, and every time in a crisis, he has batted with utmost calm as is his wont.
To Dravid’s credit, the gentleman from Bangalore has helped to instill a no-nonsense culture across the board in Indian cricket.
Whether in declaring the Indian innings in Multan leaving Tendulkar stranded on the doorsteps of a double century, or in moving beyond a finished Ganguly, Dravid has proved himself a man of steel, a man of substance.
Dravid is one of those rare Indian, who has no need for a godfather to remain in the playing eleven. By playing for the team cause on each occasion, he has remained such an invaluable component of the side through out the decade.
Dravid has ethics, has elegance and education. He has a mind of his own.
Indian skipper has made hitherto unheard of sacrifices in Indian cricket, injuring himself and his career, by opening the innings to protect Ganguly from Pakistan fast bowlers and keeping wickets during one-day internationals so that the then skipper Ganguly could remain in the side.
Dravid is not a man obsessed by milestones.
I heard him saying in Mumbai that playing his 100th Test is an occasion to sit back and reflect how lucky he had been playing for India all this while.
It has been great journey, said the Indian skipper.
And for me, as for countless others across the world, it has been a great privilege to watch you play.
Keep walking, Dravid.

Endulkar, Scyld Berry and Mumbai

By John Cheeran
Whenever you think of Mumbai, think Sachin Tendulkar.
I certainly do. Especially when the Master shows signs of decline and frustration at the crease.
To doubt Tendulkar’s ability to take runs off quality bowling attack is blasphemy in India.
It, simply, is not the done thing.
As the cricket caravan moves to Mumbai for the third and final Test in the India-England series, everyone is waiting for Tendulkar to play a blazing innings. But as always there are a few doubters.
Scyld Berry, the Sunday Telegraph cricket writer, is one of them.
Last Sunday, Berry wrote:
“It was good for England, but sad for cricket, that Tendulkar failed to reach 30 for the ninth Test innings in a row. He has visibly gone downhill in the field in this series, unable to stop any off-drives of power, and switched yesterday from mid-off to mid-on. As a batsman he is now, regularly being hit by fast bowlers, this time by Harmison on the shoulder before he fended Flintoff to second slip.
“India’s next assignment is a tour of the West Indies. Tendulkar’s one-day place is still unchallenged, but in Tests, the bouncers will come thicker and faster if Fidel Edwards and Tino Best are playing.
Tendulkar has not made 30 since he set his 35th Test hundred, which set a world record. Typical of cricket that the heights should precede the depths, as well as the other way round.”
A pack of Indian cricket writers were in Mohali but none could see cricket and Tendulkar as they are.
Criticism of Tendulkar is a no-no and when Times of India, the quintessential Mumbai newspaper, carried a story titled Endulkar? in the wake of Karachi Test disaster there was a howl of protest.
And when Tendulkar went on to score a century in the one-dayer against Pakistan, Times of India’s rival Hindustan Times gloated and patted themselves for refraining from criticising the batsman.
But let me add my bit to the Endulkar business.
TOI’s Endulkar headline was far from original as Outlook, that wooly magazine, more than a year ago had titled Endulkar, a comment piece critical of India’s most successful batsman.
There were no howls then. It only shows what circulation is all about.

Mohali win strengthens Dravid’s hands

By John Cheeran
India’s nine-wicket win over England in the second Test Mohali could not have come at a more appropriate time for skipper Rahul Dravid. After the Karachi Test debacle, India needed a reassurance of sorts that its Test match play has class.
I have been puzzled, even now, by the insistence of Indian critics that India should have rolled over England, as the visitors are a weakened side, with out the designated skipper Michael Vaughan and vice-captain Marcus Trescothick. They lost fast bowler Simon Jones who was widely expected to run through the Indian side.
To them, to the critics, let me say this.
This Test series is between the No.2 and No. 3 sides as per the ICC Test rankings. And the No.2 side is England. They defeated the No.1 side, Australia, to lift the Ashes recently. So they must still be a good side with a capacity to take the injuries and pull outs in their stride.
What about India?
Aren’t they without the greatest-ever Bengali batsman, Sourav Ganguly, to plug the holes in the middle order?
Didn’t India miss Yuvraj Singh in the first Test at Nagpur? Didn’t Virender Sehwag lose wickets cheaply in his first three innings in the series to render India a 10-man army? Didn’t India leave out VVS Laxman from Mohali Test?
All such stuff happens in the game.
What makes you a winner is how you manage the given variables to the best effect. India faltered in Nagpur but hit back in Mohali to stun Andrew Flintoff and company.
It was one the greatest Indian Test wins in the recent times. I will list my reasons.
India went into the Mohali match under pressure, having conceded England the first innings lead in Nagpur.
On paper, England’s seam attack looked much sharper than India’s.
Indian captain Dravid lost the toss, which would have been crucial, since everyone expected the pitch to deteriorate as the match progressed. India lost the opportunity to bat first.
Bad weather and rain robbed crucial time and the first innings of the Test was completed only on the third day.
India was one batsman less – VVS Laxman left out—and again there was the familiar middle order collapse. Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh fell cheaply.
The poor form of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.

But skipper Dravid overcame all these hurdles. He held the Indian first innings together with a great, disciplined effort of 95, without which hosts would have been dismissed for less than 200. He virtually had to switch on to the role of an opener, and unsure of support till Irfan Pathan came along.
Dravid’s decision to play five bowlers finally paid the dividends as seamer Munaf Patel struck vital blows in each stage of the England innings.
Dravid is a great fan of Anil Kumble and it does not come as a surprise that leg-spinner responds to skipper’s request with a bagful of wickets in crisis.
To skipper’s credit, it should be mentioned that he gave unstinting support to Harbhajan Singh by giving the bowler extended spells in England second innings, letting him grab a wicket.
And finally look at the victory margin. A win by nine wickets is worth cherishing for a long time. Mind you it came without any powerhouse performance from the usual match-winners—Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag and Harbhajn.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pushing the boundaries

By John Cheeran
Sunil Gavaskar carried his bat through the 60 overs in a World Cup game to remain not out at 36.
One-day cricket was in its infancy then.
As the news of South Africa successfully chasing Australia’s score of 434 for four in 50 overs in Johannesburg reaches me, I’m unsure of my response. Should I laugh or cry?
South Africa beat Australia by one wicket as Herschelle Gibbs anchored their chase with a brilliant 175 made from only 111 balls. Ricky Ponting had made 165 earlier in the day.
What else is not possible in cricket?
Well, one record is yet to fall. A double century in a 50-over international is yet to happen. It could well have happened in Johannesburg.
Virender Sehwag must dream bigger now.
Since the scoring rate of almost nine runs happened in a game between two of the strongest teams in contemporary crcket – Australia and South Africa – none will question the authenticity of the Johannesburg run glut.
Or I presume so.
How I wish someone could gauge the mind of those hapless bowlers while they were being murdered on the field.

Don’t let go this Mohali moment

By John Cheeran
Don’t let go this opportunity, Rahul Dravid.
India is not even halfway to victory in the Mohali Test but we are well on the course.
It has been an impressive turnaround since this Test series began in Nagpur and India has the advantage now.
Skipper should ensure that Andrew Flintoff does not flourish on Monday morning to put the victory out of India’s hands.
On Monday Anil Kumble should pack off Flintoff, the first thing.
Failure to do so would see England giving India a tantalizing target in the fourth innings.
Given the brittle nature of Indian top order, and the quality of England seam attack, any target that requires to score more than five runs per over would have terrible consequences.
The kind of lift and bounce Steve Harmison extracted from the pitch, let me tell you, could trouble some of the biggest names in Indian cricket. To put India on the defensive, England does not necessarily need spinners.
Remember one thing.
As skipper Dravid told Nasser Hussain in the evening, wicket is still good to look for runs hence the responsibility on Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to dismiss the rivals quickly is huge indeed.
Over to you, Kumble.

Dravid thuje salaam

By John Cheeran
Rahul Dravid is not born to make centuries.
Indian skipper is just there to score runs in crisis.
He is there to stand tall when others abandon their responsibilities.
So what if Dravid missed his 23rd Test century; by the time he departed scoring 95 India had come with in the striking distance of the England’s first innings total.
Skipper’s sheer grit elicited similar response from the lower order batsmen. Irfan Pathan showed again why we are right to call him as the emerging all-rounder of the side with a glowing knock of 52.
Dravid, during his innings of 95, has demonstrated what Test match batting under pressure is all about.
Had Dravid gone early on Sunday morning, the script would have been tweaked decisively in favour of England. He ensured that India did not fold up without a fight.
It is a fact that Dravid did not hurry his innings.
There comes a time when you need to wait, play straight, eschew extravagant strokes. Dravid believes, quite rightly so, the more you stay at the wicket, runs come in search of you and bowlers tend to stray in their line. All this is basic cricket stuff.
But getting your basics right shall help you in crisis, when the situation gets tough.
The patience that Dravid has displayed in the both innings of Nagpur Test and in the first innings at Mohali should be a lesson to any student of the game.
Through his innings Dravid justified the decision to leave out the sixth batsman from the side. With one batsman less, India gained first innings lead over England.
In Nagpur, with six specialist batsmen around, India conceded 70-run lead in the first innings.
So it is not the number that matters, but your grit and application to the task at hand.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dravid’s NPAs (non-performing assets or batsmen)

By John Cheeran
Has the decision of the team management – read Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell -- to play five bowlers in the Mohali Test backfired?
There are quite a few who think so, especially now India is struggling at 149 for four in the first innings with all specialist batsmen except – who else? -- skipper Rahul Dravid at the crease.
Commentators, critics, spectators, VVS Laxmans, Mohammad Kaifs and the Ganguly-ists are of the opinion that India lacks the crucial sixth batsman in Mohali in the context of 149 for four.
To make matters worse, India’s fifth bowler, the debutant Piyush Chawla, has been under bowled in England’s first innings.
He has been under bowled because he was not troubling batsmen as much as it was expected of him.
Yes, these, indeed, are points for debate.
But let me restate why India picked five bowlers.
Indian bowling was ragged and lacked bite in Nagpur. England does not relish spin bowling, especially leg breaks. The Mohali track for the current Test is prone to offer turn and bounce for spinners.
Young spinner Piyush Chawla had troubled the Englishmen during a warm-up game. And India must attack aggressively for England wickets to force a win.
Bowlers might get tired and our bowling should have variety. The leg-spin of Kumble and leg-spin of Chawla are different in nature.
It is quite another matter in the England first innings only Kumble had Andrew Flintoff and company in a spin.
But I cannot understand why should India always play six batsmen. If five specialist batsmen cannot do the job, how can the sixth one do the job?
The crux of the matter is not in how many number of specialist batsmen we carry in the side. How many justify their presence in the side by scoring runs?
India’s trouble is that some of the established ones fail to perform against quality bowling.
The trick Dravd and Chappell should learn fast is that they should pick those who perform consistently and dump the rest.
How I wish Dravid retained the bloody-minded Mohammad Kaif in the Mohali XI!
Now he has to do it all by himself.

Kumble should last for 600

By John Cheeran
Anil Kumble is to Indian bowling what is Sachin Tendulkar to Indian batting.
Tendulkar is the highest scorer in Tests for India.
Kumble is the highest wicket taker in Tests for India.
Tendulkar is a national icon and all India is obsessed with the little master.
But Kumble is the quintessential quiet Indian, the provincial boy.
Kumble recently completed his 100th Test match and today in Mohali he has gone past another milestone. 500 wickets.
It is a remarkable achievement for any bowler, anywhere in the world.
But we have overlooked time and again Kumble for the meretricious ones.
Indian captaincy should have gone from Mohammad Azharuddin to Anil Kumble.
Sourav Ganguly usurped, what was rightfully Kumble’s, thanks to Jagmohan Dalmiya’s clout. There were no mourners, not even in the Karnataka Cricket Association since Brijesh Patel and company considers Dalmiya their blood brother.
Now with Dalmiya gone, Ganguly has been cast away, but this gentleman leg-spinner from Bangalore carries on his good work for Team India.
Skipper Rahul Dravid realizes what a gem he has got in Kumble. He is a true match-winner.
No wonder then Dravid said recently that if Kumble can sit out of a game without any complaints, everyone should be ready for it.
How I wish that statement echoes in the ears of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

It’s time India axed Tendulkar and Sehwag

By John Cheeran
It is high time national selectors gave the shock treatment to Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
Their performance in Test cricket – Karachi, Nagpur and Mohali – in the last three matches is pathetic and does not deserve a place in the side based on the current form.
As in the case of Sourav Ganguly, it is the reputation that is propping up Sehwag and Tendulkar. India has paid dearly in recent times for the poor performance of these two.
Let’s face it, these two have been reduced, essentially, to one-day players.
Skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell are shy to ease out Tendulkar and Sehwag out of the team fearing the backlash from the cricketing riff-raff, especially in the case of the Mumbai batsman.
Tendulkar and Sehwag deserve to be dropped from the Test team, let’s make no bones about it.
They should be given counselling by Dravid and Chappell that, ‘fear not, you two will remain integral part of the World Cup squad.’
However unpleasant this step might turn out to be, there is no alternative for Dravid.
The fact that VVS Laxman is not playing in Mohali indicates the mood of the team management.
If Tendulkar and Sehwag do not come up with meaningful contribution in the second innings of the Mohali Test, they should be left behind. Time is running out for them.
In Nagpur and now in Mohali, Sehwag’s absolute failure pushed Dravid into an opener’s role.
Tendulkar’s failure even in the comfortable No.4 batting slot has put enormous pressure on the shoulders of Dravid. Indian batting t has narrowed down to Dravid.
In hindsight, India is missing the solidity of Mohammad Kaif in Mohali. How long youngsters like Kaif and Suresh Raina have to sit out only to accommodate the greats of the game?
If the measure of greatness is to come good under pressure, Tendulkar should have come good in the Karachi Test. He did not.
He should have come good at Nagpur. He did not. Then, at least he should have scored, at least got into double digits at Mohali.
I must add that the only beneficiary from the unseemly controversy regarding Sourav Ganguly’s omission is Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid and Chappell are apparently worried about the bigger and nastier backlash that shall greet them in the event of giving the axe to Tendulkar.
No wonder, then, Tendulkar came to support Ganguly during the height of the Reinstate Ganguly campaign.
Birds of same feather, indeed!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sonia gives a cricket boost for Indian Muslims

By John Cheeran
I have been waiting for a long time for secular cricket historians and broadcasters to come up with an analysis telling us how the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has shaped a fundamental shift in Indian cricket.
To be precise, in the policy to select the Indian team.
They are the great secularists of our time. Now let me tell you how these gentlemen may go about their thesis. They will look at the fourteen members of the Indian team.
Here is the list.
Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mohammad Kaif, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and Piyush Chawla.
Now hear the revelation.
Four out of the fourteen cricketers are Muslims. And I’m certain that some of our cricket historians will be able to tell me that this is the first time in Indian cricket’s history that four Muslims made it to the national team at the same time.
Four out of 14 is 28.5 per cent. In the age of representative politics this is too much. Or is it not enough?
Muslims make up only 18 per cent of the Indian population.
The secular thesis will explain that, this would not have happened if the NDA government were in power. Only Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and vision would have emboldened chief selector Kiran More and company to plump for Muslims.
(They will not admit that it is these concerned players' sheer talent that has taken them to the highest honour in India now.) I will not even buy the argument, which is most likely to come up, that Kaif and company had to work twice harder than others because of their minority tag.
Muslims are a confident community now as the NDA is in the doldrums and cricket team is the mirror that reflects this positive development, the secularists would have commented.
This turn of events, you should keep in mind, has come about when central government is assessing the Muslim representation in the Indian Army, in order to set right the percentage game.
Is not cricket selection the best place to begin with?
Secularists from Calcutta will point out that the selection of Mohammad Kaif over Sourav Ganguly when an injured Yuvraj Singh was unavailable for Nagpur Test has enhanced the image of Ms Gandhi.
Dawood Ibrahim must be content now.
So must be an omniscient editor in New Delhi who asked Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi that the killing of Muslims in the post-Godhra riots wouldn’t have denied Team India more talents like Irfan Pathan.
It is time to recall Mohammad Azharuddin, if not as a player, as a consultant.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jaffer and Dravid redeem Team India

By John Cheeran
Both India and England can leave Nagpur behind with some gains, though victory eluded them.
On the last day, Indian captain Rahul Dravid had a design to take on England’s challenge of 367 to win. Obviously Dravid was banking on Virender Sehwag to give the Indian chase the momentum.
Losing Sehwag (0) with Indian score at 1, Dravid and Jaffer had to rework their plans.
They played first and foremost to ensure that India should not lose this match.
Once the primary objective was achieved, taking India to post-Tea session without losing further wickets, skipper Dravid tried for the impossible …victory.
All credit goes to skipper Dravid and opener Jaffer.
They did not flinch against some disciplined and at times aggressive attack and strengthened India’s position to such an extent that they could go for a victory in the last 25 overs.
Had India lost either of them before the final session, the match would have taken a different course altogether.
But this Indian team’s attitude to go for the runs is a break from the tradition.
It is uncharacteristic of Indian captain and coach in the past to do things like this. It really is the Aussie approach to cricket. I can see Greg Chappell’s contribution in pushing Irfan Pathan’s up the batting order after Dravid’s dismissal.
Pathan’s bold hitting was the catalyst the Indian chase was waiting for. Pathan did just that and England was panicking then. England skipper Andrew Flintoff pushed his fielders to the fence to prevent the cascade of runs. That was a signal that England does fear Dravid’s India.
India’s gains despite its inconsistencies in both batting and bowling are a few.
Two of the replacements – Wasim Jaffer and Mohammad Kaif -- have come good in a big way. Their knocks were central to the Indian team’s fortunes in this Test as Sehwag, Laxman and even Tendulkar failed to make much of an impression.
On the bowling front, debutant Sreesanth did not disappoint the team management with his four wickets in the first innings.
But plenty of hard work lies ahead of Team India in Mohali and Mumbai if they are to win this Test series.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dravid, go for the impossible…victory

By John Cheeran
All that has happened in the past four days in Nagpur is of little consequence now.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Hope and dread shall alternate as Indians try to deny England victory.
It is also a rare opportunity for this Indian side to find hitherto unknown qualities of chasing under pressure on the last day of a Test match.
A poor day on the field by Indians have helped England immensely to reach 297 for three in their second innings on Saturday which makes a target of 367 for India in the fourth innings.
That is, assuming, Andrew Flintoff’s declares their innings the first thing tomorrow morning.
I’m putting my money on a draw tomorrow.
The very fact that Flintoff has delayed the declaration so far indicates that bowlers will not get too much assistance from the pitch on the final day.
So even a score of 367 would not be out of reach for Indian batsmen. There is a little turn in the wicket and I can straight away admit that England’s bowling attack is far, far superior to India’s.
England’s fielding will be high-octane stuff tomorrow since they believe that if they push too hard Indian Wall will crumble. That is a reasonable line of thinking.
But if Virender Sehwag fires, we will have an interesting Sunday ahead.
If Sehwag gets going and India does not lose any wickets in the first hour on the last day, the advantage will swing in favour of India.
But if Indian top order is going to under estimate Flintoff’s army, they will come to grief.
Sure, England was able to put together its second innings in a brisk fashion only thanks to some shoddy catching by Indian fielders.
Unpardonable. Skipper Rahul Dravid should give more thought to this aspect of the game.
The fact that England batsmen did offer India enough chances to grab wickets gives rise to the fear of an Indian meltdown in the Nagpur sun.
Again, as Dravid and his men join the battle tomorrow, what matters is only tomorrow.
The message that goes out from here is this -- play positive, play hard.
Don’t worry about victory or defeat.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chappell hits Ganguly where it hurts

By John Cheeran
When Greg Chappell spoke the truth regarding his relationship with Sourav Ganguly to The Guardian, quite a few feathers were ruffled. Naturally.
Chappell lays it bare how BCCI was ran during Jagmohan Dalmiya’s time.
He admits that without Ganguly’s influence, he would not have got the coaching job. But Chappell also says by preferring him as the coach Ganguly was trying to run him as the skipper did with John Wright.
Chappell also hits Ganguly where it hurts.
By clinging on to captaincy former Indian skipper Ganguly was ensuring his financial well being, not his team’s.
The BCCI has reprimanded Chappell for his remarks on Ganguly since the latter, as is his won’t , cried and complained to the BCCI.
So what? Now we all know how hollow a man Ganguly is.
Excerpts from Guardian correspondent Mike Selvy’s interview with Indian team coach Greg Chappell.
“For a while, the Ganguly issue - the captaincy passed to Rahul Dravid after it all came to a head during the tour of Zimbabwe - became all consuming. For the good of all, Chappell is keen to move it on from it now. Some years back, Ganguly had come to him for coaching.
"I helped him with his batting then," said Chappell, "so maybe he thought I would be his mate and support him now. Certainly there is no way I would have got the job here without his influence. I'm sure he thought he would be able to run me as he did John in the latter part of his time as coach.
But we clashed because his needs as a struggling player and captain and those of the team were different.
"I'm not the hard-nosed control freak that I have been portrayed. I'm thorough, a realist, a pragmatist and I'm honest. Much has been written and said, a lot of it misleading, but in essence I told Sourav that if he wanted to save his career he should consider giving up the captaincy. He was just hanging in there. Modest innings were draining him. He had no energy to give to the team, which was helping neither him nor us. It was in his own interest to give himself mind space to work on his batting so that it could be resurrected.
He was not prepared to do that. What I didn't realise at that stage was how utterly important to his life and finances being captain was.
"The controversy will carry on but I have learned if I can't be totally impervious to it then it is beyond my control. I have to let it wash by and say 'people have their reasons for saying what they do and I can't be distracted by that' and do what I believe in. At the end of my time, whenever that might be, the team and therefore I will be judged ultimately on the results we achieve, not whether I have been able to convince this or that member of the media that what we are doing is in the best interests of Indian cricket."

Thank you Bush, Thank you India

By John Cheeran
The United States of America and United States of India are the new leaders of the world.
Pakistan might be the bastard child of Indian independence and USA must be spoon-feeding it.
That should not come in India’s way to accept the hand of friendship offered by President George Bush, the most powerful man on earth.
I’m glad that India embraced Bush and the American dream wholeheartedly during the President’s visit to India this week.
Marxist loonies such as Prakash Karat and babe in the wood Arundhati Roy are free to worship Islamic fundamentalist rogues such as Iran’s Ahmedinejad.
But I’m glad that Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ignored CPI (M)’s threats with the contempt that deserved.
It is a terrible time when Karat and Muslim clerics decide India’s foreign policy.
I’m not really surprised that with revolution sunk without a trace in the Arabian Sea, Indian Marxists are relying on the 18 per cent of Muslims to stay float in the parliamentary Olympics in India.
It is a shame that Karat, otherwise an educated and dignified chap, has reduced to the spokesman for
Pan-Islamic fundamentalism in India.
Does it surprise you that his party did not condemn the fatwa issued by the Uttar Pradesh State Minister, belonging to the Samajwadi Party for killing the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Muhammad.
And mind you, this silence is from a party that condemns even a traffic violation in New York.
Who cares for freedom of expression?
Marxists now want votes and who else will vote them but only those who are driven by irrational thoughts and deeds.
Hence the CPM’s an anachronistic agenda of anti-US campaign to whip up religious sentiments of a minority. Survival tactics, awestruck comrades are explained.
And here I’m shouting for joy at the signing of the historic nuclear deal between the sovereign Republic of India and the United States of America.
I was waiting for the Ayatollah of Indian Communism, Prakash Karat to storm into the Purana Qila to raise his protest while President Bush was spelling out his united vision for India and world.
Burn the Communist Manifesto, Karat!

Crisis reveals Mohammad Kaif’s character

By John Cheeran
When each crisis blows out itself, there might be some plus points if you take a close look at the debris.
India’s middle order crisis in Nagpur was such a one.
With his back to the pavilion, Mohammad Kaif authored Team India’s revival in the company of Anil Kumble.
Kaif has been the eternal replacement man for India in Tests.
It is no secret that Sourav Ganguly fucked up Kaif’s Test career for a long, long time.
A middle order batsman in the classical mould, Kaif’s measured approach to cricket should have earned him a regular place in Tests long ago.
In the past as and when a slot opened up in the middle order it was gobbled up by Yuvraj Singh.
In Nagpur, Kaif got his chance only when Yuvraj Singh pulled a hamstring. A crisis?
Definitely, an opportunity for Kaif.
There was indignation in Calcutta, and elsewhere in Sunil Gavaskar’s syndicated columns, that instead of Kaif, skipper Rahul Dravid should have chosen Sourav Ganguly, someone out of touch with contemporary cricket.
Dravid did not budge and Kaif has grabbed his chance with both hands.
Well, a maiden Test century has eluded Kaif by nine runs. But in my book, his 91 at Nagpur is rated much, much higher than a double century hit when the contest is dead and buried.
Kaif outlasted an hour that saw the dismissals of masters like Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman; and rages of the season such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irafan Pathan.
Kaif is not flamboyant. He is a grafter. But remember that he is considered the ideal one-day batsman, a rotator par excellence of striker and an athletic fielder.
The only gripe I have with Kaif is that he did not think it fit to step up the scoring, even when he reached 70s. And in the process an ordinary and overworked left-arm spinner such as Monty Panesar was allowed to look like a good bowler.
A few bold hits when the Indian innings was steadied would have fetched Kaif his century and an overall release from the pressure cooker situation. It would have even made batting look simpler.
But then I was not in the middle, Kaif was. After all, everyone has his own style.
May be Kaif wanted a century so much in Nagpur, considering the amount of pressure that was on him to perform here in the backdrop of his string of single digit scores in recent one-day internationals.
A confident Kaif, I’m sure, would have chanced his arms and put England bowling to the sword.
I’m eager for India’s and Kaif’s second innings.

Kaif and Kumble shore up India

By John Cheeran
A splendid rearguard action led by Mohammad Kaif (91) and Anil Kumble (58) has given India hopes of competing at even levels with England in the first Test in Nagpur.
Three days are gone; England has a slight edge, a draw is the most likely result but bringing in the vagaries of pitch for the final sessions, a victory for either side is not improbable.
India trail by 71 runs in the first innings and I do not think the last wicket pair of Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth would be able to bring the deficit down.
But more hard work is required from both England and India to quicken the pace of the proceedings.
Now to the ups and downs of the third day.
The 100-plus partnership between Kaif and Kumble could not have come at a better time for Rahul Dravid’s India.
Down at 190 for seven, India was falling freely, to what would have been a defeat.
As Indian wickets tumbled in Nagpur, Calcutta and Sourav Ganguly were planning to remind how Team India missed the Bengali’s arrogance.
Bring Ganguly.
The chant was smothered in the beginning by none other than Kaif.
What Paul Collingwood and Matthew Hoggard did for England, Kaif and Kumble did for India.
Only the Indian approach was cautious, but caution was justified considering the 393 Andrew Flintoff’s men posted.
But it would be worthwhile to remember the earlier post, where I discussed, how the crisis was triggered by a silly decision by Pakistani umpire Alim only against a disciplined England bowling attack.
So it did not come as a surprise that a determined approach blunted England’s cutting edge in bowling.

Umpire Dar, Rahul Dravid and a catastrophe

By John Cheeran
A small mistake leads to a catastrophe.
A silly decision by umpire Aleem Dar against Rahul Dravid on Friday morning in Nagpur has done just that.
With India beginning the day at 131 for one and Dravid and opener Wasim Jaffer playing sensibly only an outrageous decision such as the lbw verdict when the ball was very much moving outside leg stump could have wrecked India’s progress.
That made an average bowler like Matthew Hoggard a demon.
Had Dravid, the best batsman in Indian side, I must say much better than Sachin Tendulkar now, stayed at the wicket for more than an hour, the events would have taken a different course.
A bad decision, a loose shot from Jaffer and a good ball to VVS Laxman, had India in trouble.
Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Kaif laboured around then letting the English bowlers have the upper edge. It is a pity that Tendulkar cannot take charge of the innings when situation warrants so.
It was unbelievable to watch England skipper Andrew Flintoff attack with, at times with four slips, on what was considered to be a track that should assist spinners.
And it all began with umpire Dar wagging his finger against Rahul Dravid.
John Cheeran at Blogged