Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ganguly back: selectors separate wheat from chaff and send chaff to South Africa

By John Cheeran
Rabindranath Tagore says in one of his short stories that every village needs its own idiot.
May be every cricket team needs its own cross and no wonder then that Indian cricket team captain Rahul Dravid gets Sourav Ganguly.
This retrograde step – bringing back Ganguly – is politically inspired and has been arrived at consulting star charts than looking at what has been happening in the middle in South Africa.
At his best, Ganguly has been a good one-day cricketer.
His Test play has been patchy and it does not make any sense to include this prince of manipulators for the Test team.
Selectors have reasoned that they are falling back on experience. It is surprising that Dilip Vengsarkar could not see that experience has failed abjectly in the form of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohamamd Kaif, Ajit Agrakar and Dinesh Mongia.
Well, Sehwag has been stripped of the vice-captaincy, a big psychological blow for him, and he will have to soon play for himself. Making statements in support of coach Greg Chappell has not worked apparently.
Kaif and Agarkar have been given return tickets.VVS Laxman is the new vice-captain and he will have to live up to the additional responsibility.
The Test team for South Africa: Rahul Dravid (captain), VVS Laxman (vice-captain), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Karthick, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh and VRV Singh

Witness this battle between Experience and Youth

By John Cheeran
When cricket pundits sharpen their axe against Indian coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid for investing in youth I can’t contain my amusement.
An experience versus youth theory has been put forward by a few spin-doctors in the Indian sport media.
They have successfully pointed out that India’s travails in South Africa – three consecutive losses in one-dayers – is basically because the team lacks experience. The lack of experience is especially applied to batsmen, who appear to be rabbits caught in the headlight of an oncoming vehicle.
Tragedy of Indian cricket is such that people are easily convinced with the experience argument.
Yes, Suresh Raina has failed though he has been given enough opportunities to prove otherwise.
Yes, Dinesh Karthick has failed in the couple of opportunities he has been given in South Africa.
But apart from these two who are the young batsmen who have failed the side?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has showed enough gumption in the last two matches at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth that he can take the battle into the rival camp.
Yes, still much more was expected of Dhoni, but considering the overall failure of the Indian side, Dhoni is proof that investing in youth is worth taking the risk.
If the fourth one-dayer played at Port Elizabeth on Wednesday was any indication, the 22-year old all rounder Irfan Pathan is piecing together his game back in shape. Though India lost by 80 runs, I take Pathan’s performance with bat and ball a huge positive from the game.
Pathan, coming after India lost five wickets, remained not out on 47 compiled from 55 balls, hitting two huge sixers and four boundaries. He was an improved bowler too, that is, if you consider his lackluster show in the recent past. In seven overs, Pathan gave away only 28 runs. If this is not proof for Chappell’s policy of investing in the youth what else is?And Munaf Patel, though sidelined by an injury, and S Sreesanth still remain India’s best pace bets. Dhoni, Pathan, Munaf and Sreesanth vindicate Chappell and Dravid for their youth-oriented policy. And what about experience?
It is a pity that apart from skipper Rahul Dravid, none of the experienced campaigners struck form with bat. That list includes Sachin Tendulkar, who could score only 1 at Port Elizabeth, and Virender Sehwag, who has been given a new lease of life by the injury to Dravid.
Do you consider Tendulkar and Sehwag as rookies?
Why have they failed in South Africa, despite their vast experience and their previous success in South African conditions?
And take Mohammad Kaif.
Kaif is no longer a callow youth but he has been with the Indian team for the last five years and has campaigned in the 2003 World Cup.
Take Wasim Jaffer.
Jaffer has been in playing in domestic circuit since 1996-97 and he is an experienced and seasoned player than Kaif for that matter. What about Ajit Agarkar, who has been promising Indian cricket rich returns since 1999.
Agarkar has played in two World Cups and at what level he has been batting and bowling in South Africa on this tour? Agarkar, again, is not a greenhorn.
Dinesh Mongia, another 2003 World Cup campaigner, too has failed to make the cut.
Sehwag, Jaffer, Tendulkar, Kaif, Agarkar and Mongia have all failed as batsmen and it is not lack of experience that contributed to their downfall. May be it is a lack of application and lack of hunger to prove themselves over and again. Sadly for Indian cricket, these guys have taken their game for granted and you do so at your own peril.
If anyone thinks that experience wins you matches, you are horribly mistaken. It is not experience but effort that wins you matches.
Ask Anil Kumble. After being ignored for one-dayers for too long a time, Anil has grabbed his opportunity with both hands on pitches that do not favour spinners, bowling splendidly at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
It was not again experience but effort.
Five years ago when India toured South Africa, it was a relatively callow youth called Virender Sehwag who captured world cricket’s imagination with an innings of pure daring at Bloemfontein.
Let me remind those wooly thinkers, who are bringing back Sourav Ganguly as Mr Experience, this. Such a move is hardly the need of the hour for Indian cricket.
Pump in more fresh blood to this side; bring on Robin Uthappas and Badrinaths.
Strengthen the hands of Chappell and Dravid. Strengthen Indian cricket.

For the record: Indian ship sinks at Port Elizabeth

From Port Elizabeth, South Africa
South Africa took an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the one-day series when they beat India by 80 runs on Wednesday.
Herschelle Gibbs top-scored with an unbeaten 93 as the hosts scored 243 for eight after winning the toss in the fourth game of the five-match series. The first game was washed out.
Irfan Pathan's 47 not out was the best effort in India's reply of 163 all out in 38.1 overs.
The visitors were never in the running after they lurched to 39 for four in the 13th over. Medium pacer Justin Kemp finished with figures of three for 21.
"We're not firing yet like we know we can," Gibbs told reporters. "We're winning and we're not playing our best cricket...which is great.
"There's always pressure on the top order to get some runs and it was my turn this time."
South Africa were six for two when Gibbs came to the crease in the fourth over.
He anchored the innings, sharing half-century stands with Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock.
South Africa were rocked when left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan trapped captain Graeme Smith lbw for a duck with the third ball of the match and fast bowler Shanta Sreesanth yorked fellow opener Loots Bosman for another duck.
Gibbs and Kallis then shared a partnership of 69 for the third wicket before leg spinner Anil Kumble had the all rounder caught behind by wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni for 49.
Two overs later Kumble trapped AB de Villiers lbw for 13 but Boucher helped Gibbs shore up the innings with a stand of 61.
Medium pacer Virender Sehwag ended the partnership when he trapped Boucher lbw for 29.
India were jubilant two balls later when Sachin Tendulkar removed Kemp for a duck.
But Pollock joined forces with Gibbs to repair the damage with a stand of 61 that ended when the all rounder was run out for 37.
Smith said he was satisfied with his team's form in most areas.
"Maybe we haven't batted as well as we could have done but we've bowled and fielded very well in the series," he said.
Sehwag, leading India in place of the injured Rahul Dravid, blamed the defeat on his batsmen.
"Our batting was disappointing, especially in the top order, and we hardly put a partnership together," said Sehwag.
"We have nothing to lose now and we can enjoy Sunday's final one-day match in Centurion and look forward to next month's test series."
The teams next play a Twenty20 match in Johannesburg on Friday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Giving out Ganguly's numbers!

By John Cheeran
If the chairman of national selection committee Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues Venkatapathy Raju (South Zone), Ranjib Biswal (East Zone), Sanjay Jagdale (Central Zone) and Bhupinder Singh (North Zone) take a look at Sourav Ganguly’s record in South Africa and pick him for the Test series on the basis of those runs, there would not be a graver injustice than that to truth.
The truth is that Ganguly of now is a ghost of his glory years.
He has struggled throughout his comeback bid in India as well as on English county circuit.
It would be an injustice to youngsters such as Tamil Nadu’s Badrinath, Delhi’s Gautam Gambhir, and even to West Bengal’s Jhunjhunwala, who batted much better than Ganguly in the last game the former Indian skipper played against Punjab in Mohali.
Here you can take a look at how Ganguly had scored in South Africa in the past two tours.
2001-2002 First Test Bloemfontein vs South Africa: Sourav Ganguly 14 and 30; Rahul Dravid (as an opener) 2 and 11, VVS Laxman 32 and 29
Second Test Port Elizabeth: Ganguly 42 and 4 (n.o.), Dravid 2 and 87, VVS Laxman 89
In One-dayers 1st match vs SA: Ganguly 127; Dravid 1; 2nd match vs SA : Ganguly 24, Dravid 54; 3rd match vs Kenya: Ganguly 24, Dravid 11; 4th match vs SA: Ganguly 85, Dravid 71; 5th match vs Kenya Ganguly 111, Dravid did not bat; Final vs South Africa: Ganguly 9, Dravid 77 (top scorer)
In 1996-97 First Test at Durban: Ganguly 16 and 0; Dravid 7 and 27 not out
Second Test Cape Town: Ganguly 23 and 30; Dravid 2 and 12 Third Test Johannesburg: Ganguly 73 and 60; Dravid 148 and 81
One-day series: Vs South Africa: Ganguly 40; David 8; vs Zimbabwe Ganguly 38, Dravid 23; vs South Africa Ganguly 0, Dravid 50; vs South Africa Ganguly 83, Dravid 53; vs Zimbabwe Ganguly 31, Dravid 12; vs Zimbabwe Ganguly 12, Dravid 17; Final vs South Africa Ganguly 5, Dravid 84 (top scorer).
This string of scores indicate Ganguly cracks under pressure in big games where as Dravid lifts his batting when going gets tough against quality opponents as he has proved in those two one-day finals against South Africa.
But the point is that whatever success Ganguly has achieved in the past does not make him a decent player now, deserving an India cap.

Sanjay Dutt: Mother India's son escapes terrorist tag

By John Cheeran
Sanjay Dutt, for long the Khal Nayak in life since he played that role in Bollywood, has escaped the stigma of being terrorist.
For Mother India’s son to be pronounced as a terrorist in a court of law would have been an extreme irony.
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Sunil Dutt’s and Nargis’s son has come through the vicissitudes of life scarred and reformed. From a Khalnayak to Gandhigiri, Bollywood’s Munna bhai has, indeed, come a long way.
May be there is no other actor than Sanjay in Bollywood who has evolved and grew an inch or two since the day they first faced the arc lights. Last 13 years of incarceration in the wake of 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai certainly have played a role in that transformation. Broken relationships with women too would have contributed to the churning inside.
There is no debate on the fact that Sanjay Dutt made a grievous error of judgment by keeping AK-56s at his home. And court has found him guilty for illegally possessing arms.
Sanjay, definitely, would have argued that he got AK 56s for self-protection. May be he would have planned to use them as walking stick when he turns old.
It was a mistake that stemmed from arrogance and ignorance of Newton’s third law. It is also an illustration of the still unbroken nexus between movies and mafia in Mumbai.
Bollywood’s lifeline is black money.
Dirty deals and unholy alliances are par for the course and walking the tight rope in real life may become some times tougher than acting or out-muscling your screen rivals.
As I write these lines, Sanjay Dutt’s sentence is not yet pronounced. He may still have to watch the action from behind the bars. Bollywood has lined up Rs 100 crore worth projects for a free Sanjay. The best legal minds in the country are putting together his case.
Though he has represented the common man on the screen, Sanjay has had a privileged background. His family’s strong links with the Congress (I) government that rules the Centre cannot be ignored nor his late father Sunil Dutt’s friendship with Bal Thackeray.
Let justice be blind.

When hope is spelt as Ganguly...

By John Cheeran
Anything that happens on Port Elizabeth on Wednesday will be a bonus for Indian cricket.
After two crushing defeats, the level of expectations has come down many notches and with the national selectors meeting the very next day (on Thursday) to wield the axe, each one of the players will be scrambling to ensure his survival in the team.
That includes India’s stand-in captain Virender Sehwag.
Being the vice-captain of the side has helped Sehwag a great deal to cling on to his team ticket as captaincy helped Sourav Ganguly in a similar manner in the past.
Now things have hit rock bottom that the befuddled Indian selectors are planning to recall Ganguly to rescue Indian cricket. God save Indian cricket!
Indian batting’s repeated failures at home and abroad, injuries to Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh have created this pitiable situation. With youngsters such as Suresh Raina, Mohammad Kaif and Dinesh Karthick letting opportunities fly away, Mr Experience is likely to rear his ugly head.
Bringing Ganguly back into the Indian dressing room now is going to be a regressive step and I will write this again and again at the risk of getting branded as biased.
Such a move will neither help Indian cricket nor Ganguly himself.
Assuming that selectors, led by the wooly Dilip Vengsarkar, make the blunder of recalling Ganguly on Thursday and in the event of Dravid missing out the first Test, the Bengal batsman will get an opportunity to put on the pads for India.
And then?
On Tuesday night Ganguly was relishing the thoughts of a recall and spit out words befitting a yogi. He said how it (his recall) all depends on team’s performance and captain and coach’s requirements. De-fanged by the events in the past 12 months, Ganguly certainly has improved his behaviour, but I doubt whether he has burnished his batting to merit another innings.
It is not that selectors did not recall Ganguly after his adventures in Zimbabwe.
He was recalled for the Test series in Pakistan and proved an embarrassment on the crease when Pakistani bowlers confronted him.
May be the mere prospect of having Ganguly back in the dressing room should stir the youngsters in the Indian side to reinvent themselves and play for their lives in Port Elizabeth today.
If Ganguly returns, as a ghost of his former self, it will be the end of hope for Indian cricket.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A lift for Indian Muslims?

By John Cheeran
No praise is enough for former Union Minister Arif Mohammed Khan for his edit page essay in the Times of India earlier this month. It is tough for a non-Muslim to criticize Muslims and escape the tag of anti-Islam.
In this case, an honest analysis of Muslim community has come from an eminent Muslim and that should be mandatory reading for all Indian Muslims.
I have maintained that if Muslims are finding themselves in the last rung of social ladder, the blame is entirely of Muslim community’s. It is not the fault of the majority; it is not the fault of other minorities. In plain terms Hindus and Christians are not responsible for Muslim woes.
Muslims are clamoring for job reservations in the wake of Justice Sachar Committee Report that identified that Muslims are top of the chart in the case of prison inmates only. And there are serious efforts on the part of Union Government to uplift Indian Muslims.
And how do you do that? Give reservation for Muslims too.
A bit of backgrounder is needed when discussing the politics of reservation in India.
Everyone knows that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India enjoy 18 per cent reservation in government jobs.
And that is essentially a reservation for Hindus, for 99 per cent of SCs and STs are Hindus.
It has to be said in no uncertain terms that reservation for SCs and STs are clearly an effort to appease Hindu sentiments especially when those SCs and STs who switch over to Christianity and Islam are ineligible for the reservation cake. Yes, I admit they are backward too.
Even the large chunk of the OBCs, who enjoy the fruits of reservation in India, are Hindus. Well, I’m against all sorts of reservations. I’m against reservation for SCs, STs, OBCs and Muslims. Yes, Christians too.
Why I salute Arif Mohammed Khan is that he has been bold enough to say that Indian Muslims do not need reservations, because Muslims already enjoy job reservation.
Let me quote from Arif’s article.
“I wonder if those who are advocating reservation for Muslims in services are aware of the fact Muslim groups are already covered under reservation as scheduled tribes. In addition since 1991, Other Backward Communities covered under Mandal Commission constitute 70 per cent of the Muslim population. In fact, benefit of reservation is available to almost the entire Muslim population except the creamy layer.”
Arif points out that India had an uninterrupted Muslim rule for almost 800 years, still in 1882, Muslims were worse off than rest of the India.
Where did the Missing Muslims go then as in 2006?
In 1835, Arif points out that, when Muslims came to know that government intended to start English teaching in all schools, they submitted an application signed by 8,000 moulavis of Calcutta to stop it. Muslims vehemently opposed the new system of education believing that the philosophy and logic taught in English was at variance with the tenets of Islam. They looked upon the study of English as little less than embracing of Christianity.”
It is also remarkable that Arif has quoted what Maulana Azad said on October 23, 1947.
For Azad warned: ”There is no use recounting the events of past seven years, nor will it serve any good. Yet it must be stated that debacle of Indian Muslims is the result of colossal blunders committed by Muslim League’s misguided leadership. Now that Indian politics has taken a new direction, there is no place in it for Muslim League.”
In 1947, Maulana Azad said that India has no place for Muslim League.
In 2006, the rump of Muslim League, the merchants of the Muslim votes, is feasting on biriyani in Kerala and sharing power with the Congress at Centre.
Is the lot of Muslims any better in Kerala with Muslim League?

Dravid points his middle finger to VVS Laxman

By John Cheeran
Injuries are painful but Indian skipper Rahul Dravid should thank God for the avulsion fracture on the middle finger of his right hand.
Dravid should consider his injured finger as a blessing in disguise for it rules him out of the rest of a pointless self-flagellation in South Africa.
And it also opens the door VVS Laxman, a batsman who should have been an automatic choice for the South African tour and World Cup, if not for a cussed Dilip Vengsarkar.
Indian captain has tried his best in the last few matches in India, and now in South Africa, scoring two half-centuries and a 49, to lend substance to Indian batting. Dravid held the bat and Indian innings together when he compiled 63 in Cape Town, braving the pain, caused by the fractured finger.
The Indian captain has got a taste of the South African conditions and now winning the one-day series is impossible. A time away from the middle should help Dravid to straighten his thoughts and think of the path that lies ahead of the team as it negotiates the Test series.
And distance should lend some perspective to Dravid’s analysis of the quagmire that the team has sunk into.
Dravid’s injury has had a positive effect in so far as it has forced the selection committee to bring on VVS Laxman to the one-day squad.
If Laxman makes the XI on Wednesday when Virender Sehwag leads the side in the fourth one-dayer against South Africa, that could have a far reaching impact.
If Laxman can be among the runs, Dravid will be able to demand a place for the Hyderabd batsman when selectors finalize the World Cup squad. Dravid’s injury is the godsend for VVS.
Dilip Vengsarkar, the Chairman of the National Selection Committee, was finally forced to correct his mistake by asking Laxman to fly to South Africa. In fact Laxman should have been asked to join the side even without Dravid getting injured.
An otherwise voluble Vengsarkar’s silence has not gone without notice as the BCCI gave the boarding pass to Laxman on Monday.
And among all these comes the news from Calcutta that Cricket Association of Bengal President Jagmohan Dalmiya has demanded the recall of Sourav Ganguly. The CAB even passed a resolution demanding Ganguly’s inclusion in the Indian side.
God forbid such calamities on Indian team.
For, Indian cricket will struggle to recover from such an injury.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Channels and Chappell: Barking up the wrong tree

"They are entitled to make any comment they like. That's what they are paid to do in parliament.”
Greg Chappell, the Indian cricket team coach, in South Africa
By John Cheeran
You should fear media organizations in India and especially, if you are a journalist.
Journalists are free to run down anyone, from George Bush to Manmohan Singh and you can still keep your job.
But can any journalist in India criticize the media organizations for the silly things they indulge in to create news and hope to remain as a journalist?
The utter drivel that has been mouthed by the 24x7 television anchors on cricket makes me puke. Award winning channels are going after Indian cricket team’s coach Greg Chappell for his comments on the Indian parliamentarians. Chappell has been quoted in the beginning of this post.
I know, and you know as much, that Indian parliamentarians were caught on camera accepting bribes to raise issues in the Parliament. Lok Sabhaa speaker Somanath Chatterjee had to strip the MP status of many in the wake of the sting report by
Chappell, the outsider, only said Indian MPs are paid to speak. So did it hurt?
Aren’t the MPs the most privileged lot in the country? There are gentlemen and criminals in the Indian Parliament and that should not surprise anyone. Chappell did not question Indian MPs rights to criticize Indian cricketers and him.
So why hang him just because you don’t like the guy?
Channels can’t hit and harass captain Rahul Dravid at the moment since he has been stoic and solid off and on the field.
I was shocked to hear in a channel that Chappell was told to shut up by the BCCI vice president Rajeev Shukla. Shukla in fact defended Chappell by saying, the English idiom used by the Australian coach was misunderstood by a few. But then Shukla, himself an MP, launched an attack on his brothers.
Shukla demanded that Indian MPs should do their homework before speaking on cricket. He pointed out that Sitaram Yechuri and Brinda Karat know their cricket but MPs such as Samajwadi Party’s Mohan Singh should shut up. Shukla even said those political parties (Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh) who do not release cricket grounds to the BCCI to stage international matches have no right to speak about the state of Indian cricket.
But Indian channel warriors are sense-proof in this winter of discontent and continue to tilt at windmills.

South Africa, the school of defeats!

By John Cheeran
Stop wailing for a few minutes and just leaf through history sheets.
India has beaten South Africa only three times in South Africa.
So India’s defeats in Durban and Cape Town is an extension of a glorious tradition of sacrifice.
Out of those three wins, the two came long, long ago in 1992-93 when India toured South Africa for the first time. In a seven match series, South Africans whipped India in five matches and let India win two ODIs. May be those two wins were fixed by the then captain Mohammad Azharuddin!
And India’s third and last win over South Africa in South Africa came in 2001 at Centurion during the tri-nation series. At Centurion, India beat South Africa by 41 runs. It has to be remembered that India three times to South Africa lost during that tournament.
Then John Wright was the coach and Sourav Ganguly was the captain.
But I believe in 2001, there was no breast beating about such losses.
Today there are new men in charge, but South Africa and South Africans have not changed. What a pity!
India has evolved and is now on the threshold of superpower status. But Indian cricketers are still struggling to transform themselves into supermen.
Baying for Greg Chappell’s blood for these losses will be an affront to our sense of history.
Yes, history must be rewritten when it comes to the shameful chapters of India’s performance in South Africa.
But that can be done only by Rahul Dravid and his boys. May be they need to take more lessons in the school of defeats.

Indian dressing room needs an earthquake

By John Cheeran
What Indian cricket need now is not experiments but an earthquake.
An earthquake that turns the batting order upside down, so that something good comes out of it.
If India’s celebrated one-day openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar can’t handle a bit of bounce and movement early in the innings what should skipper Rahul Dravid do with them?
It is a pity that Sehwag and Tendulkar can’t clatter the ball around with the benefit of power play field restrictions even for a few overs.
May be Dravid and Chappell should ask Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble to open the batting in South Africa so that Sehwag and Tendulkar can be useful to the side when the ball loses its shine. These two gentlemen should be brought on only in the last 10 overs.
There was uproar among the pundits when Dravid opened the innings. And on Sunday, as in many past occasions, Dravid was doing the opener's job.
The moment batting gets challenging, our anointed openers flee to the dressing room, leaving Dravid to open, build and consolidate.
On Sunday in Cape Town India's batting order was by and large conventional. Openers at their slots, Dravid at No.3, Mohammad Kaif at No.4, Dinesh Karthick at No.5 and Dhoni at No.6 and Irfan Pathan at No.7.
But the scoreboard had that beaten look once more.
What now Chappell?
Should India play only Twenty20?

A tale of lost opportunity

By John Cheeran
India again played exasperating cricket and lost by 106 runs to South Africa in Cape Town.
So what’s new?
A team that is hungry for success should have capitalized on their good fortune when Graeme Smith's men were tottering at 76 for six in a 50 over match. Indian bowlers flattered only to deceive in the end and to give away the game to South Africa in the last 15 overs when Justin Kemp cut loose.
Let’s not hide from reality.
South Africa has better bowlers and better batsmen and Rahul Dravid’s Indians are inferior to them. To expect Dravid and company to turn into supermen would be too much in the given conditions.
I wish at least they could be men enough to minimise the impact of their crashes.
Dravid, of course, should shoulder the blame for letting things drift in the last 15 overs when Kemp took the game away from Indian bowlers. Fielding was sloppy and catches were dropped. If criticism does not spur Indian cricketers at least to improve their fielding what else will do?
But it should be said that India is carrying quite a few non-performers in the side. When was the last time Harbhajan Singh troubled batsmen?
And Ajit Agarkar’s inconsistency with the ball is becoming part of the Indian cricket folklore.
What can a captain do when his celebrated openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar flee from the crease faced with a daunting total of 275? India had lost these two champions with total on 7 in 4.4 overs.
Sehwag 0, Tendulkar 2!
Dravid opened the Indian innings on Sunday, for all practical purposes. Dravid did the best he could do by compiling a sensible 63, leaving the crease as the ninth wicket.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was India’s answer to Kemp.
Dhoni smote some hefty blows (55 from 48 balls with four sixers and three boundaries) but his effort fell short of the day’s requirement.
The most die-hard optimist can, however, count India’s blessings from Cape Town capitulation.
In his comeback into one-day cricket, leg spinner Anil Kumble bowled with sense and purpose, befitting his role as a hardened pro. I’m afraid to single out Zaheer Khan for praise lest he forget his wicket taking ways too soon.
Dhoni’s willingness to learn and innovate is a plus point and he should evolve into someone who can nuke the bowling, just the way Kemp did, a few overs ago.

For the record: Cape Town capitulation

Justin Kemp's belligerent maiden century and Shaun Pollock's four wickets powered South Africa to a 106-run win in the third one-dayer against India on Sunday.
South Africa leads 2-0 in the five-match series. The first game was washed out and South Africa won the second last Wednesday by a massive 157 runs.
Kemp's 100 not out was the top score as South Africa recovered from 76 for six to a total of 274 for seven. Pollock took four for 26 to help dismiss India for 168 in 41.3 overs.
South Africa's recovery began with a stand of 60 for the seventh wicket between Kemp and Pollock.
The 138 runs that Kemp and Andrew Hall, who scored 56, shared in an unbroken stand was a world record for the eighth wicket in one-dayers. The runs flowed at a rate of 9.74 an over.
"We were in trouble after 20 overs, but the boys showed character. Kemp, Pollock and Hall were fantastic. None of us dreamt that they would get us to 274," South African captain Graeme Smith told reporters.
"I think the coach (Mickey Arthur) had a quiet prayer for 180," he added.
The previous eighth wicket record was the 119 runs that Shane Warne and Paul Reiffel put on for Australia against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 1993-94
India never recovered from a poor start, losing their first wicket before they had scored a run when Virender Sehwag attempted to cut Pollock's fourth ball of the innings and sent a top edge looping to third man.
Pollock struck again in the fifth over when Sachin Tendulkar pulled at a short delivery and was comfortably caught by Loots Bosman at square leg for two.
India were reduced to 17 for three in the ninth over when Pollock bowled Mohammad Kaif off the edge of his bat for 10, and the visitors were 44 for four when Dinesh Karthik edged Makhaya Ntini to Smith at second slip to go for 14.
Captain Rahul Dravid's 63, which he scored off 103 balls with four fours and a six, was the best of India's batting.
The loss left Dravid searching for positives ahead of the fourth game of the series in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.
"We must remember that we had South Africa in trouble early on in both the games that we've played, and that's a good positive for us," Dravid said.
"We've got some batsmen scoring runs, but we need more contributions with the bat."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A superpower demands supermen!

By John Cheeran
Why have the recent defeats suffered by the Indian cricket team led to an outcry, out of all proportions?
May be taking the cue from the Marxist historian CLR James, one should look for the answer beyond the boundaries.
All around, success stories are bandied about how India is conquering the world.
There are the Tatas putting their price tag to the Corus steel corporation, the United States accommodating Indian nuclear interests much more and rating agencies are referring to China and India as the new superpowers.
A CIA report forecasts that the 21st century will be India’s.
Banks predict that India will become the world’s third largest economy in the next couple of decades.
Is India, then, a superpower?
In New Delhi seminars are held with the theme “India: The Next Global Superpower?
And Indian space scientists are planning (or hoping is the right word?) to send an astronaut to the Moon in the next 10 years. An Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) official has said: “A successful manned mission to the Moon will give India the status of a superpower.”
Well, if that is the prevailing mood in India, the breast beating about Indian cricket team’s losses at home and abroad may be understood better.
How can a superpower lose, and lose abroad in an abject manner as that happened in Durban?The nation demands that its cricketers live up to the superpower status bestowed on India in the recent times.
The nation demands that its cricketers turn themselves into supermen.
A superpower requires supermen.
We can no longer afford to be a nation that is whipped by others.
India mirrors the scene in the United States, which boasts of a world series for baseball, a game that has a narrow global appeal similar to cricket. Despite some serious challenges from Cuba, the US have kept their dominance in baseball intact.
India, however, is trying to dominate and emerge as the superpower in a sport that is played with a serious intent only in eight countries! And success is still far away.
In a nation with a few sporting heroes, and with little choice between cricketers and other athletes, the anguish and frustration that run parallel with the national cricket team can be understood.
India’s economic transformation is reflected so far only in the coffers of the Indian cricket board. A booming economy has helped the BCCI to sell successfully the telecast rights for the Indian team’s games for an obscene amount. The Indian cricket board is happy to flex its financial muscle to the International Cricket Council and have its way on contract disputes.
But for the average Indian cricket fan, neither the nation’s superpower status nor the BCCI’s rich coffers offers any solace.
He is still doomed to watch his heroes fumble the lines at the global stage.

Indian cricketers: condemned to win all the time!

By John Cheeran
Indian captain Rahul Dravid’s message to the nation from Cape Town, South Africa, may not become as famous as that of Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg, but it will resonate in the playing fields and the BCCI corridors for a long time to come for the blunt edge of those words.
That was an honest and sincere captain trying to draw the bigger picture for his and his team’s critics and fans.
First and foremost, Dravid has said that no one from the BCCI has talked to him in the aftermath of Durban defeat.
So much for Sharad Pawar’s famous statement the other day of deputing the National Selection Committee Chairman Dilip Vengsarkar to convey nation’s distress to the Indian cricketers.
It is interesting to find out what goes through the beleaguered Indian captain’s mind. "My team is not pretty aware of what is happening in India. We're very much focused on our cricket. It's a country of extreme reactions and extreme emotions. We're trying to play good cricket. We know we can play better and we're focused on trying to put up a better performance on tour. We're not aware or worried about what's happening back home.
"We're always feeling the pressure to win, but that does not change the situation. We need to win after that loss and we needed to win before that. We need to win all the time."
Dravid and his mates are condemned to win all the time, a prospect that can be terifying at times.
I haven’t heard, hitherto, an Indian captain speak with such clarity of thought and purpose in the modern era. India’s legendary captains such as Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavsakar and Kapil Dev played their cricket before the kind of media explosion that happened with 24x7 television channels scrambling for stories, real and imagined.
Dravid made it clear in Cape Town that he can be bothered about only the things that happen on the ground.
"Can I be worried about something which I cannot control?" Dravid asks regarding the hungama in India, created by former cricketers and ill-informed politicians.
"Somebody's going to make a comment and someone's going to react. We're all entitled to our opinions, and I'm just as entitled not to react."
The point skipper Dravid made in Cape Town that criticism does not motivate a player is interesting.
Let me quote Dravid again. "I don't think that (criticism) should be a motivating factor for anyone. It has never been for me. Every time you walk out to play for India, you should be proud enough to go out there and compete. You might not always do well and succeed.
"You shouldn't need anything other than the fact that you're playing for your country to motivate you. I'm pretty confident that my boys have really worked hard, irrespective of the results. They've shown enthusiasm, energy and a lot of desire to get things better.
"I've withstood a lot of criticism as a batsman," Dravid points out."I've been out of the team for a year. I was going through a period in 2001 and 2002 where I attracted a lot of criticism. So I've had my share. It's not always been smooth sailing as a player. It's no different [as captain]. It's not hard to accept as long as you know you are doing your best and trying to get the best out of your players.
"You're going to make mistakes, and things won't work out as planned. You have to accept that some amount of criticism is justified, and some of it is obviously over the top as well. There's only so much you can do as a player or a captain. You have to take some of the criticism with a pinch of salt."
Skipper Dravid has been defending the young players in the side all the time. But with the temperature rising inside the dressing room he makes it pretty clear that those who do not grab their chances will have to make way for others. "If you fail consistently at this level, then the decision will have to be taken by the selectors. Some will be better off going back to domestic cricket.
"Some of these guys have been through that. It happens constantly. You can't put a number to it, but there does come a time you have to reassess and look at your game. Probably with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar, everyone in this team has gone back to domestic cricket, and come back a better cricketer for it. And sometimes, they haven't come back."
Yes, sometimes they never come back. Ask Sourav Ganguly.
So, boys seize your chances at Cape Town today.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Passage to South Africa: Ganguly, statistics and lies

By John Cheeran
Bring back Sourav Ganguly, that’s the new slogan for politicians and cricket pundits alike in India.
I was shocked to hear Brinda Karat, that Marxist leader from Bengal, demanding that Sourav should be recalled to resuscitate Indian team in South Africa.
What does Brinda know about cricket? May be a lot.
I believe NDTV 24x7 is running a campaign to get rid off coach Greg Chappell and bring Ganguly into the Indian team. Is it a coincidence then that NDTV is owned by Brinda’s sister Radhika Roy? Is Brinda on air to give the cutting edge to the NDTV campaign?
I know that Ganguly has many supporters. That includes Sitaram Yechuri, the voice of the Indian Marxists, who has no time to advocate the cause of VVS Laxman, though both gentlemen are from Andhra Pradesh.
Press Trust of India runs a ghost-written column of former South African fast bowler Alan Donald and lines are inserted there too, how India misses the services of Ganguly in South Africa.
And among all these brouhaha, the hero of our times, Sourav Ganguly, says in Mohali that he can see the window of opportunity now. In fact, Ganguly asserted that window of opportunity always has been there.
And then what happens?
In the Ranji Trophy Super League Group B game against Punjab, Ganguly could neither inspire himself nor his team mates as Bengal were all out for 156 in the first innings.
How much the hero, who the rabble say will rescue India in South Africa, scored against the likes of Gagandeep Singh and L Ablash (who is that?). In the first innings Ganguly survived just nine balls to score 6. In the second innings he improved to 43. The point is that even Deep Dasgupta and Jhunjunwallah outshone the Bengal skipper!
Those who are saying Ganguly is the answer to the South African bowlers must be dreaming.
To bolster the Ganguly campaign it is subtly pointed out that during the 2003 World Cup held in South Africa, Ganguly had the best batting averages below Sachin Tendulkar.
Yes, statistics reveal that Ganguly did average 82.30 in the 2003 World Cup which was staged in much more batsmen-friendly tracks than those which are offered to Dravid’s men now.
Statistics also reveal that Ganguly built up his average feasting on crap outfits such as Kenya and Namibia. In the group games, Ganguly hit 107 against Kenya and 112 not out against Namibia. In the most lopsided semifinal of World Cup history against Kenya, Ganguly again showed his true colours by hammering 111.
Skipper Ganguly scored 24 in final against Australia while chasing 360 for a win!
It is interesting to take a look at Ganguly’s scores in other Super Six and Pool A matches. He scored 9 vs England, 0 vs Pakistan, 9 vs Australia, 3 vs New Zealand, 8 vs the Netherlands, 24 vs Zimbabwe and 48 vs Sri Lanka.
And you think Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Nel and Kallis will run for cover if Ganguly walks into the batting crease?
The Ganguly story has been one of manipulation, of men and averages.
It is the tragedy of Indian cricket that average men still support him.

Will Vengsarkar put on the pads in South Africa?

By John Cheeran
Reaction to Indian team's massive loss in Durban has been incredible.
Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) President and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has asked chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar to go to South Africa and convey the sentiments of the nation in the wake of the Durban drubbing.
The decision to fly out the selector was taken by Pawar who talked to Vengsarkar on Friday morning and asked him to leave "immediately or as early as possible".
"I had a detailed discussion with the Chairman of Selection Committee. I requested him to go to South Africa immediately or as early as possible. Discuss with the coach, captain and players and communicate the feelings of the countrymen," Pawar has said.
Vengsarkar is likely to leave for South Africa only on November 30 after picking the Test squad for the tour.
By that time India would have played more one-dayers against South Africa. India's next match is on Sunday.
There is nothing wrong in chief selector becoming part of the team management.
The BCCI used to send one of the national selectors to travel with the team while on tour.
So Vengsarkar going to South Africa is an ok move.
But I doubt whether sending Vengsarkar to South Africa is the sensible course of action.
I hate to see role reversals.
What is required in cricket is that each one should fulfill his own role. A selector should make the right choices and a batsman should play the right shots.
Vengsarkar's job is to ensure that captain Rahul Dravid has the right men available to pick for each game depending on variables such as opposition, pitch and weather.
By leaving out VVS Laxman and Robin Uthappa out of the one-day squad to South Africa Vengsarkar has frittered away any shred of moral authority to dictate terms to Dravid.
VVS Laxman is one batsman who would have relished the bouncy conditions in South Africa.
It is highly amusing to read in reports from Mumbai that Vengsarkar has criticised Indian players' approach to batting.
And now I could not help recalling what skipper Vengsarkar was doing during Indian team's disastrous tour to the West Indies in 1989.
Indian batting had crumbled faced with some hostile bowling. Vengsarkar could do neither inspire his team mates nor himself against quality bowling. In four Tests Vengsarkar could score only 110 runs with an average of 18.33 while facing up to Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop.
India had lost all five one-day matches to West Indies on that tour. Of the four Tests played on the tour, India lost the last three.
Vengsarkar knows the taste of defeats much better than Rahul Dravid.
Colonel in fact lost all control and levelled outrageous allegations against his team mates in an interview to Sportsworld magazine's cricket writer Mudar Patherya. Vengsarkar, in a fit of frustration, accused that his batsmen were running away from fast bowling.
Playing fast bowling is no joke.
Will Vengsarkar put on the pads in South Africa?
This is the time to make sensible corrective measures than indulge in some populist measure such as conveying the nation's distress to the players.
If I had been in Pawar's shoes, I would have told Vengsarkar to stay put in Mumbai and put VVS Laxman on the next flight to South Africa to join Dravid.
And look around for some 'non-extant talent' on the domestic circuit.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Former Indian skipper turns beggar in Kolkata

By John Cheeran
You may be rich but still you may be worse off than beggars.
It's all about how you want to live. With a bit of self-respect, or not.
Indian cricketers are the richest of the sports lot in the country, still they angle for freebies and exemptions.
Sachin Tendulkar wanted tax exemption for his Ferrari; now Sourav Ganguly is reluctant to pay building fee to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). Ganguly appealed for a waiver on the building fee for a commercial complex near his house.
Despite his close links with the ruling Marxists, Ganguly, it seems, will have to bow before the rule of the law. The fee for the building is Rs.1.3 million, which Ganguly wanted to be waived through a letter dated November 13. It is likely that former Indian skipper will not have his way.
KMC mayor Bikash Bhattacharya said: "There are two types of fees. One is the land fee and another is the fee for building. The land fee was waived as the plot was gifted. Now the fee for the building is legally binding on Sourav Ganguly. It's the rule of the corporation and we can do nothing about it."
The fee story has a first innings to it.
During a civic reception at the historic Town Hall two years ago the KMC, then controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Trinamool combine and led by Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, had gifted a plot of land to Ganguly to build a sports facility.
Says Subrata Mukherjee: "The land was given as a gift to Ganguly during a civic reception. If the fees are not waived the gift is incomplete. If the KMC gives tax sops to him, it will increase their stature only. It was an abandoned land near Ganguly's house and we decided to give it to him to make a facility to encourage youngsters to take up sports."
The building, which will have five storeys, will have a multi-gym, health parlour, restaurant and a swimming pool.
I find it highly deplorable that an extra-ordinarily rich man such as Ganguly refuses to pay what he is bound to give to the state. In the first place, he was given the land free. Now he is spending energy on getting the fee waived.
Does Ganguly know that there are millions in India without even a few cents of land to claim of their own, not even a place in the graveyard?
Did I hear this guy used to set an example for young cricketers in India not so long ago?Everything has a price and it is time cricketers accepted the facts of life.
After all, there are no free tickets for us to one-dayers or Tests!

Indian cricketers, take charge of your lives

By John Cheeran
With World Cup only a few months away, the Durban Disaster has unsettled Indian cricket in a big way. Some critics are clamouring for the blood of coach Greg Chappell.
A coach can help the team only up to a point.
It is highly tragic if anyone thinks that Indian cricket's fatal flaws could be covered up just by getting Chappell to interact with our players.
In the end, in defeat, players have to own up responsibility.
Cricket is their bread and butter, it is their life.
If India terminates Chappell's contract, the Australian loses nothing. He had a fine print given by the Indian board and he will have his pound of flesh.
After all, Greg Chappell has earned his place in cricket history as an illustrious cricketer. Coaching is only the icing on his career cake. It is for the trundling Indian pros such as Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Rainas to seize the moment and play for their dear lives.
It is important to have clarity of thought both for critics and cricketers.
Let's own up the mistakes and try to give the bestest possible shot while on the playing field.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

91 all out in Durban: Parliament debates

By John Cheeran
91 all out has even found resonance in Indian Parliament.
A few of the Members of Parliament have asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India to sack coach Greg Chapell as a solution to India’s continuing losses.
It cannot be glossed over that Indian politicians’ reactions stem from the fact that by attacking the BCCI, MPs can target Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar who heads the Indian cricket body. I can see less of cricket and more of politics in our MPs's pyaar for cricket.
MP Ramdas Atavale wants Chappell removed. He also wants to sack the non-performing players. Rajeev Shukla, an MP and a vice president of the BCCI, has said that team’s Durban display was a disappointment. But he wants the tour to finish before corrective steps are taken.
That perennial sportician Suresh Kalmadi has offered some solace to Indian skipper Rahul Dravid when he said that one has to remember the dictum that ‘you win some, you lose some’. Politicians have a right to discuss cricket; but they should do well not to pile on the pressure on the already distressed cricketers, playing away from home.
Yes, it is good that cricketers should know that whatever they do on the field has a larger impact, beyond the boundaries of playing field.
When you are given the license to play for India, the nation, it is better to live up to the challenge.
Yes, you are our brothers-in-arms but you better look the enemy in the eye.
Also it is important for politicians to be aware of the nature of sport. There are no peace treaties in global sport, no consensus. Even Atavales have lost electoral battles and bounced back to win people’s confidence.
If only India could win on sentiments alone.

Can't bowl, can't bat, can't field, is it?

By John Cheeran
I have a tattered copy of theory of relativity by Albert Einstein. And in this hour of distress, I’m ready to lend to it to the harried Indian cricket team captain Rahul Dravid. For all his brave script on the eve of the match and the series, South Africa inflicted a humiliating 157 run loss on India at Kingsmead, Durban.
A well deserved kick on the arse for the Indian cricketers.
In India, Indian pacers rarely come good. Away from home they shine with the ball for a few moments as Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar did early in the South African innings. If anyone thought, that Indian bowlers managed to restrict South Africans to a surmountable peak, he was mistaken.
When Indian bowlers take a step forward in the right direction, batsman take two giant steps backwards. And the theory of relativity should have told Dravid that if Zaheer could trouble Graeme Smith and Lance Gibbs, what could Andrew Nel and Shaun Pollock do to Indians. If Indian bowlers asked a few questions to rival batsmen, in turn, South African bowlers tortured the Indians at the batting crease.
It’s all relative, mate. You cannot hide fundamental flaws in technique and temperament for too long. 91 all out in Kingsmead, Durban, is proof enough for that despite India’s financial muscle, the nation does not have the talent to meet global crisis situations.
And before you shout bring back, let me tell this. Answer for India’s batting woes is not Sourav Ganguly or Rohan Gavaskar. Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of National selection committee will have to explain to the nation why he has left out an exciting stroke maker Robin Uthapppa and a proven batsman of class VVS Laxman out of the one-day squad to tour South Africa.
Vengsarkar’s own choice Wasim Jaffer was an embarrassment at Kingsmead. And as I have noted before the match, India required a sound start to combat South Africans. With Jaffer’s three-ball innings such hopes vanished.
I, however, can mail only my sympathies to Dravid. I read that Indian skipper appeared downcast in the aftermath of this bruising defeat. There is always another chance, though I’m afraid that Durban has set the tone and tenor of this long and arduous tour. And Indians are hardly virgins when they come to defeats.
It is easy to be bitter in defeat but Dravid has taken a hard look on the state of Indian team. Cut, bruised and bleeding in the land of Ntinis, Nels and Kallis.
Dravid has offered some usual analysis. Let me quote him. "Probably, our shot selection against some of the fast bowlers is something we need to look at and reassess when we go into the next match.
“We will be definitely looking to perform much better with the bat. We have to improve from here and put in some better performances if we want to competitive in the series."
"It's going to be a challenge," Dravid says. "That's where your ability and character are tested. And if you can come out of a tour like this with some good scores and runs, it will give you a lot of confidence.
"We will have to play better. After going through how we got out, we will have to learn. I must say that the South Africans bowled well, and we did not have a good day."
Can’t bowl, can’t bat and can’t field, is it?

Durban defeat: A kick on the Indian arses

South Africa earned their biggest win over India after skittling the tourists for 91 in the second one-day international on Wednesday.
Jacques Kallis' first century in two years, a chanceless 119 not out, anchored South Africa's 248 for eight which they scored after winning the toss and choosing to bat.
In reply, India were dismissed for 91 in 29.1 overs to hand the home side victory by 157 runs and give them a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. Fast bowler Andre Nel bowled with aggression to take a career-best four for 13 from eight overs.
South Africa's previous biggest win over India was the 80 runs they won by in Sharjah in 1995-96, and India's previous lowest total against South Africa was 147 in Port Elizabeth in 1992-93.
South Africa's win stole the thunder from India's Sachin Tendulkar, who played his 371st one-day international -- a world record. Tendulkar and Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya had previously shared the record with 370 one-day caps each.
Kallis last scored a one-day century on August 31, 2004, when he made 101 against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
The number three batsman faced 160 balls and hit 15 fours in his innings, which was his first century in 38 one-day internationals and the first of his career against India.
Kallis came to the crease in the 10th over after left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan reduced South Africa to 47 for two by trapping Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman lbw for one and 22 respectively.
Fast bowler Munaf Patel had Herschelle Gibbs caught behind by wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni before AB de Villiers helped Kallis steady the innings with a stand of 87 for the fourth wicket.
Left-arm spinner Dinesh Mongia ended the partnership in the 34th over when De Villiers, who scored 41, attempted a reverse sweep and was smartly stumped by Dhoni.
Mark Boucher's cameo of 23 off 21 balls formed part of a fifth-wicket stand of 46, but India fought back to take four wickets in the last eight overs of the innings.
India's reply began shakily when Shaun Pollock removed Wasim Jaffer for nought and Mohammad Kaif for eight in the first nine overs.
Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid stabilised the innings for seven overs, but the match was all but decided when they were dismissed three balls apart.
Fast bowler Charl Langeveldt clean-bowled Dravid for 18 with a delivery that moved sharply off the seam to hit leg stump before Nel bowled Tendulkar off the edge of his bat for 35.
India then lost their last six wickets for 29 runs in the space of 13 overs with Kallis completing an excellent day by taking three for three from 4.1 overs. The first match of the series was washed out without a ball bowled in Johannesburg on Sunday. The third game of the series will be played in Cape Town this Sunday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You can't cover Wall Street from Bangalore!

Editor's note: This blog is keen to spot and report new trends in the media. Indian journalists are becoming an attraction for news organisations in the West.
Read this story that appeared in IHT.

By Doreen Carvajal / InternationalHerald Tribune
Published: November 20, 2006
PARIS: The rush of job recruiting ads on tells the story of the latest class of workers to watch their trade start migrating to another continent. "Urgent requirement for business writers," reads one ad looking for journalists to locate in Mumbai. "Should be willing to work in night shifts (UK shift)."
Another casts for English-speaking journalists in Bangalore with "experience in editing and writing for US/International Media. "Remote-control journalism is the scornful term that unions use for the shift of newspaper jobs to low-cost countries like India or Singapore with fiber-optic connections transmitting information all around the world. But the momentum for "offshoring" to other countries or outsourcing locally is accelerating as newspapers small and large seek ways to reduce costs in the face of severe stresses, from sagging circulation and advertising revenue to shareholder pressure.
"Outsourcing plays a major part in the newspaper industry of today," the World Association of Newspapers concludedin a study released in July. WAN, a Paris-based organization representing 72 national newspaper associations, conducted a global survey of about 350 newspapers in Europe, Asia and the United States, and company executives reported that they expected the outsourcing to increase, although few were willing to farm out all of their editorial functions.
Since then, the memos have been churning: The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio announced its intentions toshed 90 graphic design jobs and ship out the work to Affinity Express in Pune, India.
The Contra Costa Times, a California newspaper newly acquired by Media News Group in the breakup of Knight Ridder, revealed plans to shift ad production positions to Express KCS in India, which bills itself as the "world's media back office.
"In Britain, the tabloid Daily Express sparked an uproar in the newsroom when it chose to outsource its entire city business section to a local press association. According to the newspaper's union, the executives chose this alternative only after touring potential companies in India that offered writing and copy editing services.
"It's a very depressing time to be working for newspapers," said one of the union representatives at The Daily Express, who declined to be identified because of concerns about job security. "The underlying theme is about the quality of what we're putting on the pages. The kind of a product that The Daily Express is going to have is a total disservice. If I was a reader, I would vote with my feet and stop buying it."
Paul Ashford, the group editorial director of The Daily Express who is negotiating with the union over the changes, declined to comment, saying that it would be inappropriate to discuss the issue while talks were continuing.
But there are a number of news organizations that have emerged as case studies for media companies weighing the benefits of reduced costs versus potential disadvantages like loss of control, company resistance and political backlash.
More than two years ago, Reuters, the financial news service, opened a new center in Bangalore. The 340 employees, including an editorial team of 13 local journalists, was deployed to write about corporate earnings and broker research on U.S. companies. Since then, the Reuters staff at the center has grown to about 1,600, with 100 journalists working on U.S. stories.
The company has also moved photo editing work from Canada and Washington, D.C., to Singapore. More expansion is planned in India, according to David Schlesinger, Reuters global managing editor, who said that costs were significantly lower in India, although the competition to recruit financial journalists there was increasing.
The system has "allowed us to really increase the breadth of companies that we cover," Schlesinger said. "One of the problems with the U.S. equities universe is that there are so many companies, and this has allowed us to cover so many more than we could before. And it's allowed us to increase our depth because it's freed up reporters in New York to do more."
He pointed out that the staff count in New York had actually increased since the Bangalore office opened. But that is small comfort to the Newspaper Guild of New York, which has engaged in a series of skirmishes with Reuters' management over the issue.
Guild members picketed the Reuters office on Times Square last year, waged a byline strike over off-shoring and spoofed the potential for error in Bangalore with a paid advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. The ad pictured the businessman Warren Buffett with a caption clearly intended for the singer Jimmy Buffett: "Buffett, known for such hits as 'Margaritaville'and 'Cheeseburger in Paradise,' promotes his upcoming tour."
But the more vociferous challenges subsided after a U.S. arbitrator ruled against a guild challenge that off-shoring jobs violated the guild's contract with Reuters. The guild still maintains that "you can't cover Wall Street from Bangalore, India," said John Phillips, a guild representative and a former Reuters employee, who said that the system was a "recipe for disaster," with Bangalore employees making judgment calls about the importance of news stories from an office 9,000 miles, or 14,400 kilometers, away.
But guild reporters in New York cannot match the price differential in Bangalore, where wages and rents are less than one-fifth those of Western capitals. In Amhmedabad, 300 miles, or 480 kilometers, north of Mumbai, Hi-Tech Export offers a discounted rate for 40 hours of editing services starting at EUR280, or $359.
Since 2000, when it started targeting the outsourcing market in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, Hi-Tech Export's staff has grown to 700, serving more than 300 clients, according to Gaurang Kajtavkar, a spokesman for the company.
"We're a full-fledged service company," he said, noting that they offered proofreading, copy-editing and writing services to companies in the United States, France and Britain. The service, though, is offered only in English, leaving some newspapers at a disadvantage if they want to join trend toward job migration.
The Vorarlberger Nachrichten in Vienna is one such paper. It is on the list of outsourcing case studies compiled by the World Association of Newpapers, which cited it for its citizen "burgerforum," which provides the newspaper with the fodder for stories from some "2,500 freelancers who are working for us for free," said Eugen Russ, managing director of Vorarlberger Medienhaus, the paper's parent company.
He does not consider the interactive forum a form of outsourcing, although his newspaper has moved the development of Web sitesoftware to lower cost Romania. Russ said he would be willing to move some jobs to India, but there's a hitch: "It's more problematic with the German language."

India waiting for Durban delight (or disaster?)

By John Cheeran
Miles away from the scene of sacrifice, one can only wish Rahul Dravid's Indians the very best. In any case, if the Indians are to beat South Africa in the second day-nighter in Durban on Wednesday, they will have to produce their very best.
Anything short, they will be murdered.
Dravid has said that they will have more batsmen (seven) to counter South Africa's obvious pace advantage.
If that strategy has to work India should get a sound opening from Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Without bold and imaginative batting upfront, South African bowlers will strangle the rest of the Indian batting.
Let rain stay away and let us winnow the wheat from the chaff.

The difference between Lara and Tendulkar

By John Cheeran
Playing for the team, that's what Brian Lara does.
West Indies skipper says it is more important for his side to turn up the heat on Pakistan in the Multan Test than for him to push on for a triple century when the play resumes on Wednesday.
"I am not necessarily looking at a triple is all about getting a couple more partnerships to put Pakistan under pressure," Lara said after finishing the third day unbeaten on 196.
"I don't look at my innings in a personal context. What matters is we are in a good position in this match and we try to finish it off well. If that happens it would add value to my runs." Multan is a batsman's paradise.
And sometimes even paradise witnesses pandemonium. And to recall the fuss Tendulkar created at the same ground in Multan during India's tour of 2003!
Skipper Dravid had declared India's innings with Tendulkar batting on 194. Dravid's move, it was said by some pundits, stemmed from Bangalorean's jealousy of the other grabbing one more double century.
Dravid was justified in the end, guiding India to their first Test triumph in Pakistan. Lara's job is now easier since he is now the skipper and the doer. And playing a run-ball innings (100 off 77 balls, 171 off 171 balls) none can accuse Lara that he is playing for himself without any care for a trailing side's interests.
Lara played several savage strokes and was particularly severe on Danish Kaneria, hammering the leg spinner for 26 in one over with three sixes and two fours. "I knew we needed to target someone with the second new ball coming up," said the 37-year-old left hander.
"But there was nothing going on in my mind facing him, I just watched the flight and concentrated playing through mid-on and mid-off."
Lara, the highest scorer in Tests, became the fifth batsman to score a century before lunch as he compiled his fourth hundred in four Tests against Pakistan. He smashed 100 from 77 balls with five sixes and 12 fours to bring up his 34th Test century. Only India's Sachin Tendulkar (35) has more.
"I am very enthusiastic every time I go out and I want to do well. I want to see West Indies do well and I have the energy and desire to carry on," said Lara.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Brian Lara: Othello of cricket

By John Cheeran
Comparisons are at best odious.
But occasionally there comes times such as today when you got to compare and be damned for it.
Brian Charles Lara, that modern batting great, never needed records to burnish his reputation. Lara is a man beyond records, yet when he achieves a few of them, he needs to be feted.
Lara has overtaken Sunil Gavaskar in terms of the most number of centuries by cracking a coruscating century off a mere 77 balls against Pakistan in the Multan Test today.
Now only Sachin Tendulkar is ahead of him with one century more.
And if fate does not intervenes Lara will run past Tendulkar, may be in the third and last Test of the current series in Pakistan.
I consider Sachin Tendulkar as the Sergei Bubka of cricket.
Bubka, the Ukrainian paul vaulter, had the distinction of breaking world records in his event for the most number of times, at his will. Every time be vaulted, he will leap an inch high. And every inch brought him immense monetary rewards.
The point is that Bubka could not produce his best when it mattered most, during the Olympics. And athletes dope and die for a piece of Olympic gold.
Tendulkar is the man made for records.
And who can be Brian Charles Lara compared to?
I can compare Lara only to Othello, William Shakespeare's tragic hero.
It is not for nothing that critics have pointed out that this swarthy Caribbean has played in most number of losing Tests in world cricket.
Yet Lara evokes awe and admiration despite his loser's tag.
His class, his self-less efforts at crease and the cruel heart he shows when he is pitted against his sworn enemeies, the rival bowlers, all are ornaments to batting.
That, indeed, is a measure of true greatness.

Cowardice, thy name is Wright

By John Cheeran
There were many writers who defended former Indian coach John Wright when he came out with his book Indian Summers.
I had rated John Wright a man without backbone.
And his book proved just that. A coward who could not speak his mind when he was supposed to do just that while handling the Indian team. Recently during a discussion organised by Cricinfo, the panelists were asked to choose between Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar as the greatest batsman.
And what do you expect the former Indian cricket team coach to do?
When Sanjay Manjrekar asked the question Wright said he is not going to pick one of the two as the greatest. This reveals the Kiwi's character.
He does not have the balls to speak the truth. He does not have the courage to say Brian Lara is better than Tendulkar.
Is such a man capable of looking the star Indian cricketers in their eyes and tell them to shape up?
The most interesting part was that rest of the panelists -- Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and Ravi Shastri -- voted for Lara. Now you can imagine how servile Wright would have been when he was with the Indian team.
Not at all the right choice for Indian cricket.

Suitable boys for Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
Where else on the earth the Great Indian Rope Trick can happen?
India is still the place for the unusuals.
Women are auctioned off (as it happened in Tamil Nadu a few days ago) and billions can watch cricket without any sense of guilt for wasted hours.
And schoolboys thrash record on the batting crease while men struggle to keep their wickets intact.
Such things can happen only in India.
Are these instances signs of greatness?
On November 15, openers Manoj Kumar and Mohammad Shaibaz Tumbi both scored triple centuries and put on 721 runs in Hyderabad as they batted through a full 40 overs in an under-13s inter-school limited-overs match.
The significance to their silly effort was that they surpassed a milestone achieved by Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli in 1988. Tendulkar and Kambli put on a record 664 runs for the third wicket for Shardashram against St Xavier's in the Harris Shield Schools Competition in Mumbai.
Tendulkar went on to make his Test debut as a 16-year-old in 1989 and Kambli made his one-day debut in 1991. The closest any Test batting duo came to going past the Tendulkar-Kambli record was when Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara added 624 for the third wicket against South Africa in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Manoj scored 320 off 127 balls and Tumbi 324 off 116 balls for St Peter's School and they ran up the highest total, highest partnership and eventually the highest margin of victory (700 runs) in any class of the limited-overs game. A stunned St Phillip's School were bundled out for a paltry 21 in just seven overs.
Manoj's faced 120 balls but his innings included 46 fours, while Shaibaaz needed just 116 balls and hit 57 fours to batter the St Phillip's High School attack. Neither batsman was informed of the record during their mammoth partnership, which was put together in a single day, unlike the three days shared by Tendulkar and Kambli.
You rarely come across wild stories such as these from Australia and England or other parts of the cricketing world.
Do the Hyderabad boys are an answer to Dilip Vengsarkar's prayers for talent?
I advise restraint.
Quality of your runs depend on the quality of your opposition. Manoj's and Tumbi's rivals St Phillip's School could manage only 21 runs. Can you put those two innings totals together. 721 vs 21.
I cannot think of a worse mis-match than this in the history of cricket.
The media blaze in the wake of Hyderabad run-glut was unbelievable in India. The sad part is that these two boys will soon find this one innings a curse. Manoj and Tumbi are likely to play rest of their cricket in the shade of their 721. The label of being the boys who broke Tendulkar's record will not be taken off so easily and at this formative age such adulation and attention are hardly the right medicines.
May be they will prove me wrong and take Indian cricket to the heights that it deserves in a few years. I wish I would be alive to write those stories.

Wisden points its finger to Hair

By John Cheeran
You may not like it but Darrel Hair was selected as the umpire of the season by the Wisden Cricketer Magazine.
Hair received more than a third of all votes (34%) in the magazine's annual poll. One reader referred to him as "the only one with courage" and Hair also received votes in the Performance of the Season category with citations such as "ensuring the umpire's decision is final" and "finally exposing the cheats".
"I suppose it is a bit of a shock," Hair told the magazine. "But if free-thinking people want to vote that way and they do believe I've done the job as well as anybody or even better I can accept that fact. It's a great vote of confidence."
Most of the Wisden readers are British and they should have no problems in supporting Hair, the Aussie, despite the rivalry for Ashes.
It is no secret that Pakistanis and Sri Lankans nurse antipathy towards the Australian umpire because Hair had the guts to call Muttaih Muralitharan and Shoaib Akhtar for their illegitimate bowling actions. Hair again stood his ground during the Oval Test against Pakistan and showed rare courage to book the perennial cheaters Pakistan.
It is a pity that the voting power of Asian nations ensured that Hair will not officiate in Tests any longer.
A classic case of giving the dog a bad name and hanging him.

(Note:) Umpire of the Year 1 Darrell Hair (Aus) 34% ; 2 Simon Taufel (Aus) 16%, 3 Billy Bowden (NZ) 10%, 4 Steve Bucknor (WI) 7%, 5 Aleem Dar (Pak) 5%

Monday, November 20, 2006

Getting a lesson in swinging!

By John Cheeran
National selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar had pronounced that the Indian team needs a bowling coach especially with the absence of a senior pro like Javagal Srinath to guide the rookies such as Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth and Imran Pathan.
Like many of Vengsarkar's comments, this too has been ignored by the Board of Control for cricket in India's bosses.
With Greg Chappell around I can't see any other cricket pundit interfering in Indian team's thought process. Many teams the world over employ these days a coach and then coaches for different aspects of the game.
England had an Australian as bowling coach when they reclaimed Ashes from Aussies at home. Pakistan had Jonty Rhodes as a coach to improve their fielding skills. India had sports psychologist Rudy Webster as a mind coach and the results were disastrous.
The point Vengsarkar raised deserves attention.
Obviously Vengsarkar wants to whittle down Chappell's authority. What better way than by getting someone as a bowling coach. Then Chappell may be could be regarded as a batting consultant to Indian team.
In fact Chappell's most famous client who got batting tips a few years ago, must be his enemy No.1 today. Ask Sourav Ganguly.
Well, in the past India had Kapil Dev and Madan Lal as coaches but I could not detect any improvement in Indian bowlers. If Vengsarkar has Indian cricket's interest at heart, he should tell Sharad Pawar to get Dennis Lillee to take charge at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
Or any other worthy gentlemen or crook who knows a thing or two about bowling fast and slow. And I'm delighted to note that the much reviled cricket organisation in India, the Delhi and District Cricket Association, has pulled off a coup by getting Sarfraz Nawaz, the dirty trickster par excellence, from across the border.
The legendary Pakistan fast bowler, who excelled in reverse swinging the ball, is now spending time with Delhi Ranji Trophy team that include bowlers such as Ashish Nehra, Amit Bhandari, Ashish Malhotra, Mukesh Diwan, Ishant Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan and Tushar Pant. I'm told that Sarfraz has promised to transfer all his secrets to the Delhi fast bowlers before returning to Pakistan.
That would be something more explosive than Pokhran blasts and I'm afraid what would be General Mushraff's response to such high treason. If he actually does that I recommend Sarfraz's name for Bharat Ratna, the highest honour the Indian government bestows on civilians.
And you know what?
Insiders say that Sarfraz was invited to Delhi dressing room to finesse Delhi's official coach Chetan Chauhan.
Vengsarkar must be getting ideas.

Inspiration: Shiva on Laxman

By John Cheeran
West Indian batsman Shivnaraine Chanderpaul is playing in his 100th Test at Multan in Pakistan. As someone who has played 100 Tests in contemporary cricket what this guy says on batting and batsmen must be worthy of our attention.
Chanderpaul says he is inspired by two batsmen.
One is obviously is the Caribbean great Brian Lara. The second one is an Indian.
Well, it is not Sachin Tendulkar. Let us hear it from Chanderpaul himself.
"Another batter I like to look at is Laxman because he seems to have so much time to stroke the ball. His wrist movements, his placement, the way he works the ball off his legs and into the gaps, it's inspiring for any batter."
It is inspiring for any batter, but not enought for India's national selection commitee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar. I value Chanderpaul's comments since he is far away from the parochial games that Indian cricket often witnesses.
But Indian selectors have the temerity to leave VVS Laxman out of the one-day squad and draft in Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Mongia. The qualities Chanderpaul has found in Laxman's batting such as the way he works the ball off his legs and into the gaps should have sealed the Hyderabadi's place in the Indian XI.
But it is a pity that Vengsarkar had no hesitation to insult VVS by casting doubts on the batsman's fitness level for playing one-day cricket.
Is this the Hyderabad Blues?

Rain should help India to get their act together

By John Cheeran
Clouds of uncertainty burst into rains at the Wanderers and India kept their gunpowder dry without entering the battle field.
Graeme Smith's South Africans will be able to check out Rahul Dravid's India now only on Wednesday at Durban. There too, it is feared that, rain might follow the tourists.
Rain cannot, however, last for ever and soon India and South Africa will find out who are the best among themselves.
As a team, and as individuals things should fall into their places soon. Dravid and Greg Chappell should make optimum use of the rain interruption and enhance their skills.
And stay focused for the game at Durban.
Is it too much to ask?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

When Ganguly pitches in for Dravid

By John Cheeran
Ah, here is the sage himself speaking.
Deposed Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly has said that it is important for fans to be patient and give Indian captain Rahul Dravid more time to handle the toughest job in world cricket.
Ganguly says captains need time to mature and it is necessary to give Dravid time to grow into the job.
Like all former cricketers Ganguly is concerend about the state of Indian cricket.
"He (Dravid) is a great player. I think it is important that any captain has to be given time. Captaining India is the hardest thing," Ganguly says.
"Most important thing is time. People should be patient and the results willbe there," Ganguly said during a panel discussion at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
"Everyone will have weaknesses. You will be criticised when the team is not doing well. The captain is taken up and brought down more quickly," he said.
Ganguly, who is struggling to come back into the Indian team, has given Dravid some sound advice. Let me quote Ganguly. "How you handle your failures will decide your future."
A statement that should make Ganguly look within and packup his cricket gear.

Testing time for India at Johannesburg

By John Cheeran
No man can step into the same river twice, said Greek philosopher Heraclitus.
Indian skipper Rahul Dravid must be thinking along the same lines as he assembles his troop for the no-holds barred pace war against hostile South Africans in Johannesburg on Sunday.
India play South Africa in the first of their five one-day matches with abackdrop of angst and anxiety.
Benoni defeat must have been a jolt to the Indian team. More than just the defeat, the damage the speedster Dale Steyn did to the top order, including Sachin Tendulkar, must worry Dravid.
But then again every cricket match gives chances for a new beginning. No two matches are the same.
Dravid himself is sure-footed as a batsman, going by the meticulous innings he played in Benoni.
The Indian skipper has put on a brave front so far on the tour defending his mates and promising that his side has the potential to give it back to the South Africans.
Dravid will have to be on his toes throughout the series making the right kind of positive interventions to augment India's chances of defeating South Africa.
If anything should go in favour of Dravid on this tour it is the lack of expectations from fans at home. They are not going to win, it has been said and agreed in India.
Whispers from Johannesburg hint that Dravid plans to pick five bowlers for Sunday's game. And skipper has indicated that he will play both his spinners -- leg-spinner Anil Kumble and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh -- on a track that offers lots of bounce for bowlers.
In my view playing two spinners could turn out to be a bold idea. It is always a good strategy to play your best bowlers instead of packing the side with mediocre medium pacers. South African batsmen could be uncertain against India's slow ways.
Dravid expects that his batsmen will produce enough runs on the board so that India can have a game. "Six batsmen should be able to do the job," Dravid remarked in Johannesburg.
"We have proven players, all over the world, and a number of us have got runs here before, against South Africa and in the 2003 World Cup."
Fitness of opener Virender Sehwag is still subject to debate.
Sehwag had hurt his right finger on the right hand and if he is not fit, Dravid should grab that chance to do another of his experiments.
Let's wait and watch.

For the record: Schooling in Benoni

Report from Benoni
India lost their tour opener, a warmup one-day match, by 37 runs to South Africa A on Thursday.
India's bowling and batting came apart at the seams in spectacular fashion against South Africa 'A' - a bunch from whom only a couple have a realistic chance of playing in the World Cup.
After allowing the hosts to get off the hook and post a challenging 255 for eight, thetourists themselves pulled the plank from under their feet to be 82 for six by the 23rd over, and were eventually all out for 218 in 49.1 overs.
The final margin might appear closer but it was because South Africa pressed in servicesome irregular bowlers. The only positives from the match were the strong statements made by comeback seniors Anil Kumble (2-31) and Zaheer Khan (3-43) with the ball and captain Rahul Dravid's stubborn 79.
The Indians failed to deliver the killer punch in the South African innings after Kumble and Zaheer had helped them take a strong grip of the match. The final five overs yielded 68 runs and 96 came from the last 10, allowing South Africa 'A' to recover from 116 for six.
And with openers Wasim Jaffer and Sachin Tendulkar falling for only five runs each and the middle order of Suresh Raina and Dinesh Mongia departing for blobs, India were never in the contest despite Dravid being non-displaceable at the other end.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn did his one-day chances no harm with a haul of five for 22, his blistering pace and hostilityproving too hot for the Indians. Since he bowled 10 extras, he actually conceded only 12 runs to Indians' bat.
Dravid kept one end going for 79 runs for 99 balls but most of these runs came against the lesser bowlers in the attack. Among other batsmen, only Mohammad Kaif (30) and Irfan Pathan (34) showed some intent of staying put with their captain, the latter backing it up with a good performance up front with the ball and figures of one for 38 from his nine overs.
Nothing went right for India who suffered a setback even before the first ball was bowled.Vice-captain and opener Virender Sehwag was ruled out of the match after suffering a cut in the middle finger during practice before the start.
Zaheer and Kumble then triggered a middle order collapse but half-centuries from Jacques Rudolph and Albie Morkel got the South Africans out of the hole. Rudolph hammered a thunderous 72 not out that came from 53 balls and contained seven fours and two sixes.
The left-hander added 96 runs for the crucial seventh wicket with Morkel who made an equally pugnacious 57 with five fours and three sixes. Thanks to the duo's brilliant counter-attack, South Africa 'A' rebounded from losing three wickets in the space of six balls after being placed at 114 for three at one stage.
Kumble took his two wickets off successive balls from the quota of 10 overs bowled in one spell while Zaheer struck when the hosts were just threatening to lay a strong base. The form ofthese two returning seniors eased the creases on the foreheads of Indians who were rattled by a strong base the fourth wicket pair of Neil McKenzie (47) and Ashwell Prince (31) were building for their team.
Prince, a regular in South Africa's Test eleven, lofted one in the covers in order to prop up the fallingrun-rate and then Kumble snared two off successive balls. It briefly allowed the visitors a hold on the proceedings before Rudolph and Morkel put them to sword. The two paced themselves brilliantly before exploding in the final stretch, Morkel in particular, who smashed 19 runs in Munaf Patel's eighth over, the 46th of the innings.
Morkel finally left at 212 in the 47th over, hoiking one in the air from Zaheer Khan to long on.
Rudolph, if anything, was more impressive in cracking 72 from 53 balls with seven fours and two sixes. India began with Pathan and Patel in their attack, the latter making an early impression with the scalp of Morne van Wyk (7), the top scorer in one-day competition of South Africa with 588 runs from 11 innings.
But the pacer from Ikhar was virtually taken to cleaners in the final overs. No different was the fate of Sreesanth who was caned for 62 from his 10 overs, the final one of the innings costing 21 runs.
Steyn was the bowling hero for the hosts as he accounted for Tendulkar and Jaffer in the space of three deliveries and then took the scalps of Mahendra Singh Dhoni (7) and Suresh Raina in his secondspell.
Tendulkar essayed a hard cut straight to point while Jaffer edged one into the hands of second slip. Dhoni was frozen and pinned on his backfoot by a straight, sharp delivery and Raina was bounced out, the first delivery aimed at his rib cage which the left-hander duly popped up in the hands of forward shortleg.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Steyn on Indian batting's reputation!

By John Cheeran
What was proven at home was again illustrated in South Africa - Indian batting's feckless nature.
There was hardly any surprise in the way Indian response panned out to the South African A team's challenge in the limited over contest.
It was left to skipper Rahul Dravid to play a responsible innings and avert a disaster. Only other heartening news from Benoni's Irfan Pathan's batting.
Indian batsmen have a genuine problem against quick bowling; whether at home or abroad.
Now even Sachin Tendulkar is finding it tough to live up to the arduous task of scoring runs of quality bowling attacks.
There is no doubt that South African bowlers will tease and test Indian batsmen at every available opportunity. Will there be a fitting response from Tendulkar, Dravid and Dhoni?
Already Virender Sehwag has taken the injury leave.
And to consider that VVS Laxman is chilling out in Hyderabad.
It is not that touring teams have not recovered from losses in the warmup matches. They have.
For India to bounce back in the first day-night match on Sunday will be a tough task indeed.
And to note that 'bounce' is the word of the season, with Indian batsmen struggling to adjust to the lift that south African pitches offer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life is thicker than cricket!

By John Cheeran
When England opener Marcus Trescothick walked out of the Ashes tour Down Under what was cricket’s role in it?
Reports say the England batsman quit the tour in Sydney owing to recurrence of a stress-related illness.
Trescothick is an accomplished batsman. He is 30 and has played 76 Tests and scored 5,825 runs which illustrates his success as a cricketer.
The first signs of trouble began to appear when Trescothick walked out of England's tour of India this year because of stress illness.
The left-handed opener from Somerset also missed the recent Champions Trophy in
India because of lingering problems but was declared fit to tour Australia.
In the wake of Trescothick walkout, Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist has said the pressures of cricket could play tricks with the mind of players.
Gilchrist, however, said he had never reached a point in his career where he felt
like abandoning a tour, though the turbulent emotions were a challenge to deal with.
But the Aussie says a stable home environment has helped him deal with low points.
Many point their fingers at the pressure-cooker atmosphere of an Ashes series, of which Trescothick was expected to play a big role.
It is true that Trescothick was struggling for form on the current tour, scoring just two runs in the opening match against the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra on Friday, then eight against NSW.
Any batsman can struggle for runs and have a wretched time on the field. That should not put any cricketer under extra-ordinary stress, the kind Trescothick is suffering from.
Cricket, after all, is a low attention game in England.
If cricket was having a deleterious effect on cricketers, where will all Indian cricketers be?
Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly would have committed suicide by this time.
The scrutiny and spotlight is so intense in India.
Indian cricketers must be either karmic yogis or must be treating everything as a Bollywood shooting.
Just think of the pressure Indian cricketers are subjected to, every time they play. It is natural since the rewards for playing for India are simply unlimited.
In that backdrop, to swallow the argument that cricket eats its own children is quite difficult.
Trescothick, however, needs our help, cricket’s help to rewire his life.
In fact cricket should have worked as an anti-dote to his angst.
Cricket should have offered Trescothick a parallel universe to him and it is surprising that he renunciated it.
But this episode should go a long way to show that, life, after all, is greater than cricket.

When Dravid begins to count his blessings...

By John Cheeran
Indian cricket team captain Rahul Dravid has been a realist all his cricketing life.
Being a realist and an optimist at the same time is a challenge indeed.
I have found skipper Dravid a realist, neither gloating in victory nor breast-beating in defeat. Since Greg Chappell came in as coach and later, when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told Dravid to guide the side with a view to bring World Cup back to India, the captain has maintained that it is dangerous to have vaulting ambitions.
Dravid's theme has been "we are getting better all the time." Champions Trophy held in India proved that we are getting nowhere.
But credit must be given to Dravid again for cautioning us that India had its own limitations. "All eight teams in the fray are capable of winning the Champions Trophy," was Dravid's well thought-out response to queries looking for bets on India.
Suddenly as Indians are measuring their steps on the bouncy wickets in South Africa, Dravid has turned an optimist.
Dravid has embraced positive thinking unequivocally. Dravid has begun to count his blessings.
After failing to reap success on the low and slow tracks in West Indies and India, Dravid feels that team can play better in different and difficult conditions. So finally Indian team has discarded the home advantage. There is no longer any advantage in playing in front of home supporters.
Dravid says the team would enjoy being out of the intense spotlight that it is subjected to back home. Incidentally, India has a notorious record playing away from the Indian subcontinent.
Let me quote the Indian skipper. "We also enjoy the anonymity of playing away from home, where we can relax and do normal things. I think the benefit of that relaxation off the field will be evident on the field."
Dravid adds that it is sometimes better to be batting on pitches with bounce than on the slow, low wickets that one encounters in the subcontinent. "Rather than worry about seam or bounce I'd like to look at it this way. There are good wickets in South Africa. The pitches give you a chance to play your shots, the sort of shots you can't play on low and slow wickets. You can trust the bounce. On slow, low tracks your back-foot game is completely ruled out. Here you have more scoring options."
Brave words, indeed!
Dravid, I will keep an eye on the scoreboard, just in case, that is.
May be Dravid can return to realism once the South African Safari ends.

India's schedule in South Africa 2006-7
November 16 v Rest of South Africa, Benoni (d/n) 19 1st ODI, Centurion 22 2nd ODI, Durban (d/n) 26 3rd ODI, Cape Town 29 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth (d/n) December 1 Twenty20 International, Johannesburg 3 5th ODI, Johannesburg 7-10 Tour match, Potchefstroom 15-19 1st Test, Johannesburg 26-30 2nd Test, Durban January 2-6 3rd Test, Cape Town
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